While a tired, beaten-down Golden is no longer leaning on that podium Saturday afternoon, searching for reasons as to why Miami can’t turn a corner and continues unraveling—rest assured, the blame regarding this program’s shortcomings still fall at his feet, and will for the foreseeable future.
After five years at the helm, Golden’s fingerprints are all over this fragile, undisciplined bunch.
Two decades back Sports Illustrated’s Alexander Wolff penned his sensationalized editorial regarding the state of University of Miami football, calling for then-president Tad Foote to shut down the broken-beyond-repair program.
The Hurricanes aren’t past a point of no return in the grand scheme of things—far from it, as the brand remains strong, facilities have been upgraded and both ACC television revenue and adidas apparel money give Miami deeper pockets than the university had decades back.
That being said, another cultural overhaul is in order as Golden’s “process” and “core values” simply never jibed with what “The U” is all about.
HURRICANES’ BROKEN; DEFENSE REACHES ALL-TIME LOW
Much like the ass-kicking delivered by Clemson weeks back, North Carolina took it to Miami by way of better coaching, better all around athletes, better effort, more desire, more heart, more discipline and just about every other sports-related cliche you want to ball up and toss in there.
The Canes were outmatched from the get-go. Even as the teams traded punts in the first quarter, there was a sense that the Tar Heels were going to strike first as Miami showed up in full-blown self-implode mode.
An early substitution infraction turned a North Carolina 3rd-and-6 into 3rd-and-1, though a sack later in the drive helped Miami force a punt. On the ensuing possession, the Canes saw a 3rd-and-2 become a 3rd-and-7 by way of an illegal formation. The Tar Heels came with pressure the next play, got the sack and forced the punt—where Miami was then tagged with kick-catching interference.
The Canes forced a quick three-and-out, but offensively had another illegal formation before fumbling. North Carolina put together a three-play, 36-yard drive—all on the legs of quarterback Marquise Williams—and found the end zone in under a minute, taking a 7-0 lead.
Miami was also dinged with a personal foul call on the drive—it’s fifth penalty with three minutes still remaining in the first quarter.
The Heels scored 24 more in the first half. Some other lowlights for the Canes; back-to-back penalties on Artie Burns—pass interference followed up by an unsportsmanlike call after Williams tore off a 46-yard run against a lethargic Miami defense.
Brad Kaaya found Stacy Coley for a brilliant 34-yard haul-in after the Heels punched in the score and took a 17-0 lead, but Coley’s incomprehensible taunting cost Miami 15 yards.
Seven plays later, right after Kaaya found Rashawn Scott for a first down on 3rd-and-5, the sophomore quarterback was intercepted by Jeff Schoettmer, who returned the pick 60 yards to the Canes’ 14-yard line. Williams punched it in the next play.
Miami’s feast or famine and self-imploding continued. A holding penalty on K.C. McDermott set up a 1st-and-20 for the Hurricanes, with Kaaya threading the needle and hitting David Njoku for a 32-yard gain the following play.
Back-to-back runs by Joseph Yearby netted zero and seven yards, but a 3rd-and-3 pass to Coley was incomplete. Miami settled of for a 32-yard field goal opportunity, that Michael Badgley pushed right—a fitting outcome, as nothing was going the Canes’ way.
Both teams traded punts—Miami’s finding the bread basket of Ryan Switzer, who returned it 78 yards for a touchdown. The Canes got the ball back and looking for a quick score before the half, saw Kaaya tattooed by UNC’s Andre Smith.
Fumble, Miami. Recovery, North Carolina. Insult and injury in full force as the Heels danced into the locker room leading 31-0.
The Canes scored 21 lame duck points in the second half, but the Tar Heels still put up 28 more—mostly behind second-stringers. Through the process, North Carolina celebrated throughout the process—openly mocking Miami’s U-hands—tossing them up, but quickly in a down fashion, much like Oklahoma mocking Texas’ hook-em-horns.
The Heels even paraded their senior out onto the field for an standing ovation late in the game; yet one more reason to get a rowdy crowd on their feet and cheering.
The stats column showed a somewhat even games yardage-wise and regarding time of possession, but Miami’s three turnovers were a difference maker—to North Carolina’s turnover-free outing—as was the Canes’ inexplainable 12 penalties for 103 yards.
MIAMI OUTMATCHED; CANES NOW A MID-TIER ACC SQUAD
The feeling after this one wrapped was somewhat indescribable. Losing has become second-nature at Miami; with 55 games dropped over the past decade. Instead, it’s the manner in which the Canes are losing—so foreign and uncharacteristic in regards to what this program once looked like, stood for and ultimately delivered.
The adjectives one would use to describe present-day Miami; it’d be enough for those national champion-era Hurricanes to disown a program they hold so near and dear.
Miami has gotten sloppy and soft—while also sporting an unhealthy amount of false bravado, yet over-emotional at the same time. It couldn’t make less sense.
Four years ago as Golden and his Canes were in the middle of summer—two months prior to Sharpiogate dropping—another Yahoo! Sports article discussed a broken culture at Miami that a new coach was supposed to get cleaned up.
Former cornerback and recently-graduated Ryan Hill talked about the way things were early in his career—citing the maturity of freshman like Jon Beason and Greg Olsen—and comparing it to his senior class still clowning around like first-year players.
