Recollected Dozen, Game 1: 1999 Miami @ Boston College

This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here

The Year

The year is 1999. President Bill Clinton is in the penultimate year of his presidency. The week of October 23rd, 1999 saw Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas top the Billboard Hot 100 list. And Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling was #1 on the New York Times fiction best seller list. Gas was $1.24 a gallon. The big news story were the failure of a campaign finance reform bill in the Senate and that the National Debt was being reduced as the government ran a surplus.

The Combatants

Miami entered the game at 2-3, but was still ranked #23 in the country.

Boston College entered the game at 5-1, but unranked with their one loss coming at Temple.

The Context

The Canes had started the season really well, winning the Kickoff Classic against Ohio State 23-12. Ohio State was ranked 9th at the time, but it turns out they actually weren’t that good, finishing 6-6 and missing a bowl game. But the win still propelled the Canes into Top 10, rising to 8th in the polls before hosting #2 Penn State (it turns out Penn State wasn’t as good as thought by season’s end, where they finished 4th in the Big 10. They were good, but not National Title contender good). The Canes trailed by 2 TDs against the Nittany Lions, but a furious rally saw them take the lead 23-20, and put them in position to ice the game. On 4th-and-2, deep in Nittany Lions territory, the Canes went for it (got a bad spot) and came up just short. On the next play, Penn State threw the winning TD to win the game 27-23.

The next week, the Canes built a 23-3 second half lead at East Carolina (who was not even playing in their home stadium due to flooding and damage from Hurricane Floyd). Miami blew that lead and lost 27-23 for the second week in a row.

After a bye, the Canes headed to Tallahassee and played a great game, but FSU was the best team in the country and Miami just couldn’t overcome them, for a 3rd consecutive loss.

The following week’s game against Temple was delayed to the end of the season because of Hurricane Irene so the Canes had 2 weeks off before heading to Boston, having lost 3 in a row, but given that 2 of those losses were to two of the better teams in the country, they managed to stay ranked.

There were still questions swirling about Butch Davis’ overall competence.

For Boston College, an otherwise promising start to the season was ruined by a shock loss to an awful Temple team (who ended up finishing the year 2-9).

Miami was favored to turn things around, starting in this game.

The Game

This was a game that turned on a dime. For the first 40 minutes, Boston College dominated and the Canes continuously shot themselves in the foot.

After a Canes punt, the Eagles immediately drove inside the Canes 25, leaning on a ground game that would dominate all day. When the drive stalled at the Canes 22, the Canes jumped offside on the FG attempt, giving BC a 1st down. They’d take advantage when Tim Hasselbeck threw a TD pass from 17 yards out.

Miami crossed midfield on the next drive, but it stalled and the punt was downed inside the Eagles 19. But BC immediately started marching again. Cedric Washington, who finished the game with 183 of the Eagles’ 237 rushing yards, was instrumental in the drive. The Canes finally forced a 44-yd FG when BC drove inside the Canes’ 30, but once again, it was a penalty that kept the drive alive. Miami roughed the kicker and BC took advantage when William Green dove into the end zone 3 plays later to put BC up 14-0 with 2:11 left in the 1st quarter.

Miami’s offense failed to respond, punting again. The quarter ended with the Canes’ defense finally stepping up, forcing a 3rd-and-19. 2 plays into the 2nd quarter, BC punted for the first time. The Canes punted, again, and the field position favored BC, as they started in Canes’ territory. It wasn’t long before the Eagles were in the end zone again. On 2nd-and-goal from the 7, the Eagles just ran right up the middle with Carlton Rowe going into the end zone almost untouched. 21-0 BC with 12:05 left in the 2nd quarter.

The Canes had flatly not shown up for this game, but there was a lot of time left. Both teams exchanged punts, but then the Canes finally mounted a drive behind Bubba Franks and freshman Clinton Portis. Unfortunately, at 3rd-and-2 from the BC 35, Kenny Kelly was sacked and the Canes had to punt, once again. The Canes shanked the punt, and lost all the field position from that drive. Miami’s defense had grown into the game, and did force another punt as they’d started to find their sea legs.

The next drive short-circuited when, of all things, Santana Moss dropped consecutive passes. Nothing was going Miami’s way. The Eagles did get a decent drive going, but Miami stuffed BC and on 4th-and-13 from the Canes 35, they chose to punt and pin the Canes deep, which effectively ended the half.

Miami had a complete meltdown for the entire half, trailing 21-0. Cedric Washington had 15 carries for 137 yards in the 1st half. It was an awful performance that did nothing to dispel the worries about Davis’ coaching. In addition to the team not showing up, BC’s Tom O’Brien was running circles around the Canes’ coaching staff. Miami had twice made penalties on FG attempts, gifting BC TDs. Legendary South Florida broadcaster Frank Forte justifiably lamented that he was running out of ways to describe how horrid the Canes’ performance was late in the 1st half.

The Canes D had hung in at the end of the half, and to start the 2nd half, they immediately came out and forced a 3-and-out. The Canes did drive across midfield, and once again, Miami failed to hit a quality punt. Freddie Capshaw punted it out of bounds at the BC 31, gaining only 17 yards.

On the next play, Canes’ legend Ed Reed, a sophomore at the time, made one of his signature huge plays, intercepting the ball across midfield, and returning it to the BC 35…except one of the great players in football history got stripped from behind and BC recovered, essentially where the play had started from, turning the play into a very exciting do-over. And BC took advantage, moving the ball down the field. Cedric Washington did much of the heavy lifting, and become the 3rd different Eagle to score a rushing TD to put BC up 28-0 with 6:18 left in the 3rd quarter.

Forte correctly chastised the complete lack of performance: “I’m almost at a loss for words….and I don’t know that there’s a good way to explain it.”

Then it all turned, out of nowhere.

James Jackson started rolling, moving the chains after 2 runs. Kelly then hit Santana Moss before Jackson picked up another 1st down.  The Canes ended up with 4th-and-1 at the BC 25, and on a bootleg, Kelly scrambled for 14 yards down to the BC 12. 2 plays later, Kelly hit Will McPartland on a screen pass for a TD that cut the lead to 21 with just 2:11 left in the 3rd quarter.

Miami’s defense came up with a big stop, and the Canes were set to receive the ball to start the 4th quarter, with BC lining up to punt.

Shockingly, the comeback did not continue here. BC immediately forced another punt. And then they put a drive together, working the clock, moving into Miami territory. The Canes defense finally held, but with only 12 minutes left and BC on the Canes 17-yard line, a FG to put BC up 31-7 would basically end the game.

And then BC missed the FG, wide left, and with 11:29 left the Canes were still down 28-7.

I distinctly remember my brother saying to no one in particular, “we’re going to come back and win now.”

He was right. The Canes exploded.

Going no-huddle, Kelly hit Bubba Franks on consecutive plays to the Canes’ 47. Next, Andre King got involved, making a big catch. Miami, out of sync all day, was in a rhythm. After a scramble, Kelly hit James Jackson on a screen pass, and Jackson took it 32 yards for the TD that cut the lead to 14 with 10:07 left.

On the next kickoff, James Lewis obliterated the returner inside the 20-yard line. On the next play, BC fumbled and William Joseph rumbled to the BC 6 setting up the Canes. One play later, James Jackson went around the right end for a TD that made it 28-21, with still 9:45 left.

In the course of less than 2 minutes, the game went from potentially BC up 24, to BC up 7.

BC went back to the ground game, trying to run the clock out. But Miami got the stop after one 1st down and took over at their own 24. There was now all of a sudden, plenty of time to score the one TD necessary.

And James Jackson started the drive with a big run for 20 yards, followed by another Bubba Franks reception, James Jackson exploded on 3rd-and-2, going down to the BC 28.  The Canes ended up with 2nd-and-3 on the BC 10, but Jackson got stuffed for once. On 3rd-and-2, Kelly made a play fake, avoided a free rusher, got outside, and threw a strike to Bubba Franks for the TD that remarkably tied the game at 28 with still 3:51 left.

BC suddenly had to score. And they took a shot deep on 3rd down, which Al Blades made a great play breaking up, preventing the Eagles from getting into FG range and forcing a punt

Miami started what would be the final drive at their own 43. The Canes still had 3 minutes and 2 TOs left. James Jackson was called on and gained 7 yards on 1st down to go over 100 yards…in the 2nd half. On the next play, Kenny Kelly was sacked and came up limping as the Canes were forced to use a timeout.

It’s hard to imagine given the trajectory of both careers, but the sight of backup QB Ken Dorsey stretching at this point to potentially come into the game was scary. Kelly attempted to gut the game out. And he delivered. Limping badly, he somehow avoided a free rusher and threw a strike to Santana Moss down to the BC 40-yard line. James Jackson once again got going, and ran to the BC 28.

