October 22, 2020

MIAMI RESPONDS FROM CLEMSON LOSS WITH HARD-FOUGHT WIN OVER PITT

The Miami Hurricanes took out the Pittsburgh Panthers, 31-19 on Saturday afternoon at HardRock—three key red-zone stops literally the difference in a 12-point victory. Equally as important—the Canes did this on the heels of a disappointing, undisciplined, out-coached and out-talented, 42-17 setback at Clemson last weekend.

The Tigers continued on their mission towards The Playoffs with a 73-3 rout at Georgia Tech, while Miami slugged it out with Pitt—unnecessary conformation that the Hurricanes lost to a true contender; one with only five combined losses dating back to 2016.

No one of sound mind expected these Hurricanes to bring home any hardware in 2020; not in year two of the Manny Diaz era and not on the heels of Miami’s 7-9 fade under Mark Richt after that 10-0 start in 2017—resulting in UM’s fifth different head coach in 14 seasons; the turnover impacting the 2019 recruiting class, as well—yet another setback in a long line of setbacks.

BOUNCING BACK FROM A LOSS; HUGE STEP FOWARD

History lesson aside, fact remains this is where the Hurricanes have landed after a tumultuous decade-and-a-half—the present and immediate future all that really matter as Diaz looks to right the ship in a way his three predecessors could not.

Knocking off Pittsburgh isn’t a world-beater move that validates Miami, nor does the victory itself cover up some glaring weaknesses with this roster and team overall—but the Hurricanes showed up against a defense-minded conference opponent and did enough to bounce back after a disappointing loss, so let’s dive into that, first and foremost.

If this is 2018 or 2019, Miami loses this game—especially with the anemic offense the Hurricanes ran with Dan Enos last fall, and Team Richt the year prior. Look no further than the 13-13 record over that span, as well as the types of games UM pissed away for proof.

Miami lost a heartbreaker to Florida in the opener last August, only to show up ill-prepared in Chapel Hill a week later—down 17-3 after the first quarter. The slow-starting Hurricanes scrapped back to take a 25-20 lead in the final minutes of the final period, only to fall 28-25 after a defensive breakdown kept North Carolina alive on what should’ve been a 4th-and-17 game-ending close out.

Weeks later Miami eked out an embarrassing 17-12 win over Central Michigan, only to no-show against Virginia Tech—falling into a 28-0 second quarter hole, before a rally fell short.

The Canes also struggled with any modicum of prosperity last year; seemingly turning a corner, only to collapse by way of some pointless big-headedness. A defensive-fueled win over a pretty good Virginia team was preceded by a a low-scoring overtime loss to a Georgia Tech team that rolled in 1-5—including an overtime loss to The Citadel and 22-point road loss to Temple.

Miami bounced back with a win over Pitt and seemed to turn an offensive corner with routes of Florida State and Louisville—by a combined score of 79-37—only to bottom out with a “road” loss to Florida International, a home loss to Duke and a bowl shutout at the hands of Louisiana Tech, all of which were (thankfully) enough to get Enos fired and for Diaz to bring in Rhett Lashlee to run a spread offense.

Richt’s swan song saw Miami stomped out by LSU in the opener, before racking up wins over Savannah State, Toledo and FIU to get back on track. The Canes shone bright in a Thursday night route of North Carolina, before staging a thrilling home comeback of Florida State—Miami’s first home win against the Seminoles dating back to 2004.

From there, a second four-game losing streak in three seasons under Richt—Miami falling to Virginia, Boston College (after a bye week), Duke and Georgia Tech—before a win at Virginia Tech (to get bowl eligible) and home win over Pitt. Wisconsin rolled in the Pinstripe Bowl, prompting Richt to call it a career.

Knowing all this to be the new norm in Coral Gables these past couple of seasons, there was understandable doubt with Pittsburgh on the schedule a week after the Clemson debacle—especially given the Canes’ recent muscle memory in games like these as of late.

PERPAREDNESS & PASSION AGAINST PITT WERE DIFFERENCE

On paper, this match-up with Pitt seemed troublesome—Clemson and defensive coordinator Brent Venables exposing Miami’s very-real offensive line issues, while laying out a blueprint where ratting and pressuring D’Eriq King made the Houston grad transfer look much less heroic than he did in match-ups with UAB, Louisville and Florida State.

Instead, Miami dug in for a grind-it-out type game and managed to be in control from the get-go—the Panthers making it a five-point game midway through the third quarter, before the Canes pulled away.

Pitt starting quarterback Kenny Pickett didn’t make the trip, due to an ankle injury—which was initially a sign of relief, until recalling that Pickett was a true freshman when upending Miami in 2017—so who was to say a Panthers’ back-up wasn’t capable of coming in for a career day?

Another red flag against the Canes in their decade-plus of disastrous play—making sub-par or second string quarterback look like superstars. Hendon Hooker got his first start last fall in Virginia Tech’s visit to Miami—and had one career completion under his belt, before that 184-yard, three touchdown, turnover-free performance as the Hokies upset the Canes.

Knowing this to be the case with Miami, there was little confidence in Joey Yellen getting the nod over the injured Pickett—Yellen hitting the ground running for the Panthers on the ensuing possession, driving 44 yards and picking up two key first downs, before the Hurricanes’ defense made a drive-haltering stop.

Facing a 1st-and-10 from the UM 31-yard line, Jordan Miller and Jahfari Harvey busted through the Panthers’ line and drove Yellen back 12 yards with a monster sack—resulting in back-to-back incompletions before forcing a punt what felt like an open possession set to result in some type of a score.

An offensive line holding penalty shut down Miami’s first drive—putting the Canes in a 1st-and-2o they couldn’t bounce back from, facing an all too familiar third-and-long that set up a monster 60-yard punt from Lou Hedley, who had a masterful day flipping the field for the home team.

Pittsburgh lost 11 yards on three consecutive running plays—and coupled with a kick catching interference call—set the Canes up on the Panthers’ 45-yard line. Two quick King runs led to a first down, before selling the fake on a draw and a quick pass to Cam’Ron Harris—wide open in the middle of the field, where the running back rumbled for a 35-yard score.

Both sides exchanged a pair of punts before Pitt ran a fake punt that Miami sniffed out—Isaiah Dunson tripping up Brandon Hill on what would’ve been a sure-first down if not. The big stop set the Canes up at the Pitt 45-yard line, where King and the Canes got moving—a few quick passes to Mark Pope and solid runs by Harris highlighting the possession.

Where Miami did it’s best defensive work in the red zone, Pittsburgh imploded—this time with a facemask penalty on third down, setting the Canes up with a fresh set of downs from the four-yard line. Facing 2nd-and-Goal, King dumped off to Will Mallory—getting more reps by way of an injured Brevin Jordan—and the tight end barreled ahead for the six-yard score, giving UM a somewhat comfortable 14-0 lead.

Yellen and the Panthers responded with a a 60-yard drive—a few big strikes to Jordan Addison and Daniel Moraga—getting Pittsburgh into Miami’s red zone, where Jalean Phillips helped the cause with a roughing the passer penalty. Still, the Canes remained unfazed and a 10-yard sack by Jared Harrison-Hunte on 3rd-and-3 again kept the Panthers out of the end zone; a defeating stop after moving the ball with relative ease minutes before.

MIAMI OVERCOME ADVERSITY; HUNG IN HERE LATE

The Canes looked to respond, but King was intercepted four plays into the ensuing drive—returned 34 yards by Paris Ford, setting the Panthers up at the Miami 12-yard line. Facing a 3rd-and-1 from the three-yard line—the Canes’ defense flexed again and stuffed A.J. Davis for a three-yard loss; on the heels of consecutive competitions to the back. Alex Kessman trotted on for another field goal attempt and Miami trotted into the locker room with a 14-6 lead, ready to receive.

Lashlee dialed up a run for King to start the second half, which the quarterback took 13 yards—but Miami was quick in another third-and-long, where a Pittsburgh miscue bailed them out; this time a hold, resulting in a new set of downs at midfield. After an incompletion to Keyshawn Smith and a 12-yard hook-up with Pope, King found a wide open Mike Harley streaking down the left sideline—the inconsistent receiver readjusting his body for an acrobatic grab, before sprinting to the end zone and a 38-yard score.

Yellen found Addison for a 55-yard hook-up a few moments later—but again, the red zone proved to be Pitt’s biggest enemy. The Canes stuffed DJ Turner for a five-yard loss on second down and an incomplete pass to Addison on third-and-long had Kessman rolling out for his third kick of the day.

King tossed his second pick of the day—retuned 34 yards by Marquis Williams to the Miami one-yard line—where Yellen dumped to a wide open Moraga, while the defense sold out on the run. Pitt finally found the end zone at the 9:30 mark in the third quarter, cutting the Canes’ lead to 21-16.

Miami responded with a three-and-out—and for those who have suffered through the past decade-and-a-half of Hurricanes football, a realization that this could be where things went off the rails. Theoretically, Pittsburgh was due—and despite all the solid defense to this point, the Panthers were getting the ball and had a legit shot to take the lead.

Instead, the Canes defense lined up for a game-defining 3rd-and-2 where Phillips and Quincy Roche unloaded on Yellen—Roche recovering the fumble, giving Miami a shot to deliver a knockout-style blow. King was sacked on first down, but on 2nd-and-17 Lashlee went back to his bag of tricks—exploiting the middle of the field and setting Mallory loose, much like Harris was on the game’s first score.

King hit the big tight end in stride and with 5:40 left in the third quarter—Mallory ran for the 45-yard score, while the Canes took a 28-16 lead.

Pitt didn’t go down without a fight; overcoming a 1st-and-20 on the ensuing drive and rolling 74 yards on 10 plays—but three incompletions just outside the red zone set up a 4th-and-3 and a field goal attempt, cutting Miami’s lead to eight and keeping it a one-score game.

The Canes bled 7:11 off the clock on a 14-play, 65-yard drive—culminating with a 37-yard field goal from Jose Borregales—pushing the lead on 12 with just over four minutes remaining. A touchdown would’ve been more fulfilling—but the kick proved to be a nice little way to close out considering Miami’s kicking woes the past two seasons—a universal reaction from Hurricanes’ nation and a collective, “No way we make that kick last year”.

Miami racked up 331 yards on the day—to Pittsburgh’s 300-yard outing—and the Canes rushed for 109 yards against a Panthers’ defense that is usually stout against the run. The 31 points scored were the most in regulation against Pitt’s defense dating back to the 34 that Central Florida scored against Pittsburgh in a loss last September.

The Canes turned it over twice—two King interceptions—to the Panthers’ one costly fumble and Miami was penalized five times for 55 yards, while Pitt self-imploded at costly moments and were dinged 10 times for 89 yards.

Still, it was a win the week after a lopsided loss and the type of game Miami has lost in in the past—a disturbing trend as recent as 2019—and in the second year of the Diaz era, these are the incremental steps forward this program needs to take as it works to become a contender again.

NEED A CRACK AT THE BEST TO BECOME A CONTENDER

Same for the loss at Clemson itself; better Miami got a shot at No. 1 this fall and lost, than getting a win up at an average Michigan State or against Wagner—both of which were on the schedule before the COVID reshuffle.

The Canes should also be rooting for another shot at the Tigers in the ACC title game—which remains in reach of Miami can win out. With no divisions this fall, the conference program with the best two records will face off in Charlotte—and with Notre Dame in the mix, as well as a revamped North Carolina (who took a hit with their loss to Florida State), the margin for error this fall is slimmer than usual.

Getting to the big stage and taking lumps—it’s part of becoming a contender and it’s precisely what Clemson went through on their way to the top.

The Tigers reached the ACC title game in 2009—the first full season under Dabo Swinney—where they lost to Georgia Tech for the second time that season, finishing 9-5 on the year. In 2010, some backsliding as Clemson went 6-7.

