Roy Martin: Clemson - Miami Preview

by - Correspondent -
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I do not think Tommy Bowden will be sending John Bunting a thank you letter anytime soon.

The Tarheels’ amazing upset of Miami and Florida State’s loss to Maryland appears to have cost the conference a lot of BCS money. More importantly for Clemson, the Hurricanes’ loss was comparable to Rocky landing that first big punch against Apollo.

That wall of invincibility has been penetrated. They now know the ACC is more than Florida State and its sparring partners. Each week is a title bout, although some are not nearly as dramatic as others.

If history is any indicator, it looks like they will pull themselves together long enough to find a way to win. Only once since 1997 have they lost back-to-back games. That occurred last season when they lost to Virginia Tech and Tennessee.

Both of those teams were ranked at the time, with Tennessee being in the Top 10.

The UNC loss was Miami’s first against an unranked opponent since September 25, 1999, and only their eighth in 111 games since 1990. I guess they will have to lose that ninth one at some point, so the Tigers at least have that going for them.


The good is Miami’s defense has struggled mightily over the last three weeks. They have allowed 1492 yards and 100 points during that span.

The bad is Clemson’s offense has not done much all season.

So, will the Clemson offense finally get on track against a defense that has lost its swagger or will the Hurricanes regain their confidence against an offense that has made nearly everyone look good?

It is an enigma if there ever was one, or so it would seem.

Miami has yielded an average of 224 rushing yards over their last three games. None were more costly than Chad Scott’s 175 yards on 25 carries, without question the highlight of North Carolina’s 279-yard ground attack.

What are the chances of putting out an APB for Raymond Priester?

It goes without saying that Miami has a ton of talent and speed. So what has caused this blip on the radar screen for their defense? Experience.

They lost four defensive starters from last year’s squad in the first round of the NFL draft. Three others were either drafted or signed as free agents. In all, they lost seven players that had combined to start over 162 games during their careers.

Among those seven were three linebackers and the team’s best defensive tackle. Are you beginning to understand why they have had problems against the run?

Unless Tommy Bowden learns to walk on water this week and uses his newfound powers to bless his team with a running game, Clemson is not going to pound it for big yardage against the Canes.

The Tigers’ ground attack has at least looked proficient the last few weeks. That is all they need against Miami. Just enough to keep them honest on defense and Clemson has a chance to make some things happen.

If not, Charlie Whitehurst should consider body armor and a secret escape route.

Miami’s secondary is good. Antrel Rolle is considered to be the best corner in the conference. Strong Safety Greg Threat is one of those guys that will gladly take your head off if given the chance.

It seems the best way to attack these guys via the passing game is over the middle and out of the backfield. That causes problems for a young, blitzing linebacker corp. It is a great plan in theory and worked relatively well last week. Finding time for Charlie will be the key.

If he can get comfortable in the pocket, he can let those routes develop over the middle. He will also have enough time to get it to his backs once the blitzers have committed. Along with all of that will come the occasional deep ball to keep the safeties in check.

Hey, Airese and Charlie are bound to connect sometime soon.

If he is not given time, the prospects of moving the ball do not look so good. Although he was still harassed last week, he had some of the best protection he has experienced all year at times. That came against a front noted for its speed and ability to get to the quarterback.

The Tigers’ offense is not facing an impossible mission this week, but it will be one tough row to hoe against a defense giving up only 18 points a game while they have collected 11 interceptions and 8 fumbles.


Brock Berlin has been one of the most maligned quarterbacks in the country during his time in Miami. I guess it is a sign of how good your program really is when your quarterback is 18-3 and folks are calling for him to find the bench.

He has thrown for 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in his last 4 games. On the season he has a touchdown-to-interception ration of 15:4.

One extremely important stat that is often overlooked is how he does in the red zone. Going 17-of 26 for 110 yards and 8 touchdowns is pretty effective. That is a big reason why they have scored on 25 of 30 trips inside the 20 (10 rushing touchdowns, 9 passing touchdowns, and 6 field goals).