In FG range, with Kenny Kelly barely able to walk, the Canes let the clock run down. Jackson inched the Canes forward 4 yards, as the clock was an ally. On the next play, disaster. The Canes made holding and pushed themselves out of FG range with under a minute left. Miami went for a draw to dry and pull some yards back and return to field goal range, but BC was ready and the play only gained a yard. Miami ran the whole clock down, and with 14 seconds left, Kelly threw incomplete on 3rd-and-17.

The Canes had the option of attempting the long FG, going for it, or even punting.

Butch Davis called timeout and decided to go for it. Without any timeouts, Kelly hobbled on a rollout and threw a strike to Reggie Wayne who dragged both feet inbound on the sideline for a 23-yard gain before falling out of bounds. Andy Crosland immediately came out and hit a perfect FG right between the uprights from 30 yards out with 3 seconds left to put Miami up.

BC tried to lateral on the kickoff, but got nowhere and the Canes won 31-28.

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4FKUlWDjyg

Full Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT2fEKkOFY0

Why is it Memorable?

The hell was this?

Butch Davis was derogatorily referred to as “Botch” by Miami fans for much of the 90s, and it was performances like what the Canes put on for a majority of this game that made everyone justifiably think he’d never elevate the program.

There is so much to unpack here.

First, a lot of the players that would 2 years later be dominating everyone and winning championships legitimately struggling to find their sea legs is a story line. It’s still great to see them in their infancy.

But this game is also about the “stolen championship” Canes. The tragedy of the 2000 BCS snafu was not just that the Canes were screwed out of the championship. For us fans, while it still hurts, as does 2002, we at least won the 2001 title. For players like Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, James Jackson, Dan Morgan, Al Blades, Damione Lewis, Andre King, Leonard Myers (RIP)…their title was stolen. This performance was character building. It led to eventually this mostly same collection of players being the best team in the country the following year. While we consider the 2000 class as champions, and justifiably, they didn’t get that opportunity. By forgetting games like this, we lose sight of how we got to see a team and players struggle and grow.

And what about Kenny Kelly? This was the only season he would be the starter, and he would be injured later in the year, eventually losing the job to Dorsey (although Kelly did start the Gator Bowl). He made play after play in this game, even after being hobbled. It was gutty.

Of course, in a sense, any 28-point comeback is memorable. But the context here is so key.

If the Canes lose this game, they go to 2-4 on a 4-game losing streak. There was no way they were not losing to Virginia Tech later in the year, so that’s at least 5 losses. Does Butch Davis even survive 5 losses with 2 being to East Carolina and Boston College, especially if this game had ended 28-0?

Everyone justifiably points to the 98 UCLA game as a turning point, and it was. After losing to Syracuse by 53 points, they turned around and won that game, knocking UCLA out of the championship game and reinvigorating the program.

But if the UCLA game was huge 3rd down conversion to kickstart a memorable drive, this game was where the Canes fumbled at midfield and miraculously recovered.

After going 9-3 in 1998 with the big UCLA win, it would be really hard to justify Butch Davis going 7-5 the following year. Really hard.

But that justification was unnecessary, thanks to this huge comeback where the Canes scored 31 points in the last 17 minutes of the game to win by 3.

The Aftermath

First, let’s dispense with BC. They were a good team that finished well from here, finishing 3rd in the Big East behind Miami and VT. They were solid and continued to be for several years.

For Miami, the season went well from here. The Canes would get obliterated in Blacksburg in a game where Kenny Kelly was injured, and replaced by Ken Dorsey. But Dorsey got valuable experience from there, starting 3 consecutive wins to end the season, and featuring heavily in the Canes Gator Bowl win over 17th ranked Georgia Tech. Despite the 4 losses, the Canes finished the year ranked 15th, having won 7 of 8, and were viewed as a national championship contender for the following year.

We all know where it went from there, wins piled on top of wins, what should have been a 3-peat robbed down to the solitary title, and a team that is widely considered the best ever.

But, this comeback changed everything. This game actually was the first game in a streak of games where Miami would go 50-2* starting on this date of October 23, 1999 and ending in Blacksburg, VA on November 1, 2003. Over that 4-year period, the Canes would lose twice, legitimately, and this was the start of the streak.

A game of great importance, a true turning point, the start of an absurd 4-year run….yet oddly forgotten. The perfect game to hold the top spot in our Recollected Dozen.

*Around these parts, BS pass interference calls after the game is already over are not acknowledged.

Have memories of this game? Tweet us at @vrp2003 and @5ReasonsSports

 

Recollected Dozen, Game 2: 1988 Miami @ Michigan

This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here

The Year

The year is 1988. President Ronald Reagan is in the final year of his presidency. The week of September 17th, 1998 saw Sweet Child O- Mine by Guns N’ Roses top the Billboard Hot 100 list. And The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy was #1 on the New York Times fiction best seller list. Gas was $0.96 a gallon. The big news story was that we were a week away from the first Presidential Debate between Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Vice President George H.W. Bush.

The Combatants

Miami entered the game 1-0, having beat Florida State 31-0.

Michigan was 0-1, having lost at Notre Dame 19-17.

The Context

The Canes were the defending national champions, having gone undefeated in 1987. They were the #1 team in the country and favored to win this game. The infamous Seminoles Rap game had elevated the Canes to an almost Super Human level of play.

Michigan came into this game ranked 15th in the nation. They had lost the Notre Dame game after falling behind early, and then rallying to take the lead, only to lose in the 4th quarter.

Another story was the coaches. Michigan was lead by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Miami had the greatest coach in football history in Jimmy Johnson.

The Game

Miami got off to a poor start when they fumbled on their opening possession after one first down.

Michigan QB Michael Taylor was able to move the Wolverines inside the Canes 15, but the drive stalled. Michigan did collect a FG and lead 3-0 5 minutes into the game.

The Canes responded, immediately. Cleveland Gary and Rob Chudsinzki would combine on the next drive (something that would be a running theme). Gary carried for one first down, then Chud helped convert a 3rd and long to midfield, collecting a pass from Steve Walsh. On 3rd-and-9 from the 49, Walsh hit Gary who broke several tackles and outran Michigan to the end zone putting the Canes up  7-3.

Michigan countered with a drive to the Canes 29. Taylor again proved elusive as his mobility was neutralizing the Canes pass rush. But Michigan kicker Michael Gillette missed the FG.

Miami’s next drive was a disaster, as they threw an incompletion and then made a dead ball personal foul. They ended up punting from the end zone, and the punt was short. Michigan started at the Canes 40. Fortunately, Gillette was off on the day, and after the Wolverines drove to the Canes 17, he missed another FG.

That ended the quarter with the Canes leading 7-3, and Michigan having missed 2 FGs.

After the Canes went 3-and-out, Michigan once again drove, this time behind Tony Bowles’ running and Taylor’s ability to throw on the run. The drive stalled inside the Canes red zone, but Gillette made this FG and it cut the lead to 7-6.

On the next drive, Randall Hill bobbled the kickoff and the Canes faced a long field. Cleveland Gary had a long run and long catch to move the ball out to the Canes 40, but a holding penalty killed the drive. On 4th down, the Canes faked the punt and successfully converted. That led to Cleveland Gary diving in from the 1 to put the Canes up 14-6 with 3 minutes left in the half.

Miami almost short-circuited the next Michigan drive. Bowles fumbled, and several Canes had a chance to recover near midfield, but couldn’t. They’d pay for that as on 3rd-and-7, Michigan would complete a big pass on an out route to the Canes 17. A few players later, Taylor would throw a TD on a play-action pass. Michigan went for and missed the 2, so they trailed 14-12, with 57 seconds left.

On the ensuing kickoff, Miami fumbled after a good return out to the 35. Michigan recovered. On 3rd-and-6 from the 22, the Wolverines threw a TD to the corner of the end zone on a great sliding catch. Michigan also converted the 2 and led 20-14.

Miami managed to accidentally kneel the next kickoff at their own 3, but got into the half by diving into the line.

Miami had been in control of the game, but gifted Michigan 14 points in the last minute of the half to trail.

After forcing the Wolverines to punt to open the 2nd half (Michigan’s first punt of the game), Gary, Leonard Conley, and Chud made several plays to take the Canes to the Michigan 12. Gary was open for the go-ahead TD, but Walsh just overthrew him. On the next play, the ball went off Dale Dawkins’ hands and was intercepted by Michigan at the GL. They returned it out to the 19, so Miami didn’t even get field position.

Another 3-and-out returned the ball to the Canes, but once again Walsh had a ball go off a receivers’ hands, this time Gary, for an interception, this time near midfield.

