It was a long night that produced both optimism and frustration in Orlando, Florida. Miami looked new, though not necessarily in an ideal way. Their two freshman tackles looked new, their quarterback’s internal clock looked new and the lack of discipline was disappointing.
We’ll start with the good – Miami won’t see another defense in the regular season that looks like Florida’s. Miami’s receivers struggled to consistently get open against this lockdown group of Florida Gator cornerbacks. But there were moments here and there where Jeff Thomas looked explosive, K.J. Osborn looked sure-handed and Brevin Jordan ate up the middle of the Gator’s defense.
Jarren Williams wasn’t rattled by pressure and there was certainly a lot of it. But Williams’ internal clock has got to speed up or he won’t be able to play a whole season, especially behind this offensive line. He made some great throws, displaying arm talent that is better than anything Miami has trotted out since Brad Kaaya, but the young gun has got to speed up his decision making. Holding onto the ball too long, sitting and waiting in the pocket, are recipes for disaster behind an offensive line that is, as of right now, not very good. The redshirt freshman also needs to display a willingness to throw the ball away and find his checkdowns. The offense lost a lot of yards because Williams didn’t do either consistently, and instead ran around until Florida sacked him.
Besides a couple big plays, Miami’s defense looked exceptional. They settled down after the back-breaking touchdown by Kadarius Toney and brought the new “305” turnover chain out four times. Florida looked about as sloppy as Miami did, not quite the great team that was supposed to have consistency and momentum after a four game win streak to end 2018. But the Miami defense only gave up two big plays to score or set up TDs and weren’t able to stop UF after the brutal Jeff Thomas punt muff. Overall, the defense looked good, only allowing 24 points to a high-powered UF attack. More pass rush is needed however, after notching just one sack. The Canes clearly had issues with getting the 6’6” Feleipe Franks to the ground.
Jon Ford and Pat Bethel choked out the Gator’s run game, and besides Gilbert Frierson getting outrun by Josh Hammond for 65 yards, Miami held up relatively ok without D.J. Ivey. They still need to hope that this won’t be an all-season ordeal with the young corner and rather just a one-time incident. The senior linebackers played as well as expected all game long, and Miami’s penchant for finding turnovers at every corner hasn’t went away.
Miami has to tighten up play on both sides of the ball. There’s no excuse for Al Blades Jr. throwing up double birds to Franks after Romeo Finley’s interception. Or that Miami committed 14 penalties, mostly on the offensive line but also some exceptionally awful delay of game fouls.
Now, let’s talk about the offensive line. Saturday night, the offensive line looked like it’s very worst iteration of itself, at least in recent memory. They allowed 10 sacks, though some were due to Jarren William’s propensity for holding onto the ball forever. But many of those take-downs were because UF’s pass rushers crushed Miami’s inexperienced tackles and center. Zion Nelson and John Campbell was overmatched all game long. By the 4th quarter, Florida’s pass rushers were jumping the snap and getting around Nelson before he even came off the ball. Miami’s offensive coaches have got to hope that this offensive line plays better as the year goes on, or that they find ways to alleviate the passing down pressures they will allow. It’s clear that 2019’s offense will only go as far as the offensive line takes them.
Even Miami’s coaches looked like they were working out the kinks. Dan Enos unleashed Jarren Williams on the first drive and let him toss pass after pass, barely trying to run the ball. Then, several times after getting turnovers or finding themselves in good field position situations, Enos got conservative. This wasn’t 2018 conservative mind you, but it begs the question of why Enos had drives where he practically shutdown his freshman QB after letting him shine when the game started
Tate Martell. The young man deserves credit for working at wide receiver after losing the starting QB battle and, perhaps as a result, had his named called. A lot. Why, at the end of the game, is Tate Martell on the field as a wide receiver? Where was Brian Hightower? Mark Pope? Dee Wiggins? Even Jeremiah Payton. Martell had more snaps than the four of them, perhaps even combined. That is unacceptable, first game kinks be damned.
Miami will have a bye week to go back to the drawing board, fix what needs fixing and continue to improve on what worked. Jarren Williams looked a lot better than 2018 Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry. Deejay Dallas and Brevin Jordan are real good – keep feeding them the ball. Cam’ron Harris had a great play that was negated by a penalty but should be a great no. 2 for the backfield. The defense looks good but needs to give up fewer big plays and get more sacks. With some time, polish, and good coaching, this is a team that could make some noise. But they’re not ready, not yet, and a trip to Chapel Hill on September 7th will be a real test of just what level of ready they actually are. Miami can take a huge step in asserting it’s foothold on the title hopes for the Coastal division with a rousing win. But the New Miami still has a lot of questions left to answer after an opening season defeat.