The offense has gained 10 or more yards on 22% of their plays this year. That is what coaches would define as a big play once every 4.5 times they snap the ball, which is attributable to their large number of extremely talented skill players.

Frank Gore and Tyrone Moss lead the backs. Both can pound it between the tackles or take it to the corner. Gore is the stereotypical Miami tailback much like Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, and Edgerin James.

Despite his small stature, Roscoe Parrish has emerged as the team’s leading receiver. He has six touchdowns and all the big play potential in the world. Thirteen different players have had a reception this year, ten of which have at least three.

Their offense relies heavily on the run. Much of their passing game centers around play action passes that focus on the middle of the field in hopes of catching a safety or linebacker cheating up in run support.

They have attempted as many as 40 rushing attempts in one game, but no less than 32. Except for their 77 yards on the ground against UNC, they have gone for at least 109 yards in every game this season. Their high was 184 against Louisiana Tech.

There is nothing extremely fancy about their offense. They rely on a somewhat balanced attack and exceptional athletes. If you can negate either of those components, you have a chance. Still, it is almost like picking your poison.

Clemson has traditionally been hurt by tight ends. They will see three pretty good ones this week. The safeties and linebackers better be ready to cover or Berlin will have a field day.

The one positive is Berlin is not very mobile. Mix in a mobile quarterback with some talented tight ends and you have developed a game plan that has been almost deadly for the Tigers over the last few years.

The defensive front has a chance to really get after it his week. There is not a big threat of misdirection or the quarterback escaping for big gains. Get a good push upfield and who knows what may happen.

Because of Miami’s athleticism, the importance of good tackling cannot be overlooked. A chest bump with a Frank Gore or Tyrone Moss in an attempt to force them out of bounds could result in a broken tackle and an 80-yard touchdown.


Justin Miller is one of the most exciting return men in the game. You stand up when you see the kickoff is not going to reach the end zone or when he gets by the first man on a punt return. There is a chance he will score every time he touches it.

As good as he is, Devin Hester is better.

He took the opening kickoff against N.C. State and went approximately 106 yards for a touchdown. Kicking it halfway through the end zone does not guarantee success when he is back there. You have to kick it out. Otherwise, hold your breath and hope.

Punter Brian Monroe has pinned 14 of his 35 punts inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. Ten of those 14 have been downed inside the 10.

Kicker John Peattie has been perfect on extra points, but not as good on field goals. He has not missed inside of 30 yards, but he is 3-of-5 from 30-39, 2-of-4 from 40-39, and 0-for-3 from 50 and beyond.

Jad Dean has been perfect all year on field goals. For the Tigers to win, he will likely have to have another big game in that area.

Most importantly, do not kick it to Hester. The coverage units have been great all year, but now is not the time to test their limits.


Clemson hoped to catch Miami napping after a 7-0 start and dreams of a national championship. Instead, they have to take on a team that everyone assumes is ticked off and looking for a fight.

They have put up some impressive numbers over the years.

They are 174-15 since 1983 when they score first. They have won 141 consecutive games when scoring at least 31 points. Their last such loss came in the 1985 Fiesta Bowl. They are also 174-2 in their last 176 games when leading after three quarters.

As long as Clemson scores first, has the lead heading into the 4th quarter, and holds Miami to less than 30 points, they should win the game.

There is no question Clemson is overmatched in this contest but that does not mean it will be a complete disaster. Miami players are not used to recovering from a loss because it happens so infrequently.

Likewise, Clemson has shown it is ready to fight each and every week. Not once have they given up during this roller coaster ride of a season. As mentioned earlier, it has the potential to mirror the storyline from one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

How Clemson handles that initial flurry of punches will determine the outcome of the game. If they can stay off the ropes while managing to deliver a blow or two of their own, it should be a ball game in the 4th quarter.

If Miami score early and often, it will be a runaway. Not so much because Clemson does not have the heart, but because they do not have the firepower to come back from a big deficit.

I think the Tigers are starting to regain that confidence they had towards the end of last season. They like a good fight and will give Miami one on Saturday night. In the end, superior talent will prevail as Miami wins 34-24.

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