The Wolverines took advantage, getting a big completion to the Canes 20, and followed that up by Taylor scrambling inside the 10. But Randy Shannon made a huge sack to force Michigan to settle for a FG, which they made to go up 23-14.

The quarter ended with Michigan having forced a Canes 3-and-out and driven it out to the 45. Michigan would convert 2 3rd-and-longs. The first was a pass to the Canes 38. The second was after Taylor was injured on a sack. On 3rd-and-16, backup Demetrius Brown came in and completed a long throw to the Canes 14. Taylor returned for a 3rd-and-13, and hit Chris Calloway for the TD that put the Wolverines up 30-14.

If the Canes were ready to mount a comeback, it didn’t show on the next drive. Miami went backward and punted out of their end zone. Michigan took over at the Canes 41. The defense held and forced a punt that went out for a touchback.

Trailing by 16 with 7:30 left and the ball on their 20, a win seemed almost impossible. Almost.

Walsh hit Dawkins for 22 yards, and then Andre Brown to the Michigan 45. Chud then got involved, catching several passes to convert 1st downs, including finally for a TD with 5:23 left. Dawkins caught the 2-point conversion and the lead was down to 30-22.

The Canes forced a 3-and-out and caught a fair catch at their own 43. After a completion to Chud was just short of the 1st down, the Canes and specifically Cleveland Gary made the play of the game. From the Michigan 48 on 4th-and-2, Walsh hit Gary on a crossing route and he broke free from the defenders, headed up the sideline and ran for a TD to pull the Canes within 2. The 2-point conversion was intercepted, and the Canes trailed by 2 with 2:58 left.

This is where Jimmy Johnson made the call of the game. With 3 timeouts, the Canes could have kicked deep. Instead, he went for the onside kick. And Miami recovered. Not wasting any time, Walsh hit Andre Brown to the edge of field goal range. From there, Cleveland Gary ran the ball to the Michigan 16. The Canes ran the clock down as much as possible, and Carlos Huerta nailed the FG with 43 seconds left to put the Canes up 31-30.

Michigan moved the ball to near midfield, but a Hail Mary attempt fell short and the Canes escaped with a 31-30 win.

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7UNuTP-bpA

Full Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zXKXXjQlcw

Why is it Memorable?

This game is the closest I came to a game being too memorable to be on this list. But, you ask anyone about the 1988 season, and the discussion is about the Notre Dame game, not this one.

But Miami should have lost this game. The missed Michigan FGs, the multiple interceptions short-circuiting drives, the multiple errors on kickoffs…you shouldn’t be able to recover from that.

The Canes did, though. Timely stops by the defense, and an awful lot of Rob Chudsinzki and Cleveland Gary, as well as nerves of steel from Steve Walsh turned this game around. Gary himself scored 3 TDs and was unstoppable all game long.

And what about Jimmy Johnson? Twice, he made critical decisions that won the game. In the first half, the Canes were clinging to a 1-point lead but struggling. His fake punt decision got them in the end zone. And then there’s the onside kick, which set up the winning FG. Conventional wisdom is to kick deep and use timeouts, but Johnson went the other way.

That resulted in Michigan fans being a bit stunned:

When you leave the opponents looking like that, it is a win for the ages.

The Aftermath

This turned out to be 2 of the best teams in the country.

Miami would “lose” to Notre Dame because apparently Cleveland Gary lying flat on the ground is not down yet. That blemish would cost them a National Championship and they’d finish 2nd.

Jimmy Johnson would move on at year’s end, turning the Dallas Cowboys into a dynasty while Dennis Erickson took over and won 2 National Championships in the next 3 years.

This team deserved a championship, but was robbed.

As for Michigan, they only tied one game the rest of the year, winning the rest, including the Rose Bowl to finish ranked 4th.

Have memories of this game? Tweet us at @vrp2003 and @5ReasonsSports

 

THE EXTRA YARD: 2020 NFL DRAFT Top 5 QB’s

Welcome to the Five Reasons Sports 2020 NFL Draft Guide. We will be bringing you a top 5 list compiled by Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga), and a counter list by Simon Clancy (@SiClancy) for each position, for the 2020 NFL Draft. By offering you rankings of prospects 1 thru 5 for each position, we hope you will better understand this most important draft. Enjoy!

Miami Dolphins Picks:
Round1· Pick 5(5)
Round1· Pick 18(18)PIT > MIA
Round1· Pick 26(26)HOU > MIA
Round2· Pick 7(39)
Round2· Pick 24(56)NO > MIA
Round3· Pick 6(70)
Round4· Pick 35(141)Compensatory
Round5· Pick 7(153)
Round5· Pick 9(154)JAX > PIT > MIS
Round5· Pick 28(173)BAL > LA > MIN
Round6· Pick 6(185)
Round7· Pick 13(227)IND > MIA
Round7· Pick 32(246)KC > MIA
Round7· Pick 37(251)Compensatory

QUARTERBACKS

1. TUA TAGOVAILOA – Alabama – 6’-0” 217 lbs.

What can be said about Tua that we haven’t already said? He is the real deal, with uncanny anticipation, confidence to throw the tight windows, and the accuracy to make those throws not much of a risk. Tagovailoa is also not hopeless with his feet. He can run when needed, and runs smartly. The best deep ball thrower in the draft, is also the best intermediate thrower, while also being the best ball manipulator/handler. The only knock is the injury concern, which is very real.

 

2. JOE BURROW – LSU- 6’-4” 221 lbs.

Simply put, Joe Burrow had the best season for a Quarterback in College Football History. That alone would have moved his draft status from where it was (Day 3 pick) to the top of the draft. But there is more. I was not a big fan of his, due to the “one hit wonder” nature of hsi production, and what I consider sub par arm strength. What Burrow lacks in power,he makes up with impeccable mechanics. Good anticipation, above average athleticism, Football IQ, ideal size, make Burrow as complete a prospect as we have seen in a long while.

 

3. JORDAN LOVE – Utah State – 6’-4” 224 lbs.

Love has every throw in the book. There is simply not a place on a football field, and an arm angle that Jordan Love can’t get too. Good size, with a knack for escaping with his feet and making yards on the run, check all the “natural ability” boxes for Love. So it begs the question, if he is a good, why was he so bad in 2019? You can call these excuses, but they are very much legitimate. 7 new starters on offense, lost most of his skill guys, and some turnover in coaches. Go back to his 2018 season, and things look a bit different. There is Huge upside for Love, with the downside being that his decision making is somewhat poor. Of my top 5, he is the least likely to start in year 1.

 

4. JUSTIN HERBERT- Oregon- 6’-6” 236 lbs.

He can throw it through a brick wall. Best arm of all these prospects. Herbert has been supplanted over the term of the last 18 months, first by Tua Tagovailoa and then Joe Burrow for “top prospect” status, mainly due to Herbert not progressing as a prospect. He has had chances to shine in nationally televised “showdown” games and come up short (Auburn, 2019), but he did finish strong in the Rose Bowl with 3 rushing TD’s (he threw for 138 yards however). What Herbert lacks in consistency, he makes up for in potential. There is simply not many 6′-6″ 235lb. rocket armed prospects, with his mix of arm talent, and athleticsm. He is not so much a “project” as he is a “projection”. Herbert can be anything.

5. JACOB EASON – Washington- 6’-6” 231 lbs.

Very strong arm, with good size, and uncanny ability for throwing accurate in cut routes. I believe Eason would have been better served and probably solidified a 1st round status, had he returned to Washington for his senior season. Has a bit of a gun slinger mentality, but he does not play with confidence when facing a rush. Tends to drop his eyes when guys dive at his feet, and is pretty poor in escaping the pocket. Eason is begging for experience, and coaching. Those things you can teach, but you cannot teach his size and his pure natural ability. Eason does do one thing very well however that can help him play early in his career. He recognizes coverages well, and attacks accordingly. Sometimes vertically. He is the type that can play early with limited responsibility. To be much more, you would have to call him a project.

 

SIMON CLANCY’S (@SiClancy) VIEW:

1. Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama
2. Joe Burrow – LSU
3. Jordan Love – Utah State
4. Justin Herbert – Oregon
5. Jacob Eason – Washington

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) and Simon Clancy (SiClancy) are two-thirds of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

Miami Dolphins

Going Rogue: Three Round Miami Dolphins Draft

What if the upcoming Dolphins’ draft goes against expectations?

The word “mock” as an adjective; and perhaps in the context of a sports draft would be defined as “arranged for training or practice, or performed as a demonstration”

That could be why you see hundreds of them from prognosticators far and wide.

The word mock as a verb could also be applicable in these instances.

mock – “Make (something) seem laughably unreal or impossible”.

Usually the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Sometimes the board goes as the majority expects.

