ACC: Canes-Panthers-092310

Video: Miami's LaRon Byrd

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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LaRon Byrd talks about Miami's win over Pitt.

Miami defense carries its offense

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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PITTSBURGH -- Miami linebacker Sean Spence didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked after the Hurricanes’ 31-3 win over Pittsburgh if he was playing on a championship defense. Spence, of course, was one of the main reasons it looked like one.

The problem?

Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin said the Hurricanes are “real far away” from being a championship-caliber offense.

Miami got exactly what it needed on Thursday night -- a throwback defensive performance in a nationally-televised road win against a respectable BCS opponent. It helped the Hurricanes move past their loss at No. 2 Ohio State and should give them a boost of confidence heading into next weekend’s game at Clemson.

[+] EnlargeOlivier Vernon
Andrew Weber/US PresswireThe Miami defense kept Pitt from getting a first down until its final drive of the first half. They forced three turnovers and had five sacks.
But Miami also got a double dose of the one thing it’s been trying to eliminate -- turnovers. Quarterback Jacory Harris has now thrown six interceptions in two games, and while not all of them have been his fault, it’s a trend that has to stop if Miami is going to take the next step under coach Randy Shannon and play for an ACC title this year.

Miami has proved so far to be a good team, not a great team -- one that can afford to make mistakes against average teams like Pitt, but isn’t ready to beat the elite teams like Ohio State.

“We’re real far away,” Franklin said. “We need to get better each and every week and we have to do the little things. We have to concentrate on the little things and execute more and just do our job. That’s the real importance of this thing -- we have to be able to do our jobs and not worry about what the other person is going to do. Trust the other person is going to do the right thing.”

The defense already has that trust.

“I believe in the guy next to me, and the guy next to me he believes in me,” said Spence, who finished with a game-high nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. “That’s all you need. We have a lot of great players on defense. We’re great in depth and execute, so I think we’re a championship defense.”

It looked like it against Pittsburgh. The Panthers had three turnovers, converted just 4 of 15 third downs, were 1-of-3 in the red zone and were sacked five times for a loss of 45 yards. Pitt punted eight times.

Miami’s defenders spent most of the game in Pitt’s backfield, stifling the run and chasing quarterback Tino Sunseri out of the pocket if he wasn’t already flat on his back. The Canes had nine tackles for losses, and looked much more fundamentally sound in their tackling than they did against Ohio State.

“As a defense we played great, executed,” said Andrew Smith, who had two sacks for a loss of 14 yards. "We gang tackled, all 11 hats on the ball. At practice we kept emphasizing everybody wrap up, everybody drive back, and tonight it showed up on the field.”

Miami did show improvement in the red zone, where it struggled at Ohio State. This time the Canes were successful in all four trips inside the 20-yard line. Harris also had a much better second half, completing 8 of 10 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

Shannon said the mistakes on offense are correctable, and said the offense isn’t that far away from playing at the level it needs to.

“We’re not that far away at all,” he said. “You can see that we have playmakers. I think that LaRon Byrd made some key catches in the game. I think the more we focus on getting things done on offense, the more we can be crisp and we’ll be OK.”

Until then, it can count on the defense.

Video: Miami's Sean Spence

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
12:20
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ACC blogger Heather Dinich talks with Miami's Sean Spence after the Hurricanes' win over Pitt.

Final: Miami 31, Pitt 3

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
11:02
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PITTSBURGH -- If there was any doubt about whether the ACC was better than the Big East this year, it should be erased now.

Pitt was supposed to be one of the top two teams in the Big East, and it could only muster three points at home. Miami had mixed results, but a win is a win -- especially coming off a road loss to the No. 2 team in the country.

It's just what the Hurricanes needed heading into next weekend's game at Clemson. I'm heading down to the locker room now, check back later for more from the Canes.video
PITTSBURGH -- Instead of turning the ball over in the second half, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has had the pleasure of watching his defense intercept Pittsburgh. That's two interceptions thown by Pat Bostic this half. Keep in mind he's only thrown the ball nine times.

That also bodes well for Miami's defense, which was lambasted last week by Randy Shannon for dropping potential interceptions. Looks the practice this past week paid off.

