University of Miami

Miami’s offense hasn’t led since Oct. 6. So its defense can’t be ‘sucking wind’ anymore

Manny Diaz on defense starting slow against Boston College

Miami Hurricanes' defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said the defense started slow against Boston College, but rebounded well.
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Miami Hurricanes' defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said the defense started slow against Boston College, but rebounded well.

The hurry-up, Boston College Eagles did something last Friday to the Miami Hurricanes’ nationally touted defense that hadn’t been done in quite some time.

They wore the Canes out — hands on hips, bent over, sucking air type of wore-them-out.

“If anything, I would say, kind of, we’re human,’’ sophomore defensive end Jon Garvin said on Wednesday, when asked what the UM defense learned about itself after the Eagles marched down the field three consecutive times for drives of 10, 10 and 21 plays that yielded 17 points in 13:45 of the first 21 minutes of the game.

“Not to say we thought we were anything better, but it just shows that we’re the same as everyone else. We can get worn down, we can be shocked because that’s what it was. It was a shocker for us, so we just have to make sure we do better and capitalize on that next time.”

On Wednesday, after the Canes (5-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Confernece) finished practicing for Saturday night’s game against Duke (5-3, 1-3) at Hard Rock Stadium, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said some of his defensive lineman, in particular tackles Pat Bethel and Gerald Willis, played too many snaps in those drives.

“They didn’t get big touchdowns on us, but we took a lot of snaps,’’ Diaz said. “We have to do a better job. Remember in the beginning of the year, [reporters asked], ‘Well, why are we playing our depth?’ We needed our depth at Boston College. We needed those first three drives because the tempo they were going at — I think we played 40 snaps the first three drives, which was our fault. But for us not to roll guys, that takes the bite out of your defense.

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Miami Hurricanes Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz, shown here last month at Virginia, has been nominated for the prestigious Broyles Award for the third year in a row. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

“So, there’s one play where [AJ] Dillon runs sideways. Against a [typical] Miami defense it’s a [tackle for loss]. Everybody runs by him and half the team is sucking wind trying to chase him. The guy cuts it back and gets all the way down to our 3-yard line. We held them to a field goal, but that was on the third drive. That looked nothing like us.

“That’s a coaching error to have those guys in on that play because our effectiveness is just going to be down because of our fatigue level ... Make no mistake, Duke will do the same thing on Saturday. They’re not computer robots. These are guys that have gas tanks, and when those tanks are empty we’ve got to get those younger guys and push them into games.”

Some of the players Diaz noted will likely get more playing time Saturday: sophomore tackle Jon Ford, senior linebacker Mike Smith, senior cornerback Jhavonte Dean, freshman cornerback DJ Ivey, freshman safety Gurvan Hall and sophomore safety Amari Carter.

The Canes have not had the lead in a game since Florida State, way back Oct. 6.

Despite that, the defense is still among the country’s best in nearly every category, including second in total defense (261.5 yards allowed a game), second in passing yards allowed (140.8), eighth in sacks, first in tackles for loss and first in third-down conversion defense. UM is 22nd in scoring defense (19.3 points allowed a game) and 24th in rushing defense (120.8).

The Canes offense, now 83rd in the country (387.6-yard average), has not helped. Nor has special teams, as UM is 128th of 129 FBS teams in net punting (31.6-yard average).

Twenty seven points allowed by UM’s defense the past three games were in drives that started in UM territory, including two second-half drives by BC that started at the UM 14-yard line.

Does the defense feel pressure to perform well when the offense is trying to find itself?

“Can’t do that,’’ Garvin said. “It’ll take us out of our game. We’ve got to play like we did coming into the season. Because if we did that, we’d be trying to be Super Man and every time you try to be Super Man, you end up getting burned real bad.”

Something has to give when UM’s stout defense goes up against Duke’s offense, which is averaging 409.9 yards a game.

“We just gotta get the ball stopped earlier, plain and simple,’’ Bethel said. “It’s just resiliency, accepting coaching, having a personal determination to bow your back and do what you gotta do.”

Coach Mark Richt said Wednesday on the ACC coaches’ teleconference that junior tight end Michael Irvin II, who is rehabbing from knee surgery in the preseason, is out for the rest of the season.

Richt said freshman tight end Will Mallory (eye infection) is not expected to play Saturday.

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