Other times the human element takes over and the once predictable draft boards become full of the unexpected.

Each NFL draft has its own plot twists, and smart teams capitalize on the moment and take advantage.

The Miami Dolphins are poised to be the stars of the 2020 NFL Draft, with three first round picks.

Perhaps nearly as important are the three remaining selections inside the top 70, which bodes well for a Dolphins roster in need of depth.

Everyone who follows the team, and those that don’t, know that Miami needs their quarterback of the future.

Tua Tagovailoa has been the “Chosen One” for what seems like an eternity.

Until the smoke started.

 

Another possibility… both factions are wrong.

So what if that happens?

What if Burrow does in fact go to Cincinnati, and then another quarterback needy team jumps Miami for Tua?

That may be an uneasy scenario for Dolphins’ fans to stomach, but if we are known for one thing it is a tough constitution.

Let’s take a look at how the first three rounds could deviate from predictability, including a full mock of Day 1.

“Seeing Through the Smoke”

Picture Miami standing pat with their existing picks and starting Day 1 with the 5th selection.

Crazy, right?

Say the first four picks go something like this:

No.1 Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

No. 2 Washington Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

No. 3 Los Angeles Chargers (via trade with DET) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Yeah, that just happened.

The departure of Phillip Rivers leaves the quarterback situation in Los Angeles uncertain.

Tyrod Taylor is not the long term solution.

The Chargers take a leap of literal and proverbial faith and grab their franchise quarterback in the hopes someone will notice.

 

The Miami Dolphins 2020 draft takes its first detour.

No. 4 New York Giants – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

With the two top quarterbacks in the eyes of many off the board, where does the Dolphins brain trust go?

Justin Herbert is still there but so are three top tackles, along with Isaiah Simmons and Jeffrey Okudah.

Could you imagine a secondary of Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, and Okudah?

Neither could Miami apparently.

No. 5 Cleveland Browns (via Miami) – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

In this scenario Cleveland doesn’t think the quick rising Becton lasts until their original pick at 10, so they swap with Miami and include their 2020 second round pick (41) in the deal.

No. 6 Detroit Lions (via Chargers) – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

No. 7 Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

No. 8 Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

No. 9 Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

No. 10 Miami Dolphins – Justin Herbert QB, Oregon

See, Miami did take a quarterback with their first pick!

 

Seeing through the #SmokeSZN is nearly impossible unless you are one of the chosen few in the Dolphins power structure.

Make no mistake, the Dolphins are on the clock for their next great quarterback.

The link to Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins has nearly been spoken into existence.

It still may happen, but having drawn as such a foregone conclusion so early seems lacking

Herbert may have been the prize all along, and at this draft position is the ultimate value.

 

Now Miami has positioned themselves to add top level depth in the second and third rounds, while securing their quarterback.

No. 11 New York Jets – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

No. 12 Las Vegas Raiders – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

No. 13 San Francisco 49ers – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

No. 14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

No. 15 Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs, III WR, Alabama

No. 16 Atlanta Falcons – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

No. 17 Dallas Cowboys – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

No. 18 Miami Dolphins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Miami now sits with five more picks through Round 2, in a draft full of players that fit their needs in this range.

With positions such as tackle and safety running low, and with all the top running backs still on the board, Miami could go any direction here.

However with Hebert the choice earlier, his protection must be a priority.

Jones is a bit of a reach here, he has all the athletic traits you look for at tackle but lacks refinement.

 

With development he can be a high level NFL starter but will need improvement in the fundamentals to meet that potential.

If we have learned one thing about Brian Flores and his coaching staff. it is that player development is of the highest priority.

No. 19 Las Vegas Raiders – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

No. 20 Jacksonville Jaguars – Grant Delpit, S, LSU

No. 21 Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

No. 22 Minnesota Vikings – Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn

No. 23 New England Patriots – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Of course.

No. 24 New Orleans Saints – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

No. 25 Minnesota Vikings – Antoine Winfield, S, Minnesota

No. 26 Miami Dolphins – J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

The offensive makeover becomes the priority of the first round and the Dolphins somehow luck into Dobbins who fits their style perfectly.

Miami has secured their quarterback and his blindside protector, now they have their running back of the future.

 

The Dolphins rushed to get Dobbins in for a pre-draft visit before closing down their facilities due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Dobbins mix of power and speed make him the ideal feature back, he is a willing pass blocker but does need to improve there a bit.

Last year he became the first Ohio State running back to rush for 2000 yards in a single season (301 carries, 2003 yards, 21 TD, 6.2 YPC)

Dobbins caught 71 passes in his three seasons at Ohio State and can be an every down weapon for many years.

No. 27 Seattle Seahawks – A.J. Espenesa, EDGE, Iowa

No. 28 Baltimore Ravens – D’Andre Swift, RB, Clemson

No. 29 Tennessee Titans – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

No. 30 Green Bay Packers – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

No. 31 San Francisco 49ers – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

No. 32 Kansas City Chiefs Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin

The first round of the Dolphins draft is dedicated to the offense, in harmony with the defensive additions in free agency.

However, Miami is by no means done with two premium picks in Round 2 awaiting them.

Round 2

Having three first-round picks in one draft can rebuild the top shelf quickly.

Add three more in the second-round and you can fill up the entire pantry.

Miami continues building out the trenches on Day 2 and the roster begins to take shape.

No. 39 – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

Miami further solidifies the offensive line with Ruiz, the near consensus top interior lineman in the draft.

Ruiz has plenty of experience having started 31 games for Michigan over his career, with 26 at center.

His versatility will be vital to a revamped offensive line and his play against Big-10 competition in the trenches will help his transition.

Ruiz can be a factor at the second level in the run game, and is an enthusiastic lead blocker in the screen game.

He sets a stout anchor and usually gives up little ground on pass protection.

Ruiz is strong enough to hold off larger defensive lineman and agile enough to compete with smaller ones.

With improved strength and conditioning at the NFL level, Ruiz can meet what is a very high professional ceiling.

No. 41 (from Cleveland) Ross Blacklock, IDL, TCU

After four consecutive picks on the offensive side, the Dolphins finally come back to the defense with an interior disruptor in Blacklock.

With Devon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins Miami has two solid pocket movers, and with Blacklock they add another.

Blacklock has a nonstop motor that will be well received and has the quick feet to blow up the middle or set the edge.

Missing 2018 with an Achilles set him back a bit in terms of seeing the game, but Blacklock has the motor and physical tools to be a force in the middle for years.

No. 56 Lucas Niang, OT, TCU

The infusion of youth and high upside on the offensive line continues with Niang, who joins his TCU teammate Ross Blacklock in Miami. Niang is an excellent value at pick 56, his floor profiles as an above average NFL starter. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 328 pounds, Niang possesses prototypical size for an NFL tackle.

Niang played through a hip injury until November which seemed to limit his mobility somewhat, and he can struggle against quicker edge rushers in pass sets.

He made 27 starts at right tackle in college and projects there at the next level, his pass blocking upside is elite but will need refinement as a road grader.

Niang is not scheme limited and should fit nicely on the right side of the revamped offensive line sooner than later.

Round 3

The first two rounds of the Miami Dolphins 2020 NFL Draft focused on value, need, and roster balance.

With one selection in the third round, Miami checks one last box and addresses the thin safety position.

No. 70 Ashtyn Davis, S, California

Miami gets their versatile safety in Davis who brings a varied skill set that Brian Flores covets.

Davis can play all over the field whether in base or sub packages, and will likely be a key contributor on special teams right away.

He is willing to stick his nose in on run support but has struggled with some run fits, Davis is not your long term in-the-box safety.

Davis has a high motor and the range to make up for the occasional misstep, along with the ability to matchup in the slot when called upon.

 

With his versatility and likeliness to contribute in all phases of special teams, Davis fits what Miami needs in many ways.

Summary

No. 10 – Justin Herbert, QB

No. 18 Josh Jones, OT

No. 26 J.K. Dobbins, RB

No. 39 Cesar Ruiz, C 

No. 41 Russ Blacklock, IDL

No. 56 Lucas Niang, OT

No. 70 Ashtyn Davis, S

 

By trading down the Dolphins were able to add a high second round pick and bring in new talent across the offensive line.

They also went off script by moving down and selecting Herbert, a move that may draw criticism from fans and media alike.

But they were also able to get the top running back for their system, and two players that can immediately impact the defense and special teams.

The Miami Dolphins offensive line in 2020 could somehow end up looking something like this:

LT: Josh Jones

LG: Erick Flowers

C: Cesar Ruiz

RG: Ted Karras

RT: Lucas Niang

Forget easing the rookies into it, may as well let them all learn on the job.

No matter how well Miami drafts and supplements in free agency, this is still not a playoff roster.

