University of Miami

The Canes’ top five 3rd down defense leaves much to be desired in Saturday’s win

The Miami Hurricanes’ defense came into Saturday’s game ranked fifth nationally in third down conversion percentage.

But you never would’ve known based on how they started against Central Michigan.

“Our defense could not or would not get off the field in the first half,” said UM coach Manny Diaz.

The Chippewas converted 45-percent of their third downs in the first half, well above the Canes’ 20-percent average. While Diaz pointed to the “absurd” amount of penalties, Shaq Quarterman said it boiled down to lack of communication.

“Early in the game, it might’ve been the crowd, you know our fans are amazing,” the senior linebacker said. “It might’ve been – who knows what— but we just weren’t communicating.”

Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain attributed his offense’s performance to a recycled game plan against a similar defense. Using certain personnel groups allowed the Chippewas to keep the Hurricanes “out of some of their exotic packages,” McElwain said.

To their credit, the Canes’ defense clamped down after halftime. They allowed only one third down conversion, which came on the Chippewas’ final drive. Overall, the Chippewas converted 33-percent of their third downs.

“[You have to] focus on winning that one down and not feel like ‘man we did this, we did that,’” said defensive end Gregory Rousseau. “What you got to do is have a short term memory and move on.”

Despite escaping with the win, the Canes will have to be a lot better if they want to be the top defense in the nation. Next week’s bye gives them some extra time to figure out how to get there.

“We really pride ourselves on our third down defense,” Quarterman said, “and the fact that we had a lot of missed opportunities definitely will be at the forefront of things we have to fix.”

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.