There was no respect for then-head coach Randy Shannon; Hill going as far to explain that players outright mocked their leader. The low point at the time; players engaging in a snowball fight on the sidelines at the Sun Bowl, trailing Notre Dame, 21-0 in an eventual, 33-17 loss.
Where Golden ultimately failed X’s and O’s-wise, Miami seems to have a bigger issue on its hands in regards to what as a troubled culture in 2010 retracting even more over the past half decade. While these current Canes don’t seem as troubled as the group Hill described; there seems to be an even worse disease that’s set in—apathy.
Outside of the occasional player like a Burns or Yearby who is showing some frustration in spirited moments, the general attitude at Miami appears to be split into kids that checked out, or others who bought into the Goldenisms, which can be heard anytime said players talk to the media.
There’s been a head-in-the-sand culture under Golden that this program was always a few steps away from achieving its ultimate goals. Make this tackle, catch that ball, do this instead of that and two-touchdown loss was this close to being a victory. Stay the course. Trust the process. Keep buying into the system and the tide will eventually turn.
Never once during the Golden era was the entire team’s reaction to losing been anger or a notion that losing games of this nature is flat-out unacceptable at Miami. Former UM quarterback and Heisman winner Gino Torretta touched on this sentiment days before the Canes traveled to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles.
“At some point in time you have to take over the game yourself as a player and you have to hate losing so much that you do whatever you need to do to get in the end zone,” Torretta told the Miami Herald. “The players are the ones who have to execute.
“Look at all the great teams. There are certain times the offensive line, or whomever, says, ‘Hey, the game’s on us. We’ll take over.’ Or defensively, ‘Hey, the game’s on us.’
“You need that on any successful team. You have to hate losing that much that you can’t be denied scoring, converting a third down, stopping a third down—whatever.”
MAKE “THE U” GREAT AGAIN; HIRE A COACH WHO GETS CULTURE
On a Monday where it was announced that the University of Miami has put together an official search committee and hired a consulting firm—both steps in vetting out potential head coaches for the Hurricanes.
Still, one better hope a proper precedence is being put on hiring someone who knows what buttons to push with kids who take on the challenge of play for this proud program, as it’s The U’s lifeblood.
That intangible, that understanding, that been-there-done-that history—it’s the biggest reason such a large part of this fan base is clamoring for the return of Butch Davis.
While the anti-Davis contingent loves harping on the late nineties game day blunders, the early struggles in the tenure and banners flying overhead—supporters are understandably looking past all of that, focused solely on the hard-nosed culture Davis built, as well as his ability to recruit and develop talent.
Miami was loaded under Davis—talent top-to-bottom and hard-nosed kids that were all business, all discipline and all results.
For all Golden’s talk about the cloud and a hovering NCAA investigation—an obvious setback recruiting-wise that can’t be downplayed—Davis rebuilt a program in less time, while losing 31 scholarships over a three-year period, all in the shadow of four national titles won the previous 12 years before his arrival.
Where present-day Miami hardly remembers what it’s like to win big; Davis showed up in an era where the Canes were two decades removed from anything worse than a rare three-loss season. Simply put, fans didn’t recall what it was like to lose—three-loss seasons treated with the same disgust as going 1-11.
Offense may be selling tickets and reign supreme as the latest college football fad—but North Carolina and Clemson both stifled Miami’s offense—proving that it is indeed defense that still wins football games.
The Tar Heels fired coordinator Vic Koenning after a brutal seven-loss season in 2014, where North Carolina was giving up and average of 39 points-per-game and was one of the worst units in the FBS. The Canes—with a true freshman quarterback—got in their licks with a 494-yard, 47-point performance in last year’s win.
Fast forward to last weekend in Chapel Hill. Gone was Koenning and in his place, former Auburn head coach and national champion Gene Chizik. Chizik cut his teeth as a coordinator at Central Florida, Auburn and Texas, before being promoted to head coach at Iowa State, followed by Auburn—where his team won it all in 2010.
Chizik took his defensive skills to North Carolina and within the year, changed a culture and a program. The offensive-minded Larry Fedora is still lighting up scoreboards, but it’s fueled by a Tar Heels’ defense that has this unit 9-1 and a three-interception season opener via Williams from being undefeated and talking Playoffs’ mid-November.
Apply a similar formula to Clemson, with defensive coordinator Brent Venables leaving his post at Oklahoma a few years back, giving the Tigers’ defense its missing ingredient—a perfect counterpart bringing stability to the offensive-minded, inconsistent Dabo Swinney.
Whether Davis ultimately is the answer for Miami, or remains an options with as many detractors as supporters—a coach with his ability to change the football culture needs to be atop the Canes’ list when looking for the program’s next leader.
It’s not about flavor-of-the-month type hires, big name guys with sizzle and rolling the dice on an outsider who might, or might not get what makes this program tick. The Hurricanes have seen what a successful blueprint works like in Coral Gables—keeping the right kids home, attracting the right ones nationally and getting all players to buy in to a no-nonsense, rewarding process.
The University of Miami football program needs a full-blown enema. Flush out all the crap and instill better habits and processes next time around.
Losing consistently is bad enough. Getting thumped by a basketball school whose football team rolled with that type of swag the one-time-power was known for?
That calls for some next-level change and expert clean-up.