Ryan Fitzpatrick can hide some of the warts and help the rookies grasp the game at the NFL level.

It is nearly impossible for the aforementioned script to unfold, but trading down and acquiring even more assets could happen.

In some way, shape, or form the most important draft for the Miami Dolphins in this century is happening April 23rd.

One that will go down in history for many reasons.

We will be hosting a live draft show on Day One with numerous contributors throughout our network.

Follow @5ReasonsSports on Twitter for more details.

Make sure to subscribe to the 3 Yards Per Carry Miami Dolphins podcast.

 

Season In Review: Kendrick Nunn

The NBA season isn’t over yet, though it appears to be trending that way. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume the plug has been pulled. We have a large enough sample to evaluate what went down, and what we should expect moving forward. For the next [insert time frame here], I’ll be reviewing every relevant player on the Heat.

We kicked things off with Goran Dragic, a wily veteran with a couple of new tricks. Next up is Kendrick Nunn, the where-did-he-come-from rookie that made an immediate impact in Miami’s guard rotation.

Offense

Relevant stats: 15.6 points, 51.2 percent from two, 36.2 percent from three (5.8 attempts), 83.7 percent from the line (1.5 attempts), 3.4 assists

Three-level shot creators are the most valuable player archetype out there. The reasoning is simple: those type of players are pretty much scheme-proof. In a league that primarily employs “drop” coverage in pick-and-rolls, being able to attack gaps with reliable pull-up shots can break a defense.

It forces defenses to defend higher, which increases the amount of space that can be created with drives. Productive drives lead to high percentage shots at the rim, or force rotations that generate catch-and-shoot opportunities from the perimeter. A guy that can effectively score from anywhere can open up the floor for everyone.

If Kendrick Nunn showed nothing else, he proved he has those kind of scoring chops.

Nunn generated 0.956 points per pick-and-roll possession as a scorer, via Synergy. That put him in range with James Harden (0.967) and Kawhi Leonard (0.968), and slightly ahead of Paul George (0.952), Donovan Mitchell (0.944), and CJ McCollum (0.937).

Nunn’s value starts with his pull-up jumper. He generated nearly 1.1 points per possession on off-the-dribble shots, placing him in the 85th percentile via Syngery. Nunn was able to get to it on a whim, thanks to superb footwork and a keen understanding of deceleration. What he lacks in top-end burst, he makes up for it in craft.

The threat of his pull-up puts more strain on perimeter defenders to fight over screens. If they fail to stay attached, he can kill them with triples or middies. If the big creeps up, Nunn has the touch necessary to finish with floaters (52nd percentile) or contested looks at the rim (63.2 percent inside of three feet).

In short, there isn’t a method of scoring that Nunn can’t pull out of his bag.

 

Nunn can get his. What’s lacking, at least in comparison to his scoring chops, is the ability to read the floor for others. Not only is he wired to score, he relies on his pull-up to open up the rest of his game. Those are already tougher shots on balance. There were a handful of possessions per game where Nunn would settle for an early (read: bad) shot when there was a passing window available, or enough time on the clock to hunt for a better shot.

To his credit, Nunn did get better at finding teams when creases opened. Timing was still a bit of an issues — his passes went from late or missed, to a tad early. That still represents progress, and something for him to build off of next season.

 

Defense

Relevant stats: 0.8 steals, 1.4 steal rate, one charge drawn

“Opportunistic” is probably the best way to describe Nunn on defense.

When defending on-ball, Nunn tries to “jump” the screen. If he feels a screen coming, he attempts to jump into the ball-handler’s body to stay attached on the drive. When done correctly, like it was during the first month of the season, Nunn proved he could be an irritant at the point of attack.

The same principles apply on his off-ball reps. Outside of Jimmy Butler, Nunn is the Heat’s most aggressive digger. A large portion of his steals came via swipes on middle drives or post-ups.

There is, however, a thin line between opportunistic and undisciplined. If the 0.8 steals per game is any indication, he falls on the wrong side of that line too often. Much like the offensive end, Nunn’s lack of top-end burst limits his effectiveness.

Because he can’t fly around (nor does he have the length) like, say, Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle, positioning matters more for Nunn. An aggressive dig into the post has to result in chaos, because he doesn’t have the speed or length to make shooters uncomfortable if the ball is kicked back out.

Those issues are even more pronounced when he defends on-ball. He jumps so many screens because he does a not-great job of fighting over them and staying connected to drivers.

Synergy’s defensive logging isn’t great, but it mostly matches the eye test here. Nunn ranks in the 39th percentile when defending dribble handoffs (0.98 points per possession), 37th percentile when defending pick-and-rolls (0.921 PPP), 29th percentile when defending off-screen actions (1.087 PPP), and the 20th percentile when defending spot-ups (1.138 PPP).

While Goran Dragic is likely Miami’s worst perimeter defender, Nunn isn’t too far off. Considering the gap in age and athleticism, that’s quite the indictment against Nunn. It’s why point-of-attack defense was such a question mark heading into the postseason — and a big reason why the Justise Winslow trade was such a gamble.

Moving forward

Nunn’s positives outweigh his negatives. Legitimate three-level scorers don’t grow on trees, and the Heat found one — using “found” loosely here — for basically the vet’s minimum. Nunn is older than your average rookie, which contributes to his relatively high floor. He’s also in a great situation; decision-making isn’t as big of a deal when he’s playing off of Butler and Bam Adebayo.

With that said, the defensive questions are real. Screen avoidance and risk management should improve with more experience, but there’s only so much he can do physically.

[Insert “I am not the “sources” guy in the network” disclaimer here]

I would imagine those questions contribute to Nunn being on the wrong side of the “untouchable” line among Miami’s young guys. Adebayo isn’t going anywhere. Tyler Herro isn’t going anywhere. Duncan Robinson, arguably the most important offensive weapon the world doesn’t really know about, isn’t going anywhere. Nunn would probably be in OKC right now if the Heat could’ve agreed to a contract extension with Danilo Gallinari.

If they were willing to part with Nunn for, essentially, a veteran on a 1+1 deal, it’s hard to argue that his status is completely safe. However, it does speak to Nunn’s value that he could net a guy like Gallinari despite being a virtual unknown a few months ago.

Recollected Dozen, Game 3: 2005 Miami @ Clemson

This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here

The Year

The year is 2005. President George W. Bush is in the first year of his final term in office. The week of September 17th, 2005 saw Gold Digger by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx top the Billboard Hot 100 list. And The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman was #1 on the New York Times fiction best seller list. Gas was $2.77 a gallon. The big news story was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hitting Mississippi and devastating the Gulf Coast, including breaking levees in New Orleans and flooding the city.

The Combatants

Miami entered the game at 0-1, having lost the season opener at Florida State.

Clemson entered the game at 2-0, having beaten Texas A&M and Maryland.

The Context

This was a matchup of 2 ranked teams.

The Canes came into this game off of a loss and a bye week, having opened with FSU on Monday Night Football in Tallahassee. It was game that featured several mistakes, dropped passes, and ultimately a dropped hold on a FG attempt which gifted the Seminoles a 10-7 win. But no one was sure if the Canes were any good.

For Clemson, they had won 2 games by a total of 4 points. Against Texas A&M, they kicked 6 FGs and won 25-24, including hitting the game winning FG with 2 seconds left. Against Maryland, the Tigers trailed by 10 heading into the 4th quarter. But back-to-back TDs saw them escape with a win.

The narrative coming into the game was that Miami had cracked under the pressure in a close loss while Clemson had done the opposite, twice.

The Game

Both defenses came out ready to play and the teams exchanged 5 punts (3 for Clemson, 2 for Miami) with the longest drive being 11 yards.

Finally, the Canes put together a strong drive. Kyle Wright completed pass to Ryan Moore for 16 yards, Quadtrine Hill for 9 yards, and after a holding penalty put the Canes in 3rd and long, Darnell Jenkins along the sideline for a big conversion. Tyrone Moss would pick up the next first down via the ground, but the Canes would have to settle for a FG, which Jon Peattie put through to nudge the Canes in front 3-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Clemson immediately responded going 85 yards in 5 plays, in a minute of time of possession. After Charlie Whitehurst kept the ball on a QB sneak for 2 yards, the Tigers crossed up the Canes’ defense on a shotgun RPO where Whitehurst ran for 65 yards. 2 plays later Whitehurst would complete the TD pass that put Clemson ahead 7-3.

Both defenses settled down after that, and there were 3 consecutive punts.

It would be the Tigers who would put together the next drive, set up by a long throw from Whitehurst to Curtis Baham up the seem of the Canes defense for 38 yards on 3rd-and-7 from the Clemson 23. Miami would stiffen, but Clemson converted a 4th-and-1 at the Canes 30. Finally, after gifting Clemson another 1st down with consecutive offside penalties, the Canes forced a FG, which Clemson made to go up 10-3.