The Tigers won the ACC in 2011—only to get demolished in their first BCS visit—West Virginia running them over, 70-33.

The margin of error was thin in 2012—a loss to No. 4 Florida State keeping Clemson from the conference title game—but a one-point win over LSU in the Peach Bowl closed out an 11-2 season; another step forward.

Clemson’s next prime-time, big time match-up game mid-October the following year—a battled of undefeateds when the third-ranked Tigers welcomed No. 5 Florida State. This was the Tigers’ moment to show they belonged.

Instead, a 51-14 loss as the Noles rolled their way to a national championship—Clemson again, 11-2 and close—but not yet there.

2014 got off to a rough start when No. 12 Georgia topped No. 16 Clemson, 45-21—proof that the ACC’s second-best couldn’t hang with a quality SEC team. Three weeks later, an overtime loss in Tallahassee—the Tigers fifth loss to the Noles in seven tries and third in a row.

Clemson laid a late-season egg at Georgia Tech—28-6—but rolled Oklahoma, 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl for a 10-3 finish and strong close to Dabo’s sixth full season at the helm. Come 2015, an undefeated regular season, ACC title and a Playoff win over No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, before falling 45-40 to Alabama for a national title.

A year later, Clemson picked up their first national championship since 1981. Two years later, another—while losing two other title games and falling in the Playoffs, to the eventual champs.

Learning how to be a winner, unfortunately starts with learning how to overcome big stage losses.

How do coaches grow in these moments?  How do outgoing upperclassmen pass down that sense of urgency to the next crop of greats—“We didn’t get it done, but you guys need to earn another shot and take care of business”. What is the sales pitch for recruits as programs take these small steps forward?

Regarding the latter, it’s not just hanging tough in the big games—it’s showing and winning the games that are supposed to be won, like Pittsburgh last week and Virginia this Saturday night.

CANES MUST WIN ALL WINNABLE GAMES AND CLOSE STRONG

The Canes got a break with the schedule reshuffle as Miami heads to Charlottesville in even-numbered years—but instead gets the Cavaliers in South Florida this weekend.

Last’s season’s win was a defensive slugfest with dominant red zone defense that had the Canes escaping with an improbably 17-9 on a Friday night. Miami was coming off the wrong side of a shootout with Virginia Tech, rallying late after falling into a 28-0 hole but losing 42-35.

A change at quarterback and a few key plays—including a late score in the final couple of minutes—sealed the low-scoring victory against the 4-1, No. 20 team in the nation. A week later, Miami no-showed against 1-5 Georgia Tech—falling in overtime to a Yellow Jackets’ team that finished 3-9 under a first-year head coach.

Inconsistency and no sense of urgency—it did the Hurricanes in often last year, as well as countless times this past decade-plus.

While the loss to Clemson was a setback, a spirited effort against Pittsburgh got Miami back to winning ways—and they must continue.

This 1-3 Virginia squad is not the same bunch that reached the Orange Bowl last season, giving Florida a run for their money in a big bowl game. The Cavs are a double-digit underdog to the Canes and this is must-win territory for Miami if the Canes are to maximize this 2020 season with the experienced Kind under center.

Bronco Mendenhall is as defensive-minded as Pat Narduzzi last week, so it’s a given the Cavs will look to rattle Miami’s quarterback play—forcing mistakes in effort to steal one.

How will Lashlee and King respond? Will receivers create some separation and find ways to help out their quarterback and a porous offensive line that can only buy so much time? Will the defense tighten up—giving up less big plays and making those key third-down and red zone stops—the difference last week, as well as last year’s showdown with Virginia?

A win will get Miami to 5-1 and most-likely in the Top 10 before a bye week and Friday (11/6) showdown at North Carolina State. From there, a road trip to Virginia Tech, a home showdown against Georgia Tech, one final away game at Wake Forest and a regular season finale against North Carolina—the biggest remaining challenge.

A shot at 9-1 going into that Coastal clash with the Tar Heels—it’s within reach and should be the goal of every coach and player on this squad—but it starts with simply showing up this week and delivering the good against Virginia.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Miami at top-ranked Clemson—primetime, under the lights at Death Valley, with all of college football fixated on this showdown.

Win, lose, or draw—these are the type of match-ups those who play the game absolutely live for.

The seventh-ranked Hurricanes roll in as one of the most-exciting storylines of this quirky season; bouncing back from a disastrous inaugural campaign for Manny Diaz last fall—though the second-year head coach deserves credit for some swift and effective off-season moves that have Miami 3-0 and playing some electrified football months after getting shut out in a third-tier bowl game.

Moving to a spread offense and reeling in SMU’s Rhett Lashlee to run it was half the battle—but the addition of 23-year old grad transfer D’Eriq King has proven to be the special sauce that has taking things next-level so quickly for Miami.

The lone downside for the Hurricanes; King will most-likely take his talents to the NFL next spring—despite the NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility in this COVID-defined season—meaning Miami is set to backslide on some level in year three under Diaz, but none of that matters right now.

SAY WHAT, SAY WHAT—ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN

Something magical is happening—and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to live in the moment and to count our blessings. Tomorrow isn’t promised and being consumed with down-the-road pitfalls is wasted energy. All we can deal with is what is currently starting us in the face—the next obstacle we must overcome—and for Miami, it’s a championship caliber Clemson team that hasn’t lost a game at home since 2016.

Miami’s lackluster offense of the past few years is no more. King’s arm, legs, maturity and decision-making—coupled with Lashlee’s up-tempo play calling—has the Hurricanes finally looking modern age—opposed to the stuck-in-molasses, slow-moving antiquated machine they’ve unforgivably been for too long.

All that to say, Miami hasn’t faced anything Clemson-caliber over the first three games of the season—which makes it hard to know where the ceiling is for the Hurricanes, as well as how exposed UM could look against a true contender with a two-deep that could hang with a lot of program’s first-stringers.

The Tigers finally hit the big time in 2015, in what was year seven for Dabo Swinney, after taking over halfway through the 2008 season for long-time Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. Getting promoted from within as a wide receivers coach that was part of an underachieving regime—not sure what was more impressive; the fact Swinney rose to the top of the sport—or the fact that CU’s top brass gave him enough time to build a dynasty.

FROM ZERO TO HERO; DABO’S STORY

Swinney got off to a decent start; a 9-5 run in 2009 where the Tigers managed to win a watered-down Atlantic division—but immediately backslid to 6-7 year two. In 2011, a 10-4 run and ACC title were marred by a 70-33 beatdown by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl—the type of game that could truthfully get a coached fired, but Clemson remained all in with the unproven Swinney.

11-2 and another Atlantic crown in 2012 seemed to right the ship—the Tigers eking out a win over LSU in the Peach Bowl—which led to a pre-season No. 8 ranking in to kick off the 2013. Clemson wound up taking out No. 5 Georgia in the opener and getting to No. 3 and 6-0 by mid-October, setting up a game-of-the-season showdown against No. 5 Florida State—who’d hit the ground running behind Jameis Winston.

For those who recall this one on ABC in primetime—camera on the Tigers’ busses, which were a raucous, animated site before Clemson ran down the hill, slapped the rock and planned to roll in one of those program-defining game that had eluded them for so long. Instead, Winston and the Noles dismantled the Tigers. 51-14.

Clemson remained a step behind Florida State for one more season—falling in Tallahassee in overtime—while getting wrecked by Georgia Tech, 28-6 in Atlanta late in the year, before the start of a five-year run where the Tigers went 69-5, reaching the national championship game four times and winning it twice in three seasons.

Some deeper math; Clemson’s five losses since 2015—a national championship nail-biter against Alabama, a one-point home loss to Pittsburgh (in a national championship year), a three-point road loss at Syracuse (losing a starting quarterback before halftime),  a Playoff loss to a Crimson Tide team that won it all and getting smacked around by LSU in last year’s title game.

Despite this body of work—as well as an inability to admit some of Miami’s glaring flaws, Hurricanes message boards remain loaded with overconfident fans who believe a big win is on the horizon.

In defense of this contingent, this Clemson team in 2020 is not the juggernaut that went 15-0 in 2018. The Tigers are still a top program—especially with an experienced Trevor Lawrence under center, who with running back Travis Etienne, are primed to give Miami’s defense fits all night; especially with exploitable, slow linebackers and an interior line that’s struggled to stop the run.

OUTSIDER SCOOP ON CANES’ INSIDE PROBLEMS

Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel offered up a detailed piece regarding the Canes being “back”, as well as key factors in the weekend’s marquee showdown. Even better, Thamel dug deep with some “unnamed ACC assistant” chatter—where these coaches were quick to point out some of Miami’s weaknesses in a way any head-in-the-sand fan refuses to acknowledge.

“They look like ‘The U’ across the board,” one coach shared. “They have just two linebackers who are stiff and aren’t great tacklers (Bradley Jennings Jr. and Zach McCloud) and their interior defensive linemen are average. When your interior and your linebackers are both weaknesses, that’s a problem if a team can run the ball.”

Spoiler alert; Clemson can run the ball. Hell, even Louisville ran the ball effectively against Miami weeks back—averaging 4.3 yards-per-carry and rushing for 209 yards in the loss. For the Hurricanes to pull off an upset against the Tigers, Miami will need to get up on Clemson early, a la the 14-3 lead at Louisville and an ability to answer any score.

Thamel also points out that the Canes’ offensive line was one of the worst in college football last fall—giving up a whopping 51 sacks of Jarren Williams, N’Kosi Perry and even Tate Martell, who played eight snaps in the bowl game and was still sacked twice behind a porous line.

Credit to Garin Justice for shoring up the o-line on the off-season and getting it spread-ready in his first season with new look-Miami—but the line’s MVP remains King, whose elusiveness and overall play has kept the Canes front five out of trouble, or at minimum, under heavier scrutiny. Still, other ACC coaches are quick to point out what the naked eye, or super-fan doesn’t see.

“They are still a below-average offensive line,” said another opposing assistant. “Their quarterbacks slipperiness allows them not to take sacks and make plays. They haven’t played a good defense and they haven’t played a good defensive line.”

Inarguable points, tough as that may be to swallow. That said, this 2020 version of Clemson hasn’t played anyone of Miami’s athletic caliber this season, either—beating Wake Forest and The Citadel out the gate, before “only” beating Virginia by 18 points last weekend, surrendering 23 points and 417 yards to a good-not-great Cavaliers squad.

Thamel asks, “Is this the Clemson we remember”, in regards to past success and another ACC assistant who’s “studied” the Tigers, feels they’re not.

“This is not the same Clemson team of the last three years,” shared that assistant. “I don’t know if anyone is. Just look at what they lost. But are they the best team in the ACC? Yes.”

Despite what the Tigers aren’t, they’re still the cream of the conference crop and are deeper than anyone else in the ACC. Their veteran coaching staff—especially the wise old Brent Venables on the defensive side of the ball—know that Miami goes as far as King takes them on Saturday night.

“I think he’ll struggle with these guys.” another assistant coach said of King. “They’ll mix it up enough to make him sit in the picket. I’d be shocked if he can get to the edge … He’s 5-9. he’s not going to sit there and beat you in the pocket. That’s not what he does best. He’s not going to sit back there and read you Make him read the defense.”

In Thamel’s back and forth with these coaches, most felt that even a Clemson that isn’t what it was is still enough to beat Miami, as-is—though some expected the Canes to hang for at least a half.

STEP ONE; MIAMI MUST SHOW UP—PROVE IT BELONGS

While there are no moral victories and Miami is certainly playing to win—as this is undoubtably a winnable game in the quirkiest of seasons—the Canes simply can’t get blown out by the Tigers. UM simply can’t afford a repeat of what was experienced in Tallahassee in 2013 when No. 7 Miami was throttled by No. 3 Florida State, 41-14 in an  undefeated match-up that sent the Canes spiraling, losing three of their final five games after that setback.

