Instant Analysis - Champs
Wisconsin 20 ... Miami 14
1) Just for a few more weeks of this bowl season, can we all put away the concept that the Big Ten can’t run and doesn’t have any athletes? And 2) Wisconsin, when you try to kill something, make sure it’s dead.
Miami is nothing but pure speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball, and the supposedly slow and stodgy Badgers were always a step faster and a step better because they were better at playing college football. Just like the SEC isn’t faster than the Big Ten, but it usually has more talented teams with more talented players meaning they’re better. Take the 2007 BCS Championship game when Florida blew away Ohio State. The Gators weren’t faster or more athletic than a Buckeye team full of NFL prospects; they had a better gameplan and were always a half-step faster because they executed.
Even the SportsCenter guys keep falling for this. Scott Van Pelt, who read over the highlights, kept mentioning how the Miami speed was evident when a player here and there happened to be in the open field, but that was misleading. Wisconsin has a slew of pro players, tons of quickness, and in this game, a better defensive front. But for the Badgers and head coach Bret Bielema, they need to learn their lesson going into next year.
Wisconsin managed to find every way possible to allow teams into games that appeared to be easy wins. This was yet another one. With a chance to end the game with a fourth-and-one opportunity deep in Miami territory, Bielema went for the field goal and made it only a 13-point game. One fast touchdown drive and a recovered onside kick, and Miami still had hope late in a game that it should’ve been out of far earlier. The Badgers also gave life to Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana. Including Miami, that’s five games that were close calls that shouldn’t have been, but on the plus side, UW won all of them.
If someone on that Miami coaching staff can’t get QB Jacory Harris right in the offseason, the program will fall short of its goals over the next two periods.
The ‘Canes enjoyed their best season under Randy Shannon, but, ironically, as the program moved north, Harris headed south. What happened to the quarterback, who was so sharp in September, throwing with precision and operating with the poise of a fifth-year senior, particularly late in games? That guy certainly wasn’t in Orlando on Tuesday night.
With all due respect to the Wisconsin D, which was terrific in the Champs Sports Bowl, Harris didn’t make it have to work too hard. His passes continued to sail, his arm strength was questionable, and with a chance to win the game late, he failed to even produce positive yardage. Oh, don’t be fooled by the final numbers, which don’t appear to be so bad. Almost half of the quarterback’s production and completions came after the Badgers had the stroke of genius to go into the prevent late in the fourth quarter. Prior to that point, Harris was moving the ball through the air with all of the accuracy and punch of an option quarterback.
While it’s still too early to panic about the trajectory of Harris’ career, that state of mind is fast approaching. It’s only been two years since he left high school, but the trend is not good, meaning 2010 is going to be a crossroads year for No. 12. If he can’t make a quantum leap between now and the opener in September, neither will the Hurricanes.
1) Considering how physically dominant and relentlessly rhythmic Wisconsin was in this game, consider the following point: The Badgers played on Dec. 5 at Hawaii, while the rest of their Big Ten brethren (save Illinois) had put their regular seasons to bed. Gee, Commissioner Jim Delany: Shouldn’t you be playing games in December, along with the rest of college football? (Follow-up: You should not go for a conference title game, but should instead explore the idea of playing a made-for-TV non-conference game against another conference champion or BCS bowl aspirant.)
2) It’s hard to recall another game that was officially decided by six points on the scoreboard, yet felt like a 50-point thumping in terms of the differential between the two teams. The biggest story to emerge from this contest is that “The U” still exists only in documentary films and the memories of The Ghosts of Hurricanes Past. Flat, soft, timid, indecisive, sloppy, hesitant, complacent – these and other adjectives accurately described a Miami outfit that got punched in the mouth by a far hungrier opponent. The renaissance in Coral Gables, Fla., will have to wait a while, it seems.
One of the most memorable scenes from the ESPN 30 for 30 film entitled “The U,” was the one where the Miami players show up to the
1987 Fiesta Bowl wearing fatigues, symbolizing that they thought that the game was a “war.”
My, how things have changed.
The first 20 seconds of the game, the Hurricanes looked awesome.
After that...not so much. Miami looked as if they'd never even seen a tight end before, much less two. Wisconsin tight ends Lance Kendricks and Garrett Graham had their way with the 'Canes defense virtually all night long. What's even more surprising is that it didn't look like Miami made any adjustment whatsoever. As a matter of fact, it looked like the tight ends got more open as the game went along. How does that happen?
I had some Miami people tell me that this game would mark the beginning of Jacory Harris' 2010 Heisman Trophy campaign. Maybe they got confused, and meant John Clay (if he doesn't go pro). Despite sitting out part of the game, Clay was clearly the best player on the field. In a game that was billed as “size vs. strength,” strength dominated.