allCanesBlog guest columnist Scott Alan Salomon talks life after Al Golden, the makeshift Larry Scott era, two consecutive wins and what it will take for the Miami Hurricanes to get out of Chapel Hill victorious, knocking off the division-leading North Carolina Tar Heels.
For Larry Scott, it has been two games and two come-from-behind victories since he took over for Al Golden as the interim head coach after the slaughter at the hands of the Clemson Tigers—now the number one team in the land. As one can imagine, the mood is very upbeat at the Schwartz football complex and Scott’s presser in the Mann Auditorium was no different.
“It’s another week, and another challenge for our football team that I believe we’re up for. As kind of a game recap from Virginia, I was happy with the guys and the way they played. They played hard. When you turn on the tape Sunday and watch, you’re impressed with some of the efforts that are being made out there, and the way guys are just scratching and clawing and playing passionate, playing together and playing football the way we want to see it being played at this time of year,” Scott said.
“We laid out the message and expectation for them this week, part of which was being prepared to win this game is taking care of your bodies, getting extra treatment, meal supplements, doing whatever you need to do to make sure you’re fresh and ready to go. We call it ‘roll call’ around here, but that’s another important piece to the puzzle for us moving forward.”
The Canes will travel back to the State of North Carolina as they get ready to face the Coastal Division leading Tar Heels in a game that has title implications all over it. A win by Miami and they are just a game out, but a loss puts them three out of contention and all but eliminates any hope that they have to win the Coastal crown.
Scott was very complimentary of the front-running Tar Heels and he knows that the Canes will have their hands full on Saturday, but that this is a game that Miami can win and he expects his players to be up for the challenge.
“North Carolina, who by the way, I know everybody knows is a very explosive team offensively. The guys know that, they know we have a great challenge ahead of us with this team, being that we’re going out on the road, going to their place. I think we’re up for it,” Scott said. “I told the guys, in this month and at this time, this is right where you want to be – you want to be in position to go play these games. That’s why you come to the University of Miami. That’s why you embrace these types of challenges. We know what we have ahead of us, but we also know what we need to do to be in the best position possible to go play as best we can to continue our progress towards our goal. They’re all fired up.”
Scott knows that the North Carolina offense is a fast-strike offense that is capable of making big plays from anywhere on the field. He was asked to describe the offense and he did so in one word.
Scott knows that they have a potent offense that is very similar to that of Clemson and other up-tempo teams that the Canes have faced in the ACC.
“You really go back and watch film, they do what they do, but they execute their system very well. Therefore we’re going to have to be up for the challenge of executing. They don’t deviate much from what they do from game to game. There’s a little bit of difference here and there on a route or something like that, but they are what they are,” Scott said.
“They’re going to play with tempo, they’re going to use their up-tempo style, and they’re going to take shots. They’re a ‘big play’ team – they rely heavily on the big play in their system. You have to be ready to cover, and you have to be able to defend the run, which is something they’ve done better this year than they have before.”
Quarterback Marquise Williams is very similar Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson who made mincemeat out of the Hurricanes three weeks ago. That gives Scott some sleepless nights.
“They’re probably very similar in a lot of ways,” Scott said. “They both can create plays with their feet and run the football, but they can both make all the throws. They’re very similar athletically.”
This being at the top of the food chain is all uncharted waters for Scott, who last month at this time just worried about coaching the tight-ends. Now, he is the Captain of the Canes Ship and the head man that everyone is looking to for direction. He is the one belting out the orders and he is confident in his ability to carry the team for the balance of the season and beyond.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some really good guys in the business, not all of which are all head coaches, but who have all been in the business for 30 or 40 years. They’ve been around it all and seen it all. I have spoken with my former head coach and a guy I worked for and recruited with, Jim Leavitt. We’ve talked,” Scott said.
“I’ve talked to Skip Holtz and various assistants and people I’ve come across in the business over the years. Most of [the conversations] were just positive reinforcement, advice of just being yourself, being who you are…basically just guys reaching out to let me know they’re there if I needed their support or needed them in any way. It’s been great.”
Scott said that he is very happy to have been able to rely on the contacts that he has made since he has been in the profession. Scott coached with Leavitt and Holtz at the University of South Florida.
“You’re very fortunate and blessed when you’ve worked with some really good people who can give you tips and advice and things like that.”
Scott knows that when the chips are down and the Canes need to make a play, all eyes are on him for direction and insight, and he is okay with that. He likes being the man in charge and the one responsible for the juggernaut that is known as the Hurricane Football Team.
“You’re the sparkplug. You come in every morning and you lay out the plan. They’re looking for the guidance, they’re looking for the plan to be laid out. They’re looking for how we’re going to attack this thing – not only [players], but staff and everyone in the building,” Scott said. “One of the things you learn quickly, when you come in, you have to be ready to go. You have to have a plan, have both feet on the ground and be ready to attack. That’s the approach every morning when you walk in the building, before you walk in, and at night, before you finally do get to put your head down for a quick one.”
If Miami is going to win the Coastal, they must win this game.