Miami’s offense responded, in a roundabout way. After Tyrone Moss picked up a first down on 2 runs, the Canes pitched the ball to Devin Hester who did Devin Hester things, running for 36 yards to the Clemson 22-yard line. On the next play, Kyle Wright was temporarily knocked out and Kirby Freeman came in. That stalled the drive, but Peattie hit another FG, and the lead was trimmed to 10-6.

The half ended that way, with Clemson up 10-6, but with the game finely balanced between 2 offenses that had a few explosive plays, but were mostly dominated by the defenses.

Hester opened the 2nd half with a strong kickoff return to the Canes 43. After Tyrone Moss carried the Canes across midfield to the Clemson 41, disaster struck. Wright was sacked for an 8-yard loss, and then a holding penalty pushed the Canes back further. They ended up losing 2 yards on the drive and punting from their own 41, but Brian Monroe hit a perfect punt and pinned Clemson inside their 10.

After the Canes D forced a 3-and-out, the offense took over on the Clemson 47. After Wright hit Jenkins for another critical 3rd down conversion, Moss took over. He carried on 5 consecutive plays, taking the Canes inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line. From there, Wright dumped to Hill on a screen pass for the go ahead TD, putting Miami up 13-10.

A series of errors resulted in no points on the next drive. After Clemson drove the ball to midfield, the Canes forced a punt. But they roughed the kicker, giving Clemson a first down on the Canes 30. But when the Canes held Clemson at the 28, the Tigers false-started on a FG attempt. Backed up 5 yards, they tried and missed a 50-yard FG.

Miami’s offense responded by trying to put the game away. Derron Thomas got some rare action, and carried for 4 and 12 yards for one 1st down, and then another 4 yards to get Miami into range at 3rd-and-6 at the Clemson 47. From there, on the last play of the 3rd quarter, Wright hit Sinorice Moss for 43 yards to the Clemson 6. 2 plays into the 4th quarter, Tyrone Moss scored the TD that put Miami up 20-10 early in the 4th quarter.

On the next drive, the Canes made multiple penalties which allowed the Tigers to put together a few first downs, but they ultimately punted. Moss and Charlie Jones combined on the next drive to muscle down a few first downs, and get the ball into Clemson territory. The drive stalled, but Monroe’s punt pinned Clemson at their own 19, with only 7:01 remaining.

It took Clemson 10 plays to go 81 yards. The Big play was a 23-yard completion to Baham to the Canes 10. Whitehurst would QB sneak for a TD from there. Miami’s defense, brilliant all day, failed to force a 3rd down. It was now 20-17.

Miami’s offense needed a first down to ice the game. After Moss gained 4 yards on 2 plays, Wright was sacked on 3rd down. Monroe’s punt put the Tigers at their own 44 yard line with 1:15 left.

Whitehurst hit Baham for 11 and 14 yards, moving to the Canes 31. From there, he hit Chansi Stuckey for 21 yards to the Canes’ 10 with 41 with 26 seconds left. Clemson was 10 yards from victory. On 3rd-and-10, with 23 seconds left, Whitehurst had Stuckey wide open in the end zone, but overthrew him. Whitehurst was hit as he threw and had to rush the pass, but after the game, this was pointed to, justifiably, as a moment where Clemson could have won the game. The Tigers did hit a FG to tie it at 20 and force OT.

Miami got the ball first. Moss gained a yard on 1st down. On 2nd-and-9, the Canes made a holding penalty, and Miami was at 2nd-and-19. Wright hit Greg Olsen for 8 yards, and then on 3rd-and-11, Wright hit Ryan Moore for a huge gain down to the Clemson 6. With that new life, it was time for Tyrone Moss, who scored a TD 2 plays later. The extra point put the Canes up 27-20.

Clemson immediately started moving on their next drive. They needed a TD, but gained 10 yards on 1st down. After consecutive catches netted 8 total yards to the Canes’, Clemson found themselves at 4th-and-2. The play broke down, but Whitehurst fired a bullet into the end zone and found Baham who made the catch that tied the game at 27.

Miami’s defense put together a strong possession on the next drive. Clemson only gained 2 yards on 3 plays, but made the FG to go up 30-27.

The Canes offense knew a TD could win the game. After Moss was stuffed for a 2-yard loss, Wright hit Moore again, for 16 yards to the Clemson 11. Moss gained 9 yards on the next 2 runs. On 3rd-and-1 from the Clemson 2, the Canes called on Moss, but for once, Clemson stopped him for no gain. The Canes had the option of going for the win on 4th-and-1 from the 2 or for kicking the FG and forcing the 3rd OT. Larry Coker elected to kick and the game went to a 3rd OT tied at 30.

The game would be over in 4 plays.

After a reverse to Sinorice Moss gained no yards, the Canes would call Tyrone Moss’ number again. And he delivered. Moss scampered over the right-side, outraced the defense to the sideline, and laid out over the pylon to score the TD that put Miami ahead for good. Wright threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion, but the Canes took a 36-30 lead.

Clemson would throw an incompletion, then Kenny Phillips intercepted Whitehurst, dropping to one knee, and flinging the ball into the air victoriously.

Miami 36, Clemson 30 in 3 overtimes.

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jfkv2hybh3s

Full Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alukz8Pt44Y

Why is it Memorable?

This is one in a series of classic games the Canes and Tigers played. And the only one the Canes won. The previous year (2004) the Tigers won in OT, and in 2009, they would do so again.

But this game was about the late, great Tyrone Moss. The Miami offense didn’t do much. Wright made some clutch throws, but only threw for 155 yards. Moss was called upon to carry the load, and he did, carrying 31 times for 135 yards and 3 TDs, including 2 in OT. Moss was the Canes rope-a-dope on the day. He leaned on that Clemson defense all day, often stymied, but never defeated. And after wearing them down, he knocked them out in OT.

Kudos should also be paid to the Canes’ defense. For much of the game, Clemson really struggled to move the ball.

Speaking of Clemson, their role here should not be diminished. They could have gone away multiple times but didn’t, which turned this from a comfortable Miami win to a classic game.

The images of this game that live on years later are of Moss diving into the end zone, of the entire team celebrating victory, and of Tommy Bowden, exhausted from the game, going to a knee at midfield.

We all felt that way after this win, which ended in sweet relief.

The Aftermath

Miami would use this game to propel the season forward, culminating with the much more famous demolition of Virginia Tech in November, which propelled the Canes to the #3 ranking in the country. That game would also likely cost the Canes the season, as Tyrone Moss left with an injury.

That would ultimately be fleeting, as 2 weeks after that, they lost at home to Georgia Tech 14-10, costing them the ACC Coastal and a shot at a rematch with Florida State. The Canes would go to the Peach Bowl, where LSU would obliterate them. Most of the offensive staff was fired after that game, and Larry Coker was out a year later.

For Clemson, their close calls did not end here.  They would lose in OT the next week to Boston College, then lose by 4 to Wake Forest, before recovering to win 5 out of 6, with the loss coming by 1-point to Georgia Tech. Clemson would win their bowl game, and finish 9-4, with their losses either coming in OT or by a combined a 5 points.

Have memories of this game? Tweet us at @vrp2003 and @5ReasonsSports

 

Tua Tagovailoa Quarterback Tracker

Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, there is no player more polarizing than Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. And after a season that saw many fans screaming Tank For Tua!  The Dolphins are now in prime position to land the talented QB prospect. Yes, there are plenty of other potential QBs Miami could target at #5, #18, or #26–but Tua Tagovailoa is the one. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the future QB of the Miami Dolphins.

Biography

Born: March 2nd, 1998

Height: 6’0

Weight: 217 lbs.

Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Nickname: The Left Arm of God

College Statistics

Latest News

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If you have any information that you think would be useful for this tracker, please reach out to me at @houtz.

And if you would like to purchase the official 5 Reasons Sports Tankovailoa shirt, click HERE

In Tagovailoa We Trust

Recollected Dozen, Game 4: 2004 Louisville @ Miami

This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here

The Year

The year is 2004. President George W. Bush is in the final year of his first term as president. The week of September 29th, 2012 saw Goodies by Ciara featuring Petey Pablo top the Billboard Hot 100 list. And The Dark Tower by Stephen King was #1 on the New York Times fiction best seller list. Gas was $2.04 a gallon. The big news story was the recent concluded final presidential debate between Bush and John Kerry. The first debate was held on the campus of the University of Miami.

The Combatants

Miami entered the game at 4-0 and was ranked #3 in the country.

Louisville entered the game 4-0 and was ranked #17 in the country.