The hangover even carried over to 2014, where Miami went 6-7 in year four for Al Golden—who was relieved of his duties the following October after a sixth-ranked Clemson squad slaughtered the Canes at home, 58-0; a beating fans actually stomached as they knew it’d be the end of the schlub in the tie.

Golden was understandably shit-canned the next morning.

Should Miami be unable to spar four quarters with Clemson, the Hurricanes need to put together a gutty performance like they did in Tallahassee back in 1999 against the top-ranked, eventual champs.

The game was knotted 21-21 at the half—though an 80-yard hook-up between Kenny Kelly and Santana Moss in the waining moments of the first quarter showed that the canes weren’t backing down. The two hooked up again early in the second for Miami’s first and only lead of the day—before Florida State responded and knotted things up at intermission.

The second half was all Seminoles as their defense shut the Canes out and their offense chipped away—a third quarter field goal and early fourth quarter touchdown, putting the game away. Florida State won out, topping No. 2 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl en route to the program’s second national title—while Miami unwittingly took the moral victory of the season—falling short in a comeback to take out second-ranked Penn State at home weeks prior.

Hard fought losses to the Nittany Lions and Seminoles were building blocks that set the stage for a monster run over the next four years, where Miami hit for the BCS cycle—Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, Orange—played in two national title games, won one, had one stolen and deserved to play in a third, going 46-4 over that span

Miami’s current Football Chief of Staff, and former safety great Ed Reed was unquestionably the leader of the 2001 squad—but in 1999 he was merely a sophomore that wasn’t able to help Mike Rumph on an 80-yard hook up between Kevin Thompson and Chafie Fields, allowing Penn State to escape, 27-23.

Reed and Rumph have both shared how the adversity of that loss and busted play fueled them for years as Hurricanes, and beyond—while getting that shot against top program and highly-ranked teams is a measuring stick every potential contender must endure.

QUIRKY SEASON JUST KEEPS GETTING QUIRKIER

Clemson wasn’t on Miami’s radar this fall, pre-COVID. The Canes would’ve taken on Wake Forest this Friday night, coming off games against Pitt, Michigan State, UAB, Wagner and Temple. Instead, the Canes wound up with a measuring stick showdown against the Tigers and come in in slightly more battle-tested with King at the helm,  a road win at Louisville and a home rout of rival Florida State.

This is also taking place in an odd-ball year, where home field advantage is gone and a upsets are springing up on a weekly basis.

Kansas State falls to Arkansas State week one, but rebounds a week later to upset Oklahoma?

The Sooners fall to 1-2, failing to rebound against Iowa State—their lone win against Missouri State as they limp into a Red River Rivalry—that by 2020 standards, they’ll probably win.

Mississippi State shocks defending champion LSU in the debut of Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense?

TCU goes 5-7 last fall, drops one at Iowa State but responds with an upset of No. 9 Texas?

This might not be the season anyone was expecting, but it’s the one we wound up with—and the college football world is quickly learning that nothing is as seems and everything is up for grabs any given week.

On paper, Clemson win this football game—maybe by three-plus touchdowns if in front of a packed house, too. But this isn’t on paper. there is no packed house and in this alternate reality, how it plays out is anyone’s guess.

No, Miami doesn’t have the horses to go toe-to-toe with Clemson’s two-deep. Yes, there are holes at linebackers and in the interior of the line—and yes, there’s little depth at corner, while a lack of focus at wide receiver is resulting in inconsistent play that one could handle against the Seminoles or Cardinals, but missed opportunities against the Tigers could be the difference in this ball game.

In a season where the fifth-seeded Miami HEAT hid out in the Orlando bubble and knocked off #4, #1 and #3 en route to an 12-3 and NBA Finals berth—it begs the question, why not this Miami team on this given night?

It’s hard to predict the Hurricanes upset a Tigers squad that’s only lost five games in five seasons—and hasn’t lost at home since 2016—but it’s no easier to say this talented-enough Miami team doesn’t have enough in the take to go four quarters against a Clemson squad that by all accounts isn’t the true juggernaut they were years passed.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

October 9, 2020

MIAMI GET ITS ‘TO BE THE MAN, YOU GOTTA BEAT THE MAN’ MOMENT AT CLEMSON

Miami at top-ranked Clemson—primetime, under the lights at Death Valley, with all of college football fixated on this showdown. Win, lose, or draw—these are the type of match-ups those who play the game absolutely live for. The seventh-ranked Hurricanes roll in as one of the most-exciting storylines of this quirky season; bouncing back from a […]


This one was over before it even started—a dream scenario-type evening for the Miami Hurricanes—who dismantled the Florida State Seminoles, 52-10 in primetime at HardRock last Saturday night. It was the biggest beating the Canes laid on the Noles since 1976 (47-0) and was the first time 50+ points were scored in the series. Definitely the kind of history one wants to be on in this storied rivalry.

On a grander scale, it was just the type of evening the doctor ordered in regards to the trajectory both programs are headed. Miami appears to be turning a corner year two in the Manny Diaz era—the adaption of the spread offense under first-year offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, as well as much-needed stability at quarterback with grad transfer D’Eriq King—the Hurricanes are college football’s most-invigorated bunch.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles continue a free fall into oblivion. A program that once was the beacon of head coaching stability with Bobby Bowden at the helm for decades, first-year head coach Mike Norvell is Florida State’s third different leader during Miami’s four-game win-streak in the series. Insult to injury came in the form of Norvell missing his first game in this rivalry due to COVID-19, laid up in Tallahassee while his team took a colossal beating.

Before this recent streak. the Canes had lost seven in a row in the series—and one One doesn’t have to look far in the rearview to drudge up some painful memories; especially at HardRock, where the Noles had won five in a row between 2008 and 2016. Visions of ones-that-got-away—local talent like Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook, playing for an in-state rival and making mincemeat of the Canes; at times felt like the bleeding would never stop—both on the field, a well as the recruiting trail.

The Hurricanes are thankfully getting back to keeping those next-level running backs at home, too—as the coming out party for both Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton continues. Knighton, a former FSU commit flipped to UM after Chaney Jr. had committed, welcoming the competition—while Chaney Jr. is one of those throwback talents who was all about ‘The U’ from day one. Both freshmen hit the ground running this fall and are proving to be ideal compliments to the hard-nosed Cam’Ron Harris, who already matched last year’s five touchdowns three games into 2020.

Miami put up 517 yards against Florida State, going into cruise control-mode at the half, sitting on a 35-3 lead. The Noles finished with 330 total yards against a Hurricanes defense that held them in check all evening. The iconic Turnover Chain made three appearances, while players like Harris declined the Touchdown Rings after his two scores, giving them to his offensive linemen instead—the culture seemingly changing one play at time.

LONG-AWAITED CULTURE SHIFT FINALLY UNDERWAY

A small gesture, but one that certainly confirms a culture shift is underway at Miami and should have fans excited about the future. First-year football Chief of Staff, Ed Reed is also already having a cultural impact—as every facet of this program top to bottom will instantly be better by way of an all-time Miami great—and NFL Hall of Famer—so closely tied to UM’s day-to-day.

Miami moved up to No. 8 in both polls and will go into a bye week 3-0 before a road trip to take on No. 1 Clemson in Death Valley—again, in primetime. It’s the ultimate litmus test in a quirky season where the Canes and Tigers weren’t set to meet, until out-of-conference games got the boot in favor of a few more in-conference match-ups—and should be welcomed by all, as getting a crack at top programs is the only way to tell where one truly stands.

Critics continue asking if the Hurricanes are “back”—the annual premature build-up of Miami, only to tear the program down if or when it gets tagged in the mouth at some point this season. Understandable as it’s good business for the media to over-hype the polarizing program that is nationally loathed, but locally loved.

As the legend Jimmy Johnson stated after the Canes’ 10-0 start in 2017—Miami won’t be “back” until that sixth national championship is claimed—but on a weekend college football went so haywire for many, UM getting to 3-0 in dominating fashion over a bitter rival; it was a hell of a way to close out September.

Those paying attention saw No. 3 Oklahoma blow a 21-point third quarter lead against a Kansas State team who fell to Arkansas State in their opener—the unranked Wildcats tearing off 24 unanswered in the upset. Meanwhile, down in Baton Rouge, No. 6 LSU was the first SEC victim of Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense—the Bulldogs hanging 623 yards and 44 points on the defending champs.

There was also No. 8 Texas barely surviving a road test at Texas Tech—down 15 with 3:13 remaining, before tying things up and surviving in overtime, despite giving up 56 points in regulation.

Meanwhile, Miami continues shocking the nation with a best-case-scenario turnaround after a dismal 6-7 run last fall—on the heels of a 7-9 under Mark Richt, after his squad’s 10-0 start in 2017.

The hiring of Lashlee, the reeling-in of King—as well as poaching a crosstown kicker in FIU’s Jose Borregales—it gave Hurricanes supporters off-seasonhope, though it was somewhat tempered based on Miami’s over-hype the past 15 seasons. Even when everything looks like it’s lining up the correct way, all hell has had a way of breaking loose for UM—dating back to that late Fiesta Bowl flag in the wee hours of 2003.

FAST START DOESN’T ABSOLVE LAST YEAR’S FLOP

Just like the Hurricanes aren’t officially “back”, Diaz also isn’t yet out of the woods after a brutal inaugural season—one that won’t soon be forgotten after the year ended with a three-game losing streak to lowly FIU, Duke and Louisiana Tech, who shut the Canes out in a third-tier in the bowl game.

Toss in the fact Miami faithful have bought into fool’s gold the past decade, by way of wrong-fit head coaches, or seasons that started strong, but ended with a thud—it’s going to take more than wins over UAB, Louisville and a bad Florida State team to crown Diaz “the one”. Keeping this team level-headed after any modicum of prosperity; it was a killer in 2019, as well as recent years passed.

Again, that mortifying three-game losing streak last fall—it came on the heels of big wins over the Noles and Cardinals, when Miami got big-headed and dropped its guard. Learning from those mistakes, these Canes must be mentally prepped for the meat of the schedule with Clemson, Pittsburgh and Virginia on deck—some thorn-in-the-side ACC programs that have all caught Miami slipping.

The rout of Florida State was a definite step forward for Miami, but it also must be taken in context. The Seminoles aren’t a good football team—haven’t been in a few years now—and the Hurricanes are riding high due to a level of maturity and experience at quarterback that the program has been void of for almost two decades. Despite most knowing this to be the case, it hasn’t stopped a lot of premature and overconfident, “We want Clemson!” chatter as Miami rolls through a bye week.

In a season where the fifth-seeded Miami Heat defied bubble odds with a 12-3 playoff run that had them toppling #4 Indiana, #1 Milwaukee and #3 Boston, en route to the franchise’s first Finals appearance since 2014—it’d be foolish to not give the Canes a fighting chance against the Tigers. This 2020 sports calendar has been as quirky and unpredictable as any in recent memory—and where a neutral court and no fans put the Heat in a mano y mano competitive situation—Miami playing in a sparsely packed Death Valley is not the same as full-throttle Clemson.

Still, that is a far cry from a belief that the Hurricanes belong on the same player-to-player, competitive field as the Tigers, program-wise right now—and Miami fans failing to acknowledge this are setting themselves up for a lot of misguided frustration this season, as well as 2021 when King is (most-likely) gone and a fresh new, inexperienced face is under center.

Those needing proof, just look at the past decade-plus of Miami football and all the program’s false starts that supporters have over-bought into.