Pittsburgh fans filing out

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
10:33
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PITTSBURGH -- Miami leads Pitt 24-3 and there is a mass exodus of fans here in Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh has shown no signs of a comeback, and Miami has finally started to put it all together here in the fourth quarter. Jacory Harris responded after taking a hard hit by making a nice throw to Travis Benjamin for a touchdown. When he eliminates the mistakes, he looks like a quarterback capable of winning an ACC title.

The next step is for him to play that way consistently because he's clearly got the defense this year to back him up.

A.J. Highsmith comes in at quarterback

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
10:28
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PITTSBURGH -- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris got drilled on a sack, and backup quarterback Alonzo Highsmith entered the game. There's no official word here in the press box as to whether Harris got hurt, but he came back into the game.

Miami's D stealing the show

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
10:23
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PITTSBURGH -- Miami's defense is in full-blown chest-thumping, hand-raising, Hurricane mode tonight.

Linebacker Sean Spence is leading the way, and Miami is really controlling the line of scrimmage and pushing its way into Pitt's backfield.

After three quarters, the Panthers have been held to six first downs and 2-of-12 third-down conversions. Miami has made four sacks. Regardless of what the offense has or hasn't done, this looks like a championship defense.

Pitt's Dan Mason dislocated right knee

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
10:21
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PITTSBURGH -- Pitt linebacker Dan Mason sustained a dislocated right knee and was taken to UPMC Presbyterian for further evaluation, according to a spokesman in the press box.

Pitt loses leading tackler

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
9:58
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PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh just lost its leading tackler, linebacker Dan Mason, to an injury. Mason was carted off the field with what appeared to be a leg injury.

There wasn't any update yet here in the press box, but that's obviously a huge loss for the Pitt defense. Mason is the Panthers' regular starter but he was demoted this game for disciplinary reasons.

No redshirt for Storm Johnson

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
9:40
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PITTSBURGH -- Miami freshman running back Storm Johnson has played on kickoff coverage, so there goes his chance at a redshirt unless he is injured.

Many were wondering whether or not Johnson would redshirt, as he had a great summer camp but is stuck in a loaded backfield. Damien Berry is having a great game and Lamar Miller has played, but with Graig Cooper injured it will be interesting to see how much Johnson is used this year and if it's more than on special teams.

Halftime: Miami 10, Pitt 0

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
9:13
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PITTSBURGH -- A quick look at the half:

Best player in the half: Miami linebacker Sean Spence. He's got seven tackles so far, one sack and two tackles for loss. Miami's defense has been the highlight of the first half.

What Miami needs to do: Stop turning the ball over. Really, it's that simple. Coach Randy Shannon stood up for Jacory Harris all week, saying the four interceptions at Ohio State weren't his fault, but the two he's thrown here tonight seemed forced. Miami could also help itself out by stopping the untimely penalties and continuing to play stifling defense. The front seven have looked impressive.

What Pitt needs to do: Sustain a drive. The Panthers have only had three first downs and are just 1-of-7 on third-down conversions. The Panthers are averaging just 2.9 yards per play.

Yes, same old Jacory Harris

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
9:02
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PITTSBURGH -- Make that two quarters, two interceptions.

It doesn't seem like Miami should be winning this game. Not with two turnovers and four penalties. Pitt's defense made great plays on both interceptions, but both throws seemed forced. Miami looks like it played on a five-day turnaround, not coming off a bye week. It looks sloppy, and it's only a matter of time before Pitt wakes up and starts to take advantage of Miami's mistakes.

Surprising stat for Pittsburgh

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
8:52
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PITTSBURGH -- Surprising stat so far: Pitt has been held to just 1 passing yard. With Dion Lewis off to a slow start this season, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, quarterback Tino Sunseri and receiver Jon Baldwin have been the highlight of the Panthers' offense.

Not tonight.

Sunseri has only thrown the ball five times.

Penalties, anyone?

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
8:50
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PITTSBURGH -- Miami fans must be losing their minds right now.

Consolation? Imagine how Randy Shannon feels.

Miami has four penalties so far, all of which have come at costly times. Miami entered the game with 15 penalties for 104 yards. The Canes have to play more disciplined.

There was also another drop in the end zone, followed by what appeared to be a Jacory Harris pass attempt to Pitt's defense. It seems like every time he throws it, it's into double coverage. In the end, Miami was fortunate to come away with a field goal and a 10-0 lead.

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