The Context

Miami had beaten FSU in OT to start the season and had rolled since then. There was very little doubt that this was a national title contender (that presumption turned out to be wrong as the season unfolded). The Canes, fresh off a “disappointing” Orange Bowl winning season that fell short of a National Championship, were looking to make amends. This was also the Canes first year in the ACC.

Louisville was in Conference USA, a conference that they were way too good for. No one was sure how good Louisville was, but this was the opportunity for them to test themselves. In the BCS Era, for Louisville, winning this game would allow them to attend a major bowl game.

The Canes were heavy favorites for this Thursday night clash in the Orange Bowl.

The Game

The game started as expected. The Canes forced a 3-and-out, with Louisville losing 15 yards. After a poor punt, the Canes drove inside the Louisville 5. But perhaps the first time there was an indication that this would not be a walk in the park came when the Canes were stuffed on 4th-and-1 and turned i t over on downs.

The Canes forced another punt, and this time cashed on on field position, with Greg Olsen catching a TD to put the Canes up 7-0.

On the next possession, Miami forced a 3rd-and-10, and then Louisville’s offense turned on like a light switch. They completed a pass of 14 yards to convert the 1st down, then followed that with plays of 10, 25, 24, and 1 yard for the TD to tie the game.

Miami then threw an interception, which allowed Louisville to hit a FG and take a 10-7 lead on the first play of the 2nd quarter.

After a 3-and-out, Louisville immediately marched 76 yards on 9 plays, including converting a 3rd-and-9 and a 3rd-and-7 for the TD that put Louisville up 17-7.

Keep in mind that there was very little confidence in the Canes’ offense, so a 10-point lead felt substantial. We knew this was a game.

And after a few punts, Louisville pushed the lead out further. The Cardinals once again converted multiple 3rd downs, including a 3rd-and-9 and a 3rd-and-3 for the TD that put Louisville up 24-7.

Heading into the half, Louisville was dominating. In addition to converting several 3rd downs, the Cardinals had outgained Miami 249-103. After the Canes TD to go up 7-0, their next 5 drives were -5, 3, 5, 18, and -1 yards.

The game did not feel over, but the Canes did look a bit helpless.

Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff of the 2nd half for a TD, igniting the crowd, bringing Miami back into the game…except it was called back on a penalty. But the Canes still built off of it. Berlin hit Roscoe Parrish for a critical conversion on 3rd-and-14. Then Quadtrine Hill took over, carrying on 4 of the next 6 plays to take the Canes inside the Louisville 15. Berlin hit Parrish for the TD on the next play to cut the lead to 24-14.

New half, new Miami. Louisville would surely crumble from here…except they did the opposite. After a holding penalty backed up the Cardinals into 3rd-and-19, they threw underneath for 10 yards. On 4th-and-9, the Cardinals faked a punt, and Lionel Gates ran for 39 yards. The Canes defense once again stepped up, forcing Louisville into a 3rd-and-12…but again couldn’t make the critical play. Stefan LeFors hit Tiger Jones for 22 yards and a TD that pushed the lead back out to 17.

But the Canes offense was now in rhythm, and responded back with another TD drive, this time on the strength of Berlin hitting Akieem Jolla twice, first for a critical 3rd down conversion and again for the TD to cut the lead to 10.

Now the Canes D stepped up, forcing a punt. Miami’s offense went 82 yards, but stalled inside the 5. Unlike earlier, where they went for it inside the 5, this time the Canes decided to kick the FG and cut the lead to a one-possession game at 31-24 at the start of the 4th quarter.

Then, it seemed like Louisville would finally crumble. LeFors fumbled on the next possession, and the Canes took over at the Louisville 22. LeFors was also injured on the play and Brian Brohm, a true freshman, would play out the rest of the game. But Louisville would not crumble, instead, forcing the Canes to 3rd-and-2, and stuffing Frank Gore for a 1-yard loss. Larry Coker decided to kick the FG, and the Canes were down 31-27.

Louisville converted one first down, but a penalty stymied them and they punted from the 37.

That punt lead to one of the iconic plays in Miami Hurricanes’ history, as Devin Hester took the punt back right past the Louisville coverage team, faked the punter out, and went to the end zone to put Miami up 34-31 with 8:11 left. Mike Tirico’s call of the return is perfect.

With the stadium rocking, the loss inevitable, and a backup QB in the game, certainly Louisville would finally go away. Instead they marched right back at the Canes, going 80 yards in 9 plays, scoring the TD with 4:35 left that put them up 38-34.

Hester, once again, was determinative. He returned the kickoff to the Miami 44, setting up a shorter field. After Berlin scrambled for 11 yards and threw 2 incompletions, the Canes converted a 3rd-and-10 by Lance Leggett making a catch for 26 yards. After the Canes ended up in 4th-and-4 at the 8, Berlin hit Darnell Jenkins for 5 yards, just getting the first down.

Tyrone Moss gained 2 yards and Frank Gore scored the TD with 53 seconds left to put the Canes up for good at 41-38.

Louisville was able to move the ball some, including getting out to midfield after gaining 18 yards on on 4th-and-4. But they ran out of times and downs, and with 5 seconds left, the Hail Mary came up short and Antrel Rolle intercepted to seal the game.

There was a minor kerfuffle as Louisville slammed Rolle down and there was some jawing, but Miami gratefully escaped with a win.

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGeqZNlPidE

Full Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL7bUo_pNoY

Why is it Memorable?

So many reasons. But I think we could argue this game is memorable, so I almost disqualified it from this series. Certainly the Hester punt return is.

But I don’t know that we remember this game as we should. For one, this game is as memorable for the losers as much as the winners. Most comebacks involve the losing team imploding, making mistakes. Louisville did the opposite.

The Canes kept coming, and the Cardinals kept responding.  When Hester delivered what seemed like the knockout blow, Louisville retook the lead.

Coming into this game, the Canes hadn’t even allowed a passing TD. Mike Tirico talked in the opener about how the Canes were targeting shutouts…and Louisville put up 38.

This game was distinct from a comeback like the UF 33-10 comeback in 2003 in that UF built that lead on the back of Canes’ errors, and once Miami got rolling, it was obvious that the Canes were superior. In this game, it felt like if Louisville had more time, they would have scored again. This game could have gone back-and-forth forever.

And what else can we say about Brock Berlin. His uncanny ability not just to lead comebacks, but to have the entire team believe in his ability to do so is something that has been lacking since. This game always felt alive because Brock Berlin was always able to win games.

Last but not least, this was the last great game in the Orange Bowl. In 2007, the Canes beat Texas A&M in a night game, but that was nothing like this. We didn’t know at the time that the Orange Bowl would be gone in 3 years. But when we look back at great nights in the OB, this was really the last one.

And Tirico added to the moment from start-to-finish. When the Canes came out of the tunnel, he opined about how it lacked luxury boxes but had so much more than that. And, as Hester took the punt into the end zone and ESPN prepared to break for commercial, Tirico’s off the cuff remark that “he takes it to the house, and what a house it is” captured the spirit of what the OB was.

Tirico, one of the transcendent voices of college football, didn’t know he was sending off the Old Girl, but he gave it a fitting tribute.

The Aftermath

This was actually a changeover for the Canes. Coming into this game, the narrative was that the Canes offense, and in particular Brock Berlin, were the problem and that the defense was one of the best in the country.

That changed with this game. This ended up being the only year that Randy Shannon did not have a Top 10 defense as Defensive Coordinator, and Brock Berlin ended up as one of the more respected QBs the Canes have had this century.

The Canes would stay undefeated for another week, beating NC State 45-31, but it was obvious that the defense was not up to standard. That cost the Canes the next game, in a 31-28 loss to UNC.

Miami ended up not winning the conference for the first time since 1999, but did recover to beat Florida in the Peach Bowl.

For Louisville, this game cost them a shot at a BCS bowl. They absolutely crushed everyone else they played, and then beat Boise State in the Liberty Bowl. But this loss prevented them from going to a better bowl game than that.

Have memories of this game? Tweet us at @vrp2003 and @5ReasonsSports

 

THE EXTRA YARD: What’s Real in Dolphins Rumors?

So, what are they doing now?

Trading up for Joe Burrow? Cool. Oh, staying put for Justin Herbert? Nice. (Not really) Oh, I got it. They are trading up to #3 for Tua Tagovailoa. Nah. A trade down for Jordan Love is likely. Makes some sense.

Confused yet? I’m not. What has happened this offseason with the approximately 1,764 different scenarios concerning the Miami Dolphins and their Quarterback position, is nothing short of hilarious.