CANES LOOKED “BACK” IN RECENT YEARS, BUT WERE FAR OFF

The Canes landed on the right side of a season-opening shootout at No. 18 Florida State in 2009 and went from unranked to No. 9 in the country after taking out No. 14 Georgia Tech at home a week later. Cue the standard “we back” chatter going into No. 11 Virginia Tech, where Miami was slaughtered, 31-7. From there, eked out a one-point win over No. 8 Oklahoma in a bounce-back game—the Sooners without veteran starter Sam Bradford—and picked up wins over Florida A&M and Central Florida, before blowing an overtime loss to Clemson late October.

Miami then beat Wake Forest, Virginia, Duke and South Florida—but sandwiched between those, another loss to the Butch Davis-led Tar Heels for a 9-3 regular season that ended with a Citrus Bowl loss to Wisconsin. A year later, Randy Shannon stumbled to 7-5 in his fifth season as head coach and was fired weeks before the Canes got crushed in the Sun Bowl by Notre Dame.

In 2013—year three of the Al Golden era—Miami rolled out to a 7-0 start, hyped by a defensive-fueled win over a No. 12 Florida squad that went on to finish the season 4-8, with a bottom-out home loss to Georgia Southern. The Canes crept all the way up to No. 7 for a road showdown against No. 3 Florida State and left on the wrong end of a 41-14 beatdown.

An unranked Virginia Tech squad gave the No. 14 Hurricanes an even worse beating a week later—42-14—before Miami surrendered 18 unanswered in the final quarter at Duke the following week, knocking them out of the Top 25. Wins over Virginia and Pittsburgh followed, before getting embarrassed by homegrown Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville in the Citrus Bowl.

The 2017 season felt different talent-wise. Malik Rosier was a question mark at quarterback, but he managed to overachieve in what should’ve been a strong senior campaign from Brad Kaaya.

Coming into the new season fresh off the program’s first bowl win in a decade, a gutsy Miami squad finally broke that seven-game losing streak Florida State, with a last second win in Tallahassee. UM seemed to gain momentum each week in “Cardiac Canes” fashion—while late game heroics against Georgia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina kept Miami’s dream season alive and an undefeated record resulted back-to-back November primetime showdowns at home.

No. 9 Miami pulled away late against No. 13 Virginia Tech, 28-10—setting up the perfect scenario with No. 3 Notre Dame looming. ESPN’s GameDay made for an electric atmosphere, the Irish were swamped early and the Canes experienced one of those rare perfect evenings where everything just works, in game-of-the-season, 41-8 rout.

Miami survived two 14-point deficits to Virginia the following week, before the offense was exposed by a four-win Pittsburgh team in the regular season finale. Clemson rolled big in the Canes’ first-ever ACC Championship Game appearance, 38-3—before Wisconsin out-gutted Miami in the Orange Bowl; an early 14-3 lead gone by half in a 34-24 loss and three-game losing streak that took all the piss out of that 10-0 start.

Three cautionary tale seasons in recent memory—yet few seem to have learned their lesson about what it takes for Miami to be back to true contender status.

TWO-DEEP STILL WAY OFF FROM TRUE CONTENDER STATUS

Even with a win over Clemson and a would-be, socially distanced miracle season—Miami still lacks a two-deep that could hang with the likes of bigs like Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia or Alabama—and is literally one or two injuries away from a fully derailed season. Contrast that to legit contenders who reload across the board the way the Canes used to in the dominant 80’s.

Come 2021, Miami is not only set to see King headed to the NFL—a slew of would-be seniors will most-likely forego their final year of eligibility to chase NFL paychecks.

Tight-end Brevin Jordan is playing his way into a first or second round pick, while there’s no reason for Harris to keep taking that uncompensated running back abuse. Those highly-touted, former 5-Star transfers from the Pac-12—Bubba Bolden and Jalean Phillips—are both also having the type of seasons that will send them packing a year early, while Temple transfer Quincy Roche is another who will probably decline the NCAA’s bonus year—content with a solid one-year showing at UM.

Longtime Canes like Jon Ford, Amari Carter, Zach McCloud and Mike Harley all graduate—not to mention other yet to be named, would-be seniors who follow current Canes’ culture by leaving prematurely; feeling they’re ready, despite experts and scouts telling them otherwise.

All the news isn’t bad, as the future is certainly bright for Miami—the 2020 class already yielding positive results by way of what Chaney Jr. and Knighton are showing in early season toughness and work ethics as true freshmen. Quarterback of the future Tyler Van Dyke was also part of this most-recent haul, as well as quality kids like Avantae Williams, Jalen Rivers, Elijah Roberts and Chantz Williams.

The drops and inconsistency at wide receiver, by anyone not named Dee Wiggins—Miami is prepping for guys like Michael Redding, Dazalin Worsham, Xavier Restrepo and late addition Keyshawn Smith to take over; all of which seem to have the tools and toughness needed at the position.

The Canes finally landed a their first 5-Star crown jewel type player since running back Duke Johnson in defensive tackle Leonard Taylor, of Palmetto—as well as American Heritage athlete James Williams. Miami currently has the ninth-ranked class—second best in the ACC—with 22 “hard commits” and that number can grow based on how the Hurricanes look against Clemson, as well as the rest of this season.

MAXIMIZE POTENTIAL DREAM SEASON; STAY LEVEL-HEADED

In a year when up is down, left is right and little adds up—the processing and summing up of these Hurricanes remains one more thing to try and make sense of. Who are these Hurricanes right now, what will they grow into this season—and how does one temper the excitement of this season, while properly assessing where the team will be year three in the Diaz era, without this season’s key components?

In most cases, the modus operandi would be to soak up 2020 for all it’s worth and to deal with next year, next year—but the Hurricanes’ experience is always a different animal in comparison to other more traditional programs. Miami’s rich championship history, coupled with a decade and an half of irrelevance—and the embarrassment associated with that level of failure—it’s the catalyst for overbuying into false starts over the years, instead of looking at things through a more logical and reasonable lens.

While Miami continues its preparation for Clemson and looks to shock the world once again—Hurricanes faithful might want to use that time wrapping their arms around what is, what could be and what lies ahead. A special year is underway, by way of a game-changing veteran quarterback and high-octane offense—which should have all Miami fans optimistic for all things 2020.

The trick lies in accepting this season at face value, while not prematurely getting caught up in the being “back” route—or fast-tracking the timeline regarding being a bonafide contender again.

Make 2020 all it can be, close strong recruiting-wise for 2021 and identify that next crop of team leaders ready to fill the void of the mature group that is captaining the ship this fall.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

October 1, 2020

MIAMI HURRICANES DEMOLISH FLORIDA STATE IN QUEST TO AGAIN BE CONTENDERS

This one was over before it even started—a dream scenario-type evening for the Miami Hurricanes—who dismantled the Florida State Seminoles, 52-10 in primetime at HardRock last Saturday night. It was the biggest beating the Canes laid on the Noles since 1976 (47-0) and was the first time 50+ points were scored in the series. Definitely […]

September 20, 2020

D’ERIQ KING ALREADY CHANGING MIAMI HURRICANES’ BROKEN CULTURE


The cynics will fast point out that it’s only two games into a new season—but those who know, know. D’Eriq King is the winner, leader and alpha dog the Miami Hurricanes have lacked under center, on the practice field and in the locker room for upwards of 15 years.

The eventual result; a long-running broken culture is on the brink of being fixed by way of 23-year old Houston transfer—who was luckily (and inexplicably) redshirted last fall, paving the way to this one-year Band-Aid to pay big time dividends.

For all the talent in South Florida and Miami’s backyard over the years—it took a mature, veteran gunslinger from the Lone Star State to be the building block for the Hurricanes’ ascension to contender in the coming years. Imagine that.

The sports media has already stared their self-serving, “Is Miami back?” early season narrative—as it plays well to outsiders who loathe the Hurricanes; college football enthusiasts who hate to see a polarizing national brand like UM built up, but can’t wait to celebrate when this little private school from down south hits some speed bumps on their road back to prominence.

The premise of Miami being “back” also has a stranglehold on the Hurricanes Nation, fans of this once-great program both tired-of and embarrassed-by years of irrelevance—to the point where they’ll blindly buy into the hype, while trying to fast-track any successful one-off moment, making more of it than should be made.

After a decade-and-a-half of riding this up and down roller coaster—Miami fans finally have a modicum of a reason to believe—as King is all that, and then some.

CANES CAN FINALLY FIND FOOTING AFTER YEARS OF TURMOIL

This will be a special season for the Hurricanes and a small step forward that will pay dividends on the recruiting trail, serving as proof Miami is moving the right direction under Diaz—but one great player under center isn’t a cure-all for years worth incompetence and lack of proper depth and talent across the board.

A revolving door of head coaches either under-qualified (Randy Shannon), off-brand (Al Golden) or past-their prime (Mark Richt) has plagued Miami football ever since Larry Coker couldn’t build on, or maintain the juggernaut Butch Davis handed him two decades ago.

All of this turnover ultimately led to the hiring of Manny Diaz; the Canes’ fifth program face and new regime in 14 years—a reminder how much a lack of stability has been a real issue in Coral Gables and the biggest reason Miami has become a middle-of-the-pack ACC program with a 105-77 record dating back to the 2005 Peach Bowl curb-stomping (40-3) the Canes took from LSU.

Those who want to case-build against Diaz can easily go to a 6-7 run last year, an embarrassing kicking game (which cost Miami a season-opening win against Florida, and then some), no-shows against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech—as well as a general team immaturity and pointless big-headedness after wins against average Florida State and Louisville squads, which led to a three-game losing streak against Florida International, Duke and Louisiana Tech to end the year.

To Diaz’s credit, he went head-down and started making moves immediately after getting shut out in the lowly Independence Bowl—starting with firing wrong-fit offensive coordinator Dan Enos, and an equally as incompetent offensive line coach in Butch Barry.

Enos’ promise to run a hybrid offense that featured some pro-style and spread, proved to be an utter, basic, prehistoric disaster—one so egregious that Diaz completely bought in on a conversion to the spread, leading to the hiring of Rhett Lashlee to play-call, Garin Justice to get the o-line spread-ready and King to be the maestro who too Miami from zero-to-one-hundred over the course of eight quarters.

One can only imagine what these Hurricanes would look like in 2020 without the addition of King—N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell battling it out for the starting job, with true freshman Tyler Van Dyke. (Even without King, Jarren Williams would’ve transferred out as his welcome was worn out with the staff.)

Instead, King hit the ground running—literally—locking in the starting job and under center for a 31-14 victory in Miami’s opener against University of Alabama-Birmingham two weeks back. King tossed for 144 yards, going 16-of-24 on the night with one passing touchdown—while rushing 12 times for 83 yards and a score, against a stingy little Blazers’ defense.

ROAD WIN AT LOUISVILLE; SOLID BUILDING BLOCK

The next challenge; this past weekend’s road trip to Louisville for a crack at outlasting a feisty Cardinals’ offense—one that was vocal about seeking revenge for last year’s 52-27 loss in Miami and expecting to take a step forward under second-year head coach Scott Satterfield.

The Hurricanes rolled into Papa John’s Stadium a whopping 3-23 against ranked opponents dating back to the 2005 season—Miami’s last regular win against a ranked foe coming by way of an eight-lateral game-ending play at Duke in 2015.

Many of the Hurricanes’ road losses over recent years; the product of slow starts and an inability to find their groove until it’s too late—neither of which was the case for the King-led Canes in prime-time this past Saturday night.

After an opening drive quickly stalled, Miami’s defense held Louisville to a long field goal—followed by a five-play, 75-yard answer capped by a 17-yard strike to tight end Will Mallory on 3rd-and-1.

Cam Harris busted off a 38-yard run, putting the Canes just outside the red zone after two plays—the first, a quick 11-yard strike to Dee Wiggins, who was relatively quiet after some early action.

