University of Miami

Al Golden, Miami Hurricanes continue to lose ground on defense

Justin Thomas #5 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets scrambles away from Anthony Chickillo #71 and Calvin Heurtelou #93 of the Miami Hurricanes at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Justin Thomas #5 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets scrambles away from Anthony Chickillo #71 and Calvin Heurtelou #93 of the Miami Hurricanes at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty Images

A day after Georgia Tech shredded the University of Miami’s defense on the ground, Miami coach Al Golden continued to defend the team’s defensive approach and blamed execution for several costly third-down collapses.

“I think the week before Duke was like 2-for-20 I think, so we got off the field well in that game, we didn't get off the field the other night” against Georgia Tech, Golden said of Miami’s defense on third down. “We forced [Georgia Tech] into downs that we wanted to get them in, some longer downs, and we failed. We absolutely did not execute.”

The lack of defense and only 19 minutes of possession resulted in a 28-17 loss, the Canes’ third consecutive defeat this season on the road.

With a 1-2 conference record, Miami (3-3) now sits fifth in a Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference, with the Yellow Jackets (5-0, 2-0) in first place.

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has been repeatedly criticized for playing defensive personnel too far from the line of scrimmage. Safeties often line up 10 to 15 yards behind the line, and coaches don’t stack the box on many expected running plays.

The Yellow Jackets rushed for 318 yards, the second time in three weeks that a Canes’ opponent recorded a 300 yard-plus game on the ground.

Still, Golden insisted in a Sunday teleconference that adjustments are, indeed, made to counter opponents’ schemes.

“We’re constantly adjusting alignments of the front seven, of the secondary, to stop what they’re doing and the reality is, this is the way we play Georgia Tech,” Golden said. “This is the best way to play them in our opinion, to handle all the things that they throw at you.

“Again, they ran for more yards, more total yards, and scored more points a year ago. But the reality is we didn’t get off the field on third down and we didn’t get any takeaways. That hurt our offense’s ability to have possessions, and obviously our offense going one-of-five on third down didn’t assist that at all and the two turnovers. We did not score like we needed to, we were not playing with the lead like we needed to, from that standpoint it wasn't enough.”

Golden said correcting the defensive issues against Georgia Tech is a matter of technique, not defensive schemes. He expects to face a completely different offense in Cincinnati and adjust accordingly.

And concerning outside criticism of the program, Golden was adamant that his staff and players’ needs come before listening to external noise.

“No, I don’t listen to anything, I never have. It’s really important that our team just focus on what we can control and get ready to play Cincinnati,” Golden said. “We left too many plays out there yesterday against a team that did not make any mistakes, and we lost the game.

“We have to be accountable, look at what we can do well, work on getting that fixed, and the kids need to come back to work and stay focused.”

▪ Cincinnati will visit Miami on Saturday (noon, ESPN3) without the Bearcats’ prolific quarterback Gunner Kiel, who sustained a rib injury at the end of the first half Saturday of Cincinnati’s loss to Memphis.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Kiel will likely be out for “a while,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. In the Bearcats’ first three games this season, Kiel completed 71 of 108 passes for 1,041 yards; he threw 11 times for 216 yards before leaving the game in Memphis.

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