Now that “Dolphin Targets” Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford are settled in, we are left with the draft prospects to speculate about. No other story has gotten as much traction as that of the possible “interest” in trading up for Joe Burrow at #1. It has made the rounds from the pages of the Miami Herald, to debate fodder on First Take and Undisputed, to whole segments on ESPN Sportscenter and the NFL Network.

 

So what’s true? Our own Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) of the Three Yards Per Carry Podcast reports that he has been told there is merit to these reports. So who is driving this? Well, let’s examine. First of all, we were told that there was a plan in place when the team was shedding salary and trading standouts Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick for several 1st round picks. We know that the plan COULD NOT have been to use the assets gained, to secure LSU star Joe Burrow since he had not yet embarked on his historic season at the time, and was little more than a 3rd day draft pick by most analysts. No front office is good enough to foresee what Burrow did in 2019.

So, was the plan at the time to secure the assets necessary to land Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa? That is the most likely scenario, considering what Tua’s standing with draft analysts was at the time. He was a near unanimous #1 prospect at QB. So what does the hard evidence tell us? We know they liked Justin Herbert enough to devote considerable resources to scout him for two years. Same goes for Jordan Love.

As for Tua Tagovailoa, the talk has been plentiful, and Dolphins brass always seemed to find it’s way to watching Crimson Tide games in person, while many other alternatives that included Herbert and Love were available. So all this Joe Burrow love is headed by ownership (Stephen Ross)? Maybe. We do know this front office is tight lipped and Head Coach Brian Flores is not the leaky and gossipy type. So if ownership wants him, then it’s over, they will act on it, right? No. Not that easy. The Bengals still have to trade him to you.

You can get this article ready for @OldTakesExposed and be prepared to laugh at every word I wrote in here if they do in fact trade up to #1, because I’m calling BS.

My partner on 3YPC, Simon Clancy (@siclancy), said it best. “It’s arrogant to assume that you just wave 3 first round picks in the Bengals face and they are just gonna give you Joe Burrow.” He’s gonna be a Bengal folks. He is from the area. His girlfriend is from the area. He was recruited to Ohio State originally. He is a relatively clean prospect who just had a historic season. He fits the offense. Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor also coached Justin Herbert at the senior bowl, and the talk was that he was “enamored” with him. So the Dolphins got to trade what? 5 first round picks? To move up for a guy that Cincinnati might not take? (Herbert smokescreen) They are not doing that. They are NOT trading up to #1. The Bengals won’t trade the pick, and the Dolphins won’t part with the necessary ammunition to get Joe Burrow. Forget the smoke. There will be no fire.

 

So what’s real? Not much. At this time of year, teams go into a shell, and the real decision makers are not leaking to beat writers, although ownership very well, may. Agents are working the “refs” (the media), and leaking favorable info themselves, while playing PR agent for their guy. The truth is likely this: Nothing has changed. The more time goes by, speculation feeds on itself and narratives develop. One guy in a position of some clout, says something, goes on the record, and a story is born.

The story in and of itself is real, accurately relayed to the public from real and good sources, but in the end, it’s speculation from the source, since too many moving parts are required for the story to become reality. What is real is what we have been following all these many months. The Bengals will take Burrow at #1, and the watch will be on for who trades up for Tua Tagovailoa, and what the real projection is from NFL teams concerning Justin Herbert. There is your drama. There is your intrigue. It’s Tua vs. Herbert. Not Dolphins assets vs. Bengals desire.

 

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

Season In Review: Goran Dragic

The NBA season isn’t over yet, though it appears to be trending that way. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume the plug is being pulled. We have a large enough sample to evaluate what went down, and what we should expect moving forward. For the next [insert time frame here], I’ll be reviewing every relevant player on the Heat in positional order — guards, wings, forwards, and bigs.

First up is Goran Dragic, the seasoned Slovenian in the midst of a complicated season, to be kind.

Offense

Relevant stats: 16.1 points, 49.1 percent from two, 37.7 percent from three (5.8 attempts, career high), 76.9 percent from the line (4.1 attempts), 5.1 assists

As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It was evident early in the year that Dragic had never heard the saying, much less put stock into it. The role shift and minutes dip did a wonder on Dragic’s legs, and that coincided with a bounce-back year offensively.

Much of Dragic’s interior craft remained the same. Despite another marginal loss of burst off the bounce, he was able to finagle his way into rim opportunities due to his physicality, footwork, and understanding of angles.

It took a little more work for him to gain inside leverage, though. His pick-and-roll frequency — the percentage of possessions he used in pick-and-roll — increased from 51.8 percent to 56.5 percent this season via Synergy. But once that advantage was created, Dragic proved he could still get the job done in the paint.

You see the lack of burst, and the skill Dragic possesses in the clip above. The pair of screens force what should be a favorable switch with Davis Bertans. Bertans actually does a decent job of staying attached, but Dragic is able to use Bertans’ positioning against him, spinning left and creating enough room to cash in the floater.

Dragic converted 58.8 percent of his non-post-up shots at the rim this season — over 10 percentage points better than his injury-ravaged campaign in 2018-19 (48.4), and more in line with what he did in 2016-17 (58.1).

What really caught people (read: me) off guard was Dragic’s work off the bounce. Via Synergy, Dragic graded out in the 85th percentile as an off-the-dribble shooter, generating 1.036 points per possession on those looks.

He became more comfortable pulling up against defenders that dipped under picks. He started unleashing a bevy of side-step and step-back triples against unsuspecting enemies.

That confidence extended to drives, where he made the rare shift from a cautious passer to daring one. The pocket pass windows he often passed on (I had to) were now being utilized. The lobs he missed — or flat-out wouldn’t throw — were added to the assist tally. It felt like we were watching someone control Dragic on 2K, rather than the real-life, risk-averse version.

This wasn’t the best offensive season of Dragic’s career, at least not statistically. However, Dragic looked like the most complete version of himself. The outline of a three-level scorer with plus-passing chops were there. That, along with his decision making, is why Erik Spoelstra trusts him with long second half stints and closing opportunities.

Calling Dragic the Sixth Man of the Year may be a little rich for my taste. He was, however, pretty firmly in the mix because of his offensive contributions.

Defense

Relevant stats: 0.6 steals, 1.0 steal rate, six charges drawn (3rd on team)

If you’re wondering where Dragic’s 6MOY case falls apart, it’s on this end.

Of course, the easy counter to that would be Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford winning five of the last six, to which I’d reply, “That ain’t right, either.”

Anyway.

Dragic’s decline on defense has been steep. It has been ugly. It has been bad. The lack of lateral quickness shines through in the possessions he has to defend on-ball. Effort and IQ aren’t issues; he fights over picks against pull-up artists, and ducks under against non-shooters. He generally knows where to be, digging down from the nail or displaying solid awareness at the edge of Miami’s zone.

It just … doesn’t matter all that much if you can’t get to those spots, or bother opponents when you get there. Take this possession against the Magic for example.

Dragic does nothing wrong on this play. He’s matched up against Markelle Fultz, a guy more known for literally relearning to shoot than he is for his actual basketball talents. Dragic spins under the screen and beats Fultz to his spot, but then Fultz hesitates and jets to his right.

Dragic isn’t able to slide fast enough to stay in front, so he concedes inside leverage. Once Fultz gains that angle, he’s able to body Dragic on the layup attempt. Dragic’s lack of length hurts him here, as he isn’t able to bother the attempt despite putting his hand up.

There is only so much a team can do to hide a point-of-attack liability. The Heat have stashed him on non-threatening wings. He’s been placed at the edge of the zone. They’ve shown willingness to have Dragic hedge-and-recover against wing pick-and-rolls. They switch more to help him stay in front — though that change coincides with the additions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala.

It hasn’t mattered that much with Dragic specifically. Teams have hunted him at the end of games, and it’s easy to project that being a crunch-time strategy in playoff games.

Moving forward

This postseason could’ve been huge for Dragic. If he was able to prove that his offensive chops overshadowed his defensive shortcomings, he would be in for quite the (short-term) payday. It still might come. The Heat brass love him. and he’s stated on multiple occasions that he wants to retire in Miami.

Can’t say I blame him.

What this season has made clear is that the reserve role is what’s best for him. Limiting his workload has done wonders for his body. Facing lesser, or at least slightly-tired competition made his life a little easier. The bounce-back in rim efficiency is an encouraging sign. If the pull-up shooting proves to be real, he’s going to be an effective offensive weapon for at least a couple more seasons.

The defensive questions aren’t going away. He’ll likely be worse on that end the next time we see him. That should affect his viability as a late-game option in games that matter, and that should lower his market value a bit.

If I had to guess, Dragic will be back on a 1+1 deal in the 16-18 million-per-year range. His usefulness as a sixth man is pretty clear. Beyond that, he’s a reliable lead ball-handler that Spo can trust while Kendrick Nunn gains experience.