The ensuing possession, a 31-yard strike to Mark Pope on 3rd-and-14—a huge bounce-back play for the Canes after a 74-yard hook-up with Mallory was called back on a ticky-tack false start.

King found Mike Harley for nine yards on first down and Harris tore off an 18-yarder to get Miami back in striking distance. Two 13-yard connections with Brevin Jordan—the first on 3rd-and-11—set up a three-yard punch-in from Jaylan Knighton that put the Canes up, 14-3 in the waning moments of the first quarter and a convincing 20-6 halftime lead.

Equally as exciting as the explosive Miami offense—a sound kicking game. Jose Borregales belted an early second quarter 48-yarder when a Canes’ drive stalled. Later in the quarter, stuck in no man’s land, facing a 4th-and-5 from the Cards’ 40-yard line—Diaz trotted Borregales out to attempt a 57-yarder, which he sent down the pike.

Beyond exhilarating, especially considering Miami kickers struggled with 5.7-yard field goals last fall.

Louisville responded to the 14-point halftime deficit with a 75-yard drive to open the third quarter, cutting the Miami lead to 13—but a 75-yard touchdown run by Harris proved the perfect punch in the mouth just as the home time was starting to show some life.

The Cardinals answered with a 74-yard scoring drive—the Canes again stole their thunder in one play; this time some veteran head movement and eye contact from King sell the play, leaving Knighton wide open for a quick dump-off that led to a 75-yard untouched rumble towards pay dirt.

Two more Borregales field goals extended the Miami lead after Louisville was forced to punt. The Cards did find the end zone with another lengthy 75-yard drive, but damned if the Hurricanes didn’t answer again—this time King finding a wide open Jordan for a 47-yard score, pushing the lead to 47 -27 with just over five minutes remaining.

Louisville scored one final time and recovered an onside kick attempt, but on the fourth play of the series Zach McCloud was in the backfield, stripped quarterback Malik Cunningham and recovered the Cards’ third turnover of the night. Ballgame.

FIRST CHALLENGES OF KING ERA PROVE SUCCESSFUL

Miami’s first two challenges are in the books and a season after starting 0-2 against Florida and North Carolina, the Hurricanes are now 2-0 with wins over UAB and Louisville—with Florida State on-deck in this quirky new season.

ESPN’s College GameDay as on hand this past weekend and will make its first trek back to South Florida since Miami pasted Notre Dame back in 2017. Should the Canes push to 3-0 with a win over the Seminoles, following the bye week Miami could again catch some ESPN love the weekend of October 10th for Clemson’s biggest home game of the season.

Translation; the King effect, as well as the timing of these early season match-ups—it’s something Miami must capitalize on as it can pave the way for one of those program-defining types of classes in 2021.

Diaz and the Canes wound up with the No. 16 class in 2020—a smaller haul with only 21 commits—but still good enough to be third in the ACC, with some immediate action from guys like Knighton and his counterpart Don Chaney Jr..

Miami’s 2021 class is already 22 players deep and ranked No. 8 in the nation—Diaz and staff with two 5-Star prospects in defensive tackle Leonard Taylor, the crown jewel of The Palmetto Five, as well as American Heritage’s James Williams—who comes in as an athlete and will land somewhere on the defense.

Defensive tackle Savion Collins and wideout Brashard Smith—both highly-touted teammates of Taylor’s—also chose the hometown team. In fact, 18 of these 21 players hail from what Howard Schnellenberger dubbed The State Of Miami all those years ago; up north to Daytona Beach, over to Tampa and everything south of I-4 deemed “Hurricanes Country”.

A strong run over the next nine games is crucial as the Hurricanes need to keep this crew in tact, while finding a way to add more crown jewel pieces. In years passed, a Miami skid down the stretch has resulted in decommits, while UM failed to mine any Signing Day gold.

When taking the Miami job, Diaz was quick to point out the biggest road block and conundrum he’d face as the Hurricanes’ leader—finding a way to win with the talent he had, in effort to lure in the talent UM needs to compete at the highest level.

The old mindset of loading up on 3-Star guys who have heart and love Miami—that doesn’t jibe anymore in modern day college football. Having some of those are the heartbeat of the team; it has a place, but when one looks atop the sport—Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia—these are powerhouses loaded with top talent and a two-deep that could beat a lot of team’s first stringers.

NO IGNORING IMPORTANCE OF TALENT IN TODAY’S GAME

Two games into this season for the Hurricanes, who physically looks the part more on defense and is making textbook plays better than safety Bubba Bolden and defensive end Jaelan Phillips—two former 5-Star recruits who wound up transferring to Miami from USC and UCLA, respectively?

In the 80’s, Miami lived by the “speed kills” mantra—dominating slower traditional programs and ultimately changing the game. It was a different era for the sport and the Hurricanes had a competitive advantage that helped propel the program to four national championships over nine sense, while everyone else played catch-up.

These days, the only competitive advantage is having as much, if not more talent than one’s counterparts—reloading at the highest level and just plugging-and-playing that next crop of superstars. There’s little mystery surrounding the why it’s the same handful of top programs in the thick of things every year; dominant players in the trenches, polished skills players, elite defenders and next-level quarterbacks.

It’s a completely different ballgame when one’s offensive line is giving their quarterback ample time to dissect defenses, while their own defenses are getting in backfields quicker than the competition and creating pure havoc.

2020 MUST SERVE AS STEP-FORWARD SEASON

This dive into the semantics of the sport; it’s simply to temper the expectation of what Miami has in King this fall, with the across the board holes that still must be filled for this Hurricanes’ program.

King’s athleticism can help mask some of the ongoing offensive line deficiencies against the likes of a UAB or Louisville—but when facing Clemson’s front seven and a Tigers’ defense that can rotate players in and out at the level Miami aspires to; a reminder that it’s going to take a few more classes and bodies for the Hurricanes to build a championship-caliber roster.

That’s not to say that UM can’t overachieve this fall—as both sides of the ball can raise their level of play on the King factor alone. It just means Miami isn’t consistently ready to take care of business week in and week out at a high level just yet.

The Hurricanes also can’t waste a would-be special season like this one, nor can it afford to not build on this year’s King effect next fall. The more time Miami hovers in irrelevancy, the harder it becomes to become a national force again.

Things seemed to be turning a corner under Richt in 2017 with that 10-0 start—capped off by a 41-8 home thumping of the Irish—but the air was let out of the balloon just as quickly as Miami was starting to look and feel “back”, with a regular season ending loss to Pittsburgh, a thumping by Clemson in the ACC title game and being outlasted by Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

Miami rode that 10-win season to an eighth-ranked class in 2018, only to stumble to a 7-6 season months later—prompting early retirement for Richt, where Diaz and staff scrambled to salvage an 18-player class that ranked No. 27 in the nation. Textbook example of the type of backslide the Canes can ill afford.

Florida State week is on deck, as is a battle for state supremacy in a season where Miami won’t face Florida, outside a potential bowl game. Bragging rights are at stake as the Hurricanes look for a fourth consecutive win against the Seminoles—who roll south off a bye week and a season-opening home loss to Georgia Tech—not to mention their own head coaching turmoil with Mike Norvell now in as their third head coach since the 2017 season. Norvell found some pre-season hot water with a social media gaffe months back and now he’ll remain quarantined in Tallahassee for his first showdown with the Canes, having contracted COVID-19 last week.

Getting to 3-0 with a win over Florida State, a bye week reset before Clemson and King living up to the hype—it’s all Miami can really ask for one month in the 2020 season. That, and “The U” finally finding a true offensive identity—after toiling in purgatory the past 15 seasons. King, Lashlee and an uptempo spread finding immediate success in South Florida—such a breath of fresh air.

Where it goes from here—the rest of 2020, and beyond— is entirely up to Diaz and these trending-upward Hurricanes

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Yesterday we ran the first part of a three-part series; Top 15 Miami Hurricanes Games To Revisit While Quarantined.

Short version regarding the blah-blah-blah that preceded the actual list. We should be knee-deep in NCAA Tournament action high while Hurricanes baseball preps for a weekend series at Duke. Instead, we’re self-quarantining shut-ins, without live sports—understandably—to distract us during the town time.

All that to say, this current bizarro world gives us more free time than most know what to do with—so instead of binge-watching The Office or Breaking Bad series for a tenth time, why not take some three-hour deep dives into some old Miami Hurricanes football classics?

Once live sports returns and we are able to leave our homes again, we’ll be back to an existence where four-minute highlight packages from classic games is all we have time for. Until then, appreciate the experience of reliving yesteryear and some iconic moments all about “The U”.

Disclaimer; we stuck to past history under the assumption that the newer stuff is still too fresh in the brain.

Yes, watching Miami kick the ass off of Notre Dame back in 2017 was a epic night at Hard Rock—but less than three years old. Same to be said for three wins in a row against Florida State—20172018 and 2019—after a seven-game losing streak to those pukes.

For this exercise, we wanted to delve back into games that most haven’t watched in their entirety in almost two decades—so on that note, let’s dive into some vintage Canes.

(Click on the date in each entry to be taken to YouTube for the full version of each Canes’ game.)

 


#10 — Miami versus Florida State — (10/8/94) — For those at the Orange Bowl in early October of 1994, you recall the chatter surrounding Hurricanes football being dead in the water—with the Seminoles the new in-state power. Not only did Florida State win the 1993 national championship and smoke the Canes in Tallahassee, 28-10—Miami went on to also lost three of its previous six games (dating back to the previous November) entering the annual showdown against FSU.

A 58-home game win-streak ended against Washington to weeks prior, while the Canes were skunked 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and dropped a late season road game at West Virginia, costing then 9-2 UM the Big East title—the Mountaineers heading to the Sugar Bowl for a crack at Florida.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward was gone, but Danny Kanell was the heir apparent, Warrick Dunn was running the ball and No. 3 Florida State was expected to beat No. 3 Miami at home for the first time since 1982. Instead, the Orange Bowl had some of that vintage night game magic—where you could feel that some shit was about to go down.

This was a different era where players had some next-level pride when counted out (while also mailing it in when a title was no longer on the line; like the aforementioned bowl game shutout against Arizona).

Defense was the name of the game for the Hurricanes, behind the likes of Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, Patrick Riley, Kenard Lang, CJ Richardson and Rohan Marley—who set the tone early. Malcolm X. Pearson picked off Kanell in the end zone on the opening drive, while Frank Costa marched the Canes down the field for a score; a pitch to James Stewart, who scampered in untouched.

Richardson jumped a route a few possessions later, snuffing out Kanell again— Costa to A.C. Tellison setting up ai first down before Stewart pounded in another one on the ground, tying things back up, 14-14.

From there, an 89-yard drive gave the Canes a lead they’d never relinquish—Ryan Collins in for some trickery, dumping it off to Dexter Harris for the score.

Miami’s offense didn’t do much in the second half, settling for two field goals—but Carlos Jones came up with the game’s most-iconic moment in a 24-17 ball game, late in the third quarter—picking off Kanell and returning it 16 yards for a score that had the Orange Bowl rattling like the glorious bucket of bolts it was, breaking Florida State’s spirit. (This game is also the reason Kanell showed such vitriol towards the Hurricanes during his short stint with ESPN; taking pot-shots at Miami any chance he got.)

31-14, the Canes would tack on another field goal, while the Noles never got closer than 14—falling 34-20.

Both teams turned it over five times apiece, but the Canes made the Noles pay in a must-win game that restored order—for a year, at least. No. 3 Miami went on to fall to No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, Dennis Erickson bailed for Seattle, third-choice Butch Davis took over and within nine months of this epic win, the NCAA hammered UM with sanctions and Sports Illustrated called for Miami to shut down the football program.


