The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Classic Let Down Game

The Canes are riding high after a win over then third ranked Virginia Tech last weekend. This weekend they play a rescheduled (due to Hurricane something-or-other) game against Wake Forest this weekend up in Winston-Salem.

It's a classic trap game for the Canes, who now have hopes--at least from the outside looking in--to play for the national title. To get there, the Canes will likely need a loss from two of these three teams: Alabama, USC, and Texas. Oh - and the Canes will have to win this weekend. The latter part is the part that we hope the Canes remember.

On paper, tomorrow's game is one that the Canes should win, and one that they should win easily. That's fortunate, because they'll be playing without at least three starters: Tyrone Moss at RB, Devin Hester, and DL Brian Pata. None of those three players will make the trip to Wake Forest. Despite the injuries, the Canes should still roll by three or more touchdowns. If they don't, talk of Pasadena reservations may have been premature.

Keys to the game:
Charlie Jones will be the Canes featured running back. He was exceptional against Virginia Tech and I expect another big game out of him this weekend. The key area of interest in the Canes backfield will be who emerges as the number two runningback for the rest of the year. Derron Thomas has been behind Jones all year on the depth chart, but speedy Andrew Johnson may eclipse Thomas. Quad Hill, normally the Canes fullback, may also start to see more carries.

My hope is that Johnson emerges as the number two back. That would provide the Canes with a between-the-tackles back (Jones) and an every carry touchdown threat (Johnson). Johnson is still recovering from a knee injury though, so only time will tell if he still has it.

Another key to the game will be Darnell Jenkins. Few opponents fear Jenkins at this point, and that could work in the Canes favor. Despite facing another excellent punter, Jenkins, who I expect to be the featured punt returner, will have some opportunities to shine. Jenkins' development this week could be key, especially if Hester tires during games down the stretch. If The U can replace Hester with another game breaker (as they were able to do when needed last year with Roscoe Parrish), it will be of great benefit.

Jenkins is also emerging as one of the Canes top receivers. Despite the hype that Lance Leggett, Ryan Moore, and Sinorice Moss receive, Jenkins is a solid receiver. He runs good routes, catches passes, and is a good blocker. He's already emerging as a top receiver on the team and his elevated role on special teams (with Hester out) should raise his profile even further.

My third key to the game is the defense. Yes, they've played great all year, particularly in the past five games. Tomorrow's game will be another test for them though. Wake's offense is one-dimensional (they have a very good ground game), but the Canes should be able to contain that. The test for the Canes comes from their ability to maintain focus and interest in the game. After the triple overtime thriller in Death Valley against Clemson earlier this year, Brandon Merriweather commented that the defense lost interest in the game when the Canes seemingly had it in hand. That attitude/lack of focus almost cost the Canes the game. Miami could overcome that this week against Wake Forest, but if the Canes really have championship hopes they won't allow that to happen. Instead they'll take advantage of a weaker opponent and win handily.

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