#9 — Miami versus Oklahoma — (1/1/88 — Orange Bowl) — The third and final meeting between these two powerhouse programs in the 1980’s—each meeting always billed as Game of the Year. Unranked Miami went to Norman in 1985 and toppled No. 1 Oklahoma, 27-14—but lost a crack at a national championship falling to No. 8 Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, 35-7 as the No. 2 team in the land—while the third-ranked Sooners won it all, taking out No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl, 25-10.

The 1986 showdown took place in South Florida; OU the defending champs—undefeated and ranked No. 1—though No. 2 Miami was ready to roll.

Billy Corben and the Rakontur crew did a great job in their 30-For-3o on “The U”, highlighting pre-game antics for this epic showdown; Melvin Bratton prank-calling Sooners’ linebacker Brian Bosworth, while Jerome Brown, Winston Moss and Alonzo Highsmith refused to shake hands at the coin toss—dropping an audible, “I ain’t scared of you, bitch” on national television.

The Canes took care of business, 28-16—handing the Sooners a loss for the second straight year.

Epic as the first two showdowns of the eighties were—nothing could top these two going head-to-head on New Year’s Day 1988 with a national title on the line. Especially for a Miami team that pissed away a shot at the program’s second-ever championship the previous year with a disastrous Fiesta Bowl loss to Penn State—taking the luster off a stellar regular season.

This one was billed as the Game of the Century—and lived up to the hype.

Miami’s defense set the tone, forcing Oklahoma to punt on their first five possessions—while the Hurricanes got on the board first; Walsh finding Bratton on a 30-yard hook-up.

The Sooners got on the board in the second quarter, tying things up—but the Canes responded with 10 unanswered, pushing the lead to 17-7 in the third quarter—a 48-yard field goal by Greg Cox and a Walsh to Michael Irvin connection for a 23-yard score. Cox tacked on a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter, pushing the Canes’ lead to 20-7.

Oklahoma pulled a Nebraska with a fumblerooski for a fourth quarter touchdown, pulling to within six with 2:05 remaining—the onside kick recovered by Leonard Conley, but a three-and-out by the Canes gave the Sooners one last shot.

With :56 remaining, starting from their own 23-yard line—back-to-back penalties on Oklahoma pinned them back, before quarterback Charles Thompson was harassed and fumbled away their final shot at a comeback; Miami recovering with :33 remaining—kneeling out the clock en route to a second national title in five years.

Bernard “Tiger” Clark
earned MVP honors; the back-up linebacker registering 14 tackles while calling all the defensive plays and setting the tone for the suspended George Mira Jr..

Oklahoma went an impressive 33-3 between 1985 and 1987. Even more impressive, the fact Miami responsible for all three losses.


#8 — Miami at Michigan — (9/17/88) — The only downfall here is that all versions of this game in existence look like they are underwater. I think I have a better VHS copy that I will attempt to upload to YouTube just so this incredible comeback gets its due.

Miami was the defending national champion going into the 1988 season—this epic road game the Canes’ second showdown of the season, after a bye week and season-opening ass-whipping of “No. 1” Florida State at the Orange Bowl—31-0.

The Noles made their embarrassing rap video, while Miami somehow started the season ranked No. 6—despite a dominant 1987 campaign where it knocked off top-ranked Oklahoma for a title, as well as No. 20 Florida, No. 10 Arkansas (51-7!), No. 4 Florida State, No. 10 Notre Dame (24-0!) and No. 8 South Carolina.

Michigan opened the season with a 19-17 loss to Notre Dame and had top-ranked Miami on the ropes—the Canes a consensus No. 1 after the Florida State pasting—down 30-14 after Michigan went on a 24-0 run from the middle of the second quarter, into the fourth.

The Hurricanes went on to rattle off 17 points in the game’s final 5:23—starting with a seven-yard hook-up between Walsh and Rob Chudzinski. The r-junior quarterback then hit Dale Dawkins for the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 30-22.

Miami’s defense shut down Michigan on the ensuing possession, with Walsh coming alive and finding Cleveland Gary for a 48-yard rumble towards pay dirt. Johnson went for two, but the Canes came up short and trailed, 30-28 with 2:58 left on the clock.

In classic Hurricanes’ folklore, freshman walk-on kicker Carlos Huerta perfect executed an onside kick—the Wolverines not attacking a ball that was ultimately batted into the hands of safety Bobby Harden.

Gary’s legs got the Canes to the 17-yard line—Johnson electing to play it safe, taking time off the clock and forcing Michigan to burn timeouts—Huerta trotting on to drill a 29 yarder that put Miami up, 31-30 with :43 remaining.


#7 — Miami versus UCLA — (12/5/98) — Timing is everything and so much came together for the Hurricanes in this program-changing showdown that official announced to the world that Miami was back; rising from the ashes of mid-nineties probation.

Originally slated to played September 26th, UCLA found out the game would be cancelled when en-route to LAX to travel to Miami; a precaution as Hurricane Georges took aim at South Florida. Within days, it was determined both teams could play on December 5th; a shared open date after the Canes and Bruins both wrapped their regular seasons (wrapping up a home-and-home from 1995, where Davis lost his first game as UM’s head coach—a 31-8 beatdown by UCLA at the Rose Bowl.)

Miami lost to a home, overtime showdown against Virginia Tech the week prior, fell to Florida State at home in early October and in the regular season finale—with a Big East title on the line—got shellacked by Donovan McNabb and Syracuse, 66-13 in the Carrier Dome.

Meanwhile, UCLA quietly put together an undefeated season up to that point—beating No. 23 Texas, No. 10 Arizona, No. 11 Oregon and taking care of rival Southern California two weeks prior, going into a bye before making the long trek to South Florida.

Sitting at 10-0, UCLA would’ve been title game-bound had they not taken on a 7-3 Miami squad—especially considering how the rest of that fateful December weekend played out; undefeated Kansas State falling to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship—which would’ve set up a UCLA versus Tennessee national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.

Instead, Florida State backdoor their way in with the once-undefeated Bruins and Wildcats out of the mix—the Volunteers going on to win it all.

Miami was as low as low got after that Syracuse loss; but the setback was so one-sided and not heartbreaking—to the point where Davis and his Hurricanes were able to hit reset and start fresh with nothing to lose in this rescheduled showdown.

Knowing Miami wasn’t going to outscore a UCLA team that was averaging 40 points-per-game on offense, Davis just wanted his Hurricanes to hang in there and fight—especially knowing their defense was giving up an average of 407 yards and 25 points-per-game.

“We’re not going to shut down UCLA, they’re too good for that. But we can limit them by staying on the field and wearing them down. You don’t have to get beat just because of their big stats.”

And hang in there Miami did; the Canes unexpectedly leading 21-17 at the intermission—two scores coming behind a huge afternoon by Edgerrin James; tearing off first half touchdown runs of 45 and 10 yards.

UCLA came alive with 21 points unanswered, up 38-21 in the waning moments of the third quarter—before Miami went next-level; Najeh Davenport scampering for a 23-yard score with :10 remaining in the third.

Down 38-28, the “four fingers” tradition went up—in a barely packed Orange Bowl, as few expected a upset on the heels of getting pounded at Syracuse—and the comeback was on.

Early in the fourth, a 71-yard hook-up between Scott Covington and Santana Moss pulled the Canes to within three—but Cade McNown punched it in from a yard out, pushing UCLA’s lead back to 10 with 6:54 remaining.

Covington hit Mondriel Fulcher on a 29-yard touchdown strike in under a minute, narrowing the gap again—while Delvin Brown recovered a questionable fumble by Brad Melsby after a 30-yard gain (hey, what do you know—a bullshit call actually went Miami’s way)—the cough-up the Bruins’ second of the quarter after an earlier punch-out by the late, great Al Blades, that he also recovered.

Convington immediately got back to work—a 14-yard shot to Andre King, followed by a 14-yard dump-off to fullback Nick Williams, ending at the UCLA 1-yard line—setting James up to punch in the eventual game-winner, the Canes taking a 49-45 lead.

McNown and the Bruins got as close as mid-field, before launching a Flutie-esque “Hail Mary” towards the open end zone; the ball tipped and hitting the ground as time expired.

The un-tackleable James finished with 299 yards and three touchdowns on the day, while the Miami offense put up a program-best 689 yards—while surrounding 670; McNown throwing for 513 yards in the loss.

UCLA’s guts ripped out, the Bruins wound up “settling” for the Rose Bowl as Pac-1o Champs—denying the Arizona their first trip to Pasadena; ESPN cameras cutting to some Wildcats players all game, expecting the Bruins to roll and earn a Fiesta berth.

Where this game broke UCLA’s collective back, it put Miami back on the map—the Hurricanes going 9-4 the following season, taking down No. 12 Ohio State in the Kickoff Classic, but losing close ones to No. 2 Penn State and No. 1 Florida State, before a late season wheels-off outing at No. 2 Virginia Tech (the Noles ultimately beating the Hokies for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.)

By 2000, the Canes went 11-1, topping Florida in the Sugar Bowl and in 2001, went undefeated, won the Rose Bowl and claimed the program’s fifth national title—the comeback starting that fateful make-up Saturday in December, three years prior.


#6 — Miami versus Nebraska — (1/2/84 — Orange Bowl)The Miracle In Miami and the night a dynasty was born.

Based on that alone, this game could’ve ranked #1—but knowing how many times its aired over the years on Classic Sports Network, as well as most Hurricanes’ fans having a copy of this one on VHS, dating back to 1984—it gets knocked down a few rungs, due to over saturation.

The 50th edition of this classic bowl game—and No. 4 Miami brought everything it had at No. 1 Nebraska—at the time, said to be the best team in college football history.

As most remember, the Hurricanes started the 1983 season with a 28-3 loss in Gainesville—and prior to that, lost three of its past six games in 1982, en route to a setback 7-4 season. Somehow Miami shook all that off and Howard Schnellenberger delivered an unthinkable national championship his fifth season at UM, as promised.

Miami shutout No. 13 Notre Dame late-September—that 20-0 win enough to push the unranked Canes to No. 15 in the polls—UM continuing their climb by winning as other contenders fell. By a late-October showdown against No. 12 West Virginia, Miami was No. 7 and after the 20-3 victory, up to No. 5.

The Canes eked out a 17-16 win in Tallahassee to end the regular season and six weeks later was pitted against the Cornhuskers—a David versus Goliath-type match-up feeling even more lopsided as Miami trotted out true freshman Bernie Kosar at quarterback.

Meanwhile Nebraska had been a power for years; falling to Clemson in the 1982 Orange Bowl with a national championship on the line and following up with an 11-1 campaign in the 1982 season, taking down No 13 LSU in the 1983 Orange Bowl—making the legendary South Florida stadium a home away from home for Lincoln-based fans.

Between October 1981 and December 1983, Nebraska went 32-2—opening the 1983 season with a 44-6 pounding of No. 4 Penn State in the Kickoff Classic—while averaging 52 points-per-game going into the showdown with the Hurricanes.

The football gods also played their part in this showdown, upsets paving the way for Miami to make history if it could take down a giant. No. 2 Texas fell to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, 10-9—while No. 4 Illinois got whipped 45-9 by unranked UCLA.

No. 3 Auburn looked unimpressive in a 9-7 win over Michigan in the Sugar Bowl—the final announced just as Miami took a 24-17 lead over Nebraska in the third quarter.

The Huskers moved the ball early against the Canes, but Miami snatched back momentum by blocking a field goal attempts. Kosar found Glenn Dennison for two scores and coupled with a 45-yard Jeff Davis field goal, had an unexpected 17-0 lead.

The Canes looked to push that lead to 24-0 after linebacker Jack Fernandez intercepted Turner Gill at the UM 35-yard line; Kosar hooking up with Eddie Brown for  would-be score—but Stanley Shakespeare was hit with an illegal block, taking points off the board.

In vintage fashion, Tom Osborne had two defensive backs switch jerseys to confuse Kosar—Mike McCashland picking the freshman off at the NU 26-yard line. From there, a 12-play, 74-yard drive—capped with some trickery in the form of the fumblerooski on 3rd-and-5—the 19-yard touchdown getting the Huskers on the board. Gill tacked on a 64-yard touchdown run late in the second, cutting Miami’s lead to 17-14.

An early third-quarter Hurricanes’ fumble turned into a Huskers’ field goal, tying the game—but Miami didn’t flinch, putting together touchdown drives of 75 and 73 yards, pushing the lead to 31-17.

Nebraska attempted to cut the lead late in the third quarter, but but Jeff Smith—in for the injured Mike Rozier—fumbled at the 1-yard line after a 40-yard gain and the Hurricanes recovered. Fate stayed on Miami’s side early in the fourth, as well—Rodney Bellinger breaking up a would-be touchdown, followed by Kevin Fagan sacking Gill at the UM 31-yard line. Nebraska settled for a field goal attempt, and missed,

Smith atoned for his earlier mistake, punching it in from a yard out—capping a 74-yard drive with 6:55 remaining—making it a 31-24 ball game.

Davis missed a 42-yard attempt that would’ve given Miami a 10-point cushion—Gill finding Irving Fryar for a big pick-up, leaving the Huskers in business at the Miami 35 with just under two minutes left in the game. Gill went back to Fryar two plays later, but the wide open receiver dropped a sure touchdown—a play so egregious, many wondered if the

Facing a 3rd-and-8 and a quirky incomplete pass call (that looked like a fumble), Gill ran the option on 4th-and-8, pitching last-second to Smith, who ran it in from 24 yards out—Nebraska stealing all momentum.

Also an era where there was no overtime and games could end in a tie, Osborne, to his credit, decided to go for two and the win—opposed to guaranteeing himself a national title with a 12-0-1 record. Instead, Hurricanes history was made.

“What are they doing? I have not see the kicker come onto the field—and I don’t think he’s comin’ on the field. I think they’ve got things going their way and Tom Osborne made this decision a long time ago. I don’t think this situation caught him by surprise. He’s decided to go for two and to take his shot at winning and I commend him for it.”

With a flick of the wrist, Kenny Calhoun got two fingers on Gill’s passing attempt—deflecting it and starting a dynasty.

The Canes recovered the Huskers’ onside kick with :47 remaining, Kosar kneeled twice and this one was in the books—Miami 31, Nebraska 30.

Schellenberger would leave for the USFL in the offseason and Johnson would take the reigns for the next five seasons—but not before a perfect parting shot by UM’s first national champion head coach as NBC’s cameras rolled:

“This has been a love affair that’s been developing for five years. Tonight was the fulfillment of a dream that … I say fulfillment, it might just be the beginning of a dream.”

The beginning of a dream, it was.

Check back tomorrow for games #5 through #1—and double back for #15 through #11 if you missed them.

March 25, 2020

TOP 15 MIAMI HURRICANES GAMES TO REVISIT WHILE QUARANTINED (PART II)


In a world where everyone was expecting to be knee-deep in the NCAA Tournament this weekend, another type of “March Madness” has become all the rage—self-quarantining in effort to flatten the ol’ curve, while hoping to get the Coronavirus under control.

Making this new bizarro world existence even creepier; the fact we’re all forced to take on this down time without the welcomed distraction of live sports. Everything has been cancelled, or postponed indefinitely—making an already strange situation, even stranger.

While nothing can replace the unknown outcome and theatre-like aspect of live competition—it’d be foolish to ignore the treasure trove of old content in existence, as well as the fact we all have more than enough time on our hands to dive back into some classic moments.

Where we’re all prone to pulling up YouTube for a condensed highlight clip and endorphin rush that comes from reliving a classic moment—when was the last time most of us dove into some classic sports footage and watched events in their entirety?

While our normal day-to-day arguably prevents us from spending four hours taking in a full game from a few decades back—this temporary down time is ripe for the experience.

While the Miami Hurricanes haven’t given fans much to boast about over the past decade, or so—no one had a better run in the 80’s, early 90’s or early 00’s. Thanks to some heroes out there who’ve taken the time to convert old footage, while uploading to the Intrawebs—we all can experience and relive some classic Canes moments.

Because live sports and new seasons are the usual, we don’t generally take the time to relive past moments in full—unlike iconic movies, classic books or beloved albums.

While most things related to COVID-19 are a nightmare and inconvenience, the lack of any live sports might not be the worst thing ever—if using the hiatus to deep dive some feel-good history. Below, a list of our Top 15 Miami Hurricanes (football) games to relive during the shut-in.

Disclaimer; we stuck to past history under the assumption that the newer stuff is still too fresh in the brain. Yes, watching Miami kick the ass off of Notre Dame back in 2017 was a epic night at Hard Rock—but less than three years old, we wanted to delve back into games that most haven’t watched in their entirety in almost two decades—so on that note, let’s dive into some vintage Canes.

(Click on the date in each entry to be taken to YouTube for the full version of each Canes’ game.)


#15 — Miami at Boston College (11/10/01)
— The Canes rolled into Chestnut Hill undefeated (7-0) and looking for the program’s first national championship in a decade; and history didn’t disappoint as Boston College again proved to be a tough out at home, despite Miami being the best program in the nation.

Everyone remembers the ending; the Eagles driving late as the Canes clung to a 12-10 lead—off of four field goals due to a brutal, four-interception outing by Ken Dorsey. A late fumble by freshman Frank Gore—subbing in for workhorse Clinton Portis—on a 4th-and-4 was just the spark Boston College needed to come alive; 70 yards standing in the way of dethroning the best team in the nation; less if settling for a game-winning field goal.

When Eagles’ quarterback Brian St. Pierre hit Dedrick Dewalt for a stretched-out 21-yard pick-up on 4th-and-10—Canes fans felt the gut punch and legitimately saw a Rose Bowl-intended season slipping away.

The moment was short-lived as the football gods had their say and St. Pierre’s next slant went off the knee of safety Mike Rumph (who jumped the route), into the hands of defensive end Matt Walters, who was stripped by his own man—Ed Reed—who scampered 80 yards for a score, before Alumni Stadium knew what hit it. Final score, 18-7 and a relived Hurricanes bunch.

Were there better games in 2001? Absolutely. One could easily jump into the Canes first win in Tallahassee since 1991, or a home pasting of Washington as payback for wrecking a perfect season in 2000 and a most-likely a national championship—but there’s something about watching this Boston College scare in its entirety all these years later, knowing the outcome.

It was the Canes biggest scare of the season and the only time Miami really looked mortal—Dorsey struggling on a windy, dreary day in the northeast—and almost pissing away a title shot.

#14 — Miami versus Louisville (10/14/04) — A Thursday night game in an eventual 9-3 season where the Canes had lost some luster from their dominant ways a few years earlier. (Translation; Larry Coker wasn’t recruiting and developing talent like this predecessor Butch Davis, and it showed.)

No. 4 Miami survived and overtime season-opener against Florida State and took care of Louisiana Tech, Houston and Georgia Tech the next three weeks before offensive-minded, No. 20 Louisville and head coach Bobby Petrino headed south.

The Canes’ defense took a step back by this point; greats like Jon Vilma, D.J. Williams, Sean Taylor and Vince Wilfork all departing for the NFL months prior—putting Miami in a position where it’d have to score points and win some shootouts to prevail; something that started on this ESPN Thursday night broadcast.

Brock Berlin hit tight end Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone to strike first midway through the first quarter—but went ice cold after that, falling into a 24-7 halftime hole—while Louisville danced, whooped it up and gave Miami a dose of its own excessive celebration-type medicine.

The Canes opened the second half with a touchdown, while the Cards answered and put Miami back in a 17-point hole. Another score and two field goals pulled the Canes within four with 8:27 remaining—the entire Orange Bowl on pins and needles as Devin Hester was set to field a punt … which he sliced and diced his way through traffic 78 yards for the score, giving Miami it’s first lead of the night.

Par for the course, the Canes’ defense gave up a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive—Brian Brohm in for starter Stefan LeFors—going ahead, 38-34 with 4:17 remaining.

As he was prone to do in his two-year career as starter, Berlin led Miami on a game-winning drive—picking up 26 yards with a 3rd-and-10 strike to Lance Leggett and converting a 4th-and-4 with a five-yard strike to Darnell Jenkins inside the ten-yard line. Gore would punch it in from a yard out—like he did in the earlier comeback against Florida State, as well as a 2003 thriller when hosting Florida.

Brohm got Louisville mid-field before Antrel Rolle hauled in an interception on 3rd-and-10 to seal it, 41-38.

The following week Miami would give up 31 points and 440 yards in a win at North Carolina State—but the defensive struggles would do the Canes a week after that, falling to a a 3-4 North Carolina squad as the No. 3 team in the nation.

The hangover continued as Miami fell to Clemson at home in overtime a week later and ended the regular season with a home stumble to Virginia Tech, with an ACC title and Sugar Bowl berth on the line. The Canes wound up with a crack at Florida in the Peach Bowl and routed the Gators, 27-10—but the true highlight of the 2004 season was that thrilling comeback against Louisville—a hell of a game to watch start to finish.

(Bonus footage; shaky, pre-iPhone camera footage that I shot of Hester’s return against the Cards, which incredibly has over 100K views on YouTube.) 

#13 — Miami versus Penn State (10/31/81 -or- 10/12/91 -or- 10/10/92) — All three showdowns against Penn State were epic in their own right; speedy Miami facing off against a bruising Big Ten powerhouse.

In between the early 80’s meeting and two early 90’s showdown—heartbreak as the top-ranked Hurricanes pissed away a shot at the 1986 national championship; Heisman-winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde coughing up five interceptions in the Fiesta Bowl, en route to a 14-10 upset.

The 1981 victory was special in that it was year three of the Howard Schnellenberger era—the take down of the No. 1 Nittany Lions a building-block moment for a head coach who promised a year five national title and ultimately delivered.

Jim Kelly was under center for the Canes; a junior that had upset No. 19 Penn State in 1979 as a freshman—and ready to lead Miami to victory two years later with more on the line. Miami jumped out to a 17-0 lead, let it slip away in the fourth quarter, but held on to win 17-14 when Fred Marion intercepted an overthrown Todd Blackledge pass with just over a minute remaining.

The 1991 home showdown was a key early-season win, with No.2 Miami hanging in for a 26-20 win over No. 9 Penn State. The Nittany Lions were driving late, before Darryl Spencer intercepted Tony Sacca on fourth down—much like Marion a decade prior— with just over a minute remaining.

Lots of on-brand, big-play Canes action in this one—an 80-yard touchdown from Horace Copeland and a 91-yard punt return from Kevin Williams—both of which helped Miami survive an 11-penalty, 124-yard setback.

As for the 1992 match-up; amplified even more as it was a road game against the No. 7 team in the nation one week after surviving No. 3 Florida State at home (“Wide Right II”). ABC commentator Keith Jackson said, at the time, that the back-to-back test for Miami the toughest two-game stretch he’d seen in all his years of calling games—the Canes hanging on in both.

A low-scoring affair with Miami ahead 10-7 in the third quarter; Sacca, under pressure from Jessie Armstead, attempted a screen pass that was picked off by Darren Krein and returned for a score.

Sacca pulled the Nittany Lions to three, but Miami held on for the 17-14 win—Penn State with a dead ball personal foul on a punt return in the final minutes—a potential game-winning drive starting from the shadows of their goal post with no timeouts.

Another desperation pass by a Penn State was pulled out of the sky by a Miami defender—this time, Paul White—as the Canes held on for the win.

#12 — Miami versus Texas (1/1/91 — Cotton Bowl) — This wouldn’t be considered a great football game by any on the planet, outside of a University of Miami fan.

Again, another one of those contests that has been talked about over the years because of how it played out—but probably not one that most have sat down and viewed in its entirety in a long while.

Miami felt like it was the best team in the nation by the end of 1990, but had no one to blame but itself for two regular season losses that kept the Hurricanes out of any title game chatter.

In the end, Colorado won the AP and Georgia Tech was tops in the Coaches Poll—the Buffaloes hanging in there for a 10-9 Orange Bowl win over No. 5 Notre Dame, capping off an 11-1-1 season, while the Yellow Jackets finished 11-0-1 with a Citrus Bowl win over No. 19 Nebraska.

Meanwhile, No. 4 Miami took on a one-loss No. 3 Texas team (who fell to Colorado, 29-22 early in the year); the Canes taking a 9-2 record into bowl season, having lost a season opener at BYU, behind eventual Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer—as well as a late-October loss at No. 6 Notre Dame, 29-20.

The Canes closed with five regular season wins–as well as and early season win over No. 2 Florida State—that kept Miami in the Top 5, but on the outside looking in any way the bowl games played out. Knowing that, the Canes took all their frustration out on the Longhorns and a very bias, pro-Texas crowd and bowl week experience—starting with the opening kickoff where Robert Bailey said he was going to knock out the returner, and did.

Miami took a 19-3 lead into halftime, but blew things open in the third quarter—linebacker Darrin Smith with a 34-yard interception return for score, followed by a 48-yard strike from Craig Erickson to Randal Hill, which led to an infamous end zone tunnel, six-shooter dance as the Canes went up 33-3.

Leonard Conley tore off a late 26-yard run early in the fourth, putting the Canes up, 46-3—in a game where Miami set both a Cotton Bowl and school record with 15 penalties (for 202 yards), most of which were for unsportsmanlike conduct. As a result, the NCAA cracked down on excessive celebration—“The Miami Rule”—that off-season, resulting in the now-common 15-yard penalty, should a player even think about having fun after a big play.

#11 — Miami versus Alabama (1/1/90 — Sugar Bowl) — One of two national championships Miami captured on the road, instead of the home confines of the Orange Bowl—the other being the 2002 Rose Bowl and the Hurricanes’ last title.

Also a cool throwback to an era where a national title wasn’t usually a No. 1 versus No. 2 match-up.

No. 2 Miami took on No. 7 Alabama in New Orleans, while No. 4 Notre Dame played No. 1 Colorado in Miami—the Hurricanes learning during their game with the Crimson Tide that the Fighting Irish had knocked off the undefeated Buffaloes, 21-6 in the Orange Bowl—meaning that UM would claim it’s third national title in seven seasons with a Sugar Bowl victory.  (No. 3 Michigan, also in the conversation—was promptly removed after a 17-10 loss to No. 12 Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.)

Stephen McGuire got Miami on the board late in the first quarter, giving the Canes a 7-0 lead—but Alabama quickly responded and tied things up. Erickson found Wesley Carroll for an 18-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive, followed by a Crimson Tide field goal. Alex Johnson punched in a late second quarter touchdown, pushing the Canes’ lead to 20-10, but a Bama score just before the half pulled them to within three.

The third quarter was quiet, outside of an 11-yard Rob Chudzinski touchdown—and Miami looked to put things out of reach with a Randy Bethel 12-yard haul in early fourth—the Canes lead extended to, 33-17.

Alabama went down swinging, finally getting on the board in the second half with a late touchdown and two-point conversion with 2:53 remaining—but Johnson hauled in a well-placed onside kick—allowing the Hurricanes to run out the clock for a 33-25 win.

Notre Dame was a one-loss squad that knocked off No. 1 Colorado—but that loss was a 27-10 beat down at the hands of No. 7 Miami at the Orange Bowl, ending the regular season; the Canes’ lone loss, late October in Tallahassee with Erickson sidelined due to injury and true freshman Gino Torretta under center for the 24-10 upset.

In the end, Miami was the unanimous No. 1—followed by Notre Dame, Florida State, Colorado and Tennessee.

Check back tomorrow for games #10 through #6 and later this week for #5 through #1.

March 23, 2020

TOP 15 MIAMI HURRICANES GAMES TO REVISIT WHILE QUARANTINED (PART I)


After a three-game skid and 6-7 finish to last season, there has been little good to say about the Miami Hurricanes and a once-proud football program wallowing in mediocrity for a decade and a half.

No mincing words; year one was a complete and utter disaster for Manny Diaz at the University of Miami—on every level. It’s impossible to sugarcoat anything about a losing season; especially the fashion and manner in which the Hurricanes reinvented ways to the shit the bed.

Thrice losing as a two-touchdown favorite; the first time this embarrassing feat had been accomplished in a season in almost four decades—as well as the who, why and how regarding a three-game skid to end the season; Miami shown-up by a cross-town commuter college, a basketball school and the third-best football team in the Bayou State.

It was a worst-case scenario that quickly became a reality—on the heels of the Canes seemingly turning the corner with a late comeback at Pittsburgh, a convincing win in Tallahassee and a Senior Day rout of Louisville.

Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”—and unfortunately for Diaz, he’d been spittin’ chiclets since his catching that 0-2 uppercut that launched his inaugural season. The result; rock bottom. Deja vu all over again, yet different as this program has been punch-drunk for way too long.

None of this what anyone prepared for year one after last year’s Transfer Portal heist, an Alabama assistant taking over an anemic offense, Diaz’s swag-a-licious social media game—as well as that whole yacht-to-a-booster-event thing—but let’s be honest; that’s on the buyer’s naivete, not the salesman’s pitch.

WHO’S THE FOOL WHEN FOOLISHLY BUYING FOOL’S GOLD?

Anyone delusional enough to call for 12-0 last fall—as well as expecting to roll Florida in the opener, while begging for a crack at Clemson and treating the Coastal like it was a gimme—those rubes deserve everything they got last fall, and then some.

Diaz was Miami’s fifth hire in 14 seasons; taking over a program 16 years into it’s move to the ACC, with nothing more than one lowly divisional title, after being poached from the Big East to bring more football cred to the basketball conference.

Those stuck in yesteryear can bitch-moan-and-complain about the expectation level; it doesn’t change the fact these Hurricanes are 97-71 dating back to that Peach Bowl ass-kicking—40-3—courtesy of LSU back in 2005, and a 35-3 massacre in the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl. It was a Brooklyn-beatdown so bad, veteran head coach Mark Richt called it a career within 24 hours of Wisconsin owning Miami a second post-season in a row.

Richt survived a decade in the SEC, dealing with pent-up Georgia fans itching for their first championship since 1980; yet not one  title game appearance—yet three seasons in that Coral Gables meat-grinder; an instantaneous decision that retirement sounded more optimum than a fourth go-around at rebuilding The U.

Miami hasn’t had a next-level quarterback since the 2004 season; D’Eriq King’s addition can’t be understated.

ALL THESE RECENT MOVES, NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP

One year in Diaz just might’ve gotten the worst out of the way—courtesy of the type of humiliating debut that forces fast change. Even the most-stubborn leader couldn’t double-down on what he just witnessed out the gate; his hand immediately forced.

When one can officially get past the Florida International, Duke and Louisiana Tech debacles—it’s easier to fall into that blessing-in-disguise place, as the past six weeks Diaz has been aces with literally every move he’s made; all made possible by the horrific nature in how year one played out.

Going back to the final week of last December, the following has occurred for Miami, just after that post-season shutout in Shreveport was in the books:

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos was “relieved of his duties”; the news leaking before the the bowl game even kicked off. 9-4 and winning out arguably would’ve staved off that execution, but it’d have been a ruse of a season, as Enos was off-brand and not wired for the Miami job from the get-go. This had to be done and it was; the former Alabama assistant not even lasting a full calendar year at UM.

A byproduct of this move also sent offensive line coach Butch Barry packing, as well—Barry with ties to Enos from their Central Michigan days, and equally as useless, as the only thing worse than Miami’s quarterbacks room in 2019 was anything having to do with an offensive line looked as terrible in December as it did late August.

Any preconceived notions about what Diaz thought Miami’s offense could and should look like; shattered by Enos’ incompetence—to the point where the spread offense was finally welcomed at UM and a guy with a strong acumen for running it was hired in SMU’s Rhett Lashlee.

Losing seasons don’t often produce great hires, but Diaz appears to have landed a good one in Lashlee; whose stock went up even more the moment his presence helped Miami reel in Houston quarterback D’Eriq King as a one-year transfer—far and away the top Portal quarterback option this cycle.

In an off-season where it was reported the Hurricanes’ three gunslingers got lost in a THC-induced fog—the entire dynamic was flipped on its ear when UM landed King; to the point last year’s starter Jarren Williams bolted for the Portal, while N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell quietly became afterthoughts; No. 5 most-likely the back-up, while No. 18 will probably move to wide receiver for good.

While the mere mention of Martell will prompt chatter about Diaz’s off-season efforts in 2019 not yielding the intended efforts—if one is deluded to the point they see the move as nothing more than just “bringing on another quarterback”—opposed to the difference between an inexperienced kid with potential, versus a bonafide Heisman candidate; again, there’s no fixing stupid.

Hardly a stretch if one were to say Miami literally lost three games last season by way of the kicking game—Florida, North Carolina and Georgia Tech fast come to mind—leaving the name Bubba Baxa painfully carved into UM folklore; payback for all those years of trashing FSU kickers.

In a welcomed twist of fate, the same Jose Borregales who played a part in FIU upsetting Miami—he’s now a Hurricane and an immediate upgrade to one of UM’s most-troubled positions.Toss in the addition of Temple defensive end Quincy Roche as an immediate starter, as well as last year’s west coast transfers—Jaelan Phillips and Bubba Bolden—this Canes’ defense is primed to be a feisty bunch come fall.

Lots of early-year chatter about Alonzo Highsmith returning to his alma mater; a name that sounded ideal out the gate, but less feasible when picturing a 54-year old with eight years of NFL experience, working towards a GM-type role—taking a step back into an assistant athletic director-type position which has become en vogue in college football, as the head coaching position has become a bigger beast.

The knee-jerk go-to—present company included; a dig that neither Diaz or Miami’s admin wanted an alpha-type dog in the position. The notion was quickly dispelled when former safety Ed Reed was brought home in a Chief of Staff role.

The most-jaded were quick to call the Reed hire a PR move; funny, as this same contingent roasts UM for “not caring about football”. If the latter is true, why bother with making moves to appease the fan base—and when has Miami’s athletic department ever proven PR-savvy?

Fact remains, Reed is as much an alpha as Highsmith—and the the Hall of Fame safety wouldn’t have returned to his alma mater for a fluff role.

Yes, the 41-year old will answer to Diaz, per the org chart, but Reed already has a finger on the pulse—much like Highsmith did when discussing UM—especially in regards to the ongoing theme of a broken culture.

“It’s not a complicated thing,” Reed shared soon after his hiring. “These kids just have to humble themselves … The problem is the people they are surrounding themselves with are the people who are giving them the glory when they haven’t done anything … It’s about being with your teammates and having that accountability. I am not telling you not have fun, because we did have a lot if fun—but we did it together.”

Regarding the job itself, Reed will serve in an advisory role to Diaz—involved in strategic planning, quality control, operations, player evaluations and their development—as well as team building, student-athlete mentorship and recruiting, “as permissible under NCAA rules”.

It will take a few years to truly measure the effects of the Reed hire and the overall impact it has on the program, but in an era where lots of college football programs are adding a position like this—it’s hard to have anything negative to say about the return of an all-time Hurricanes great, as well as the de facto head coach of the 2001 national champs.

Wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield was poached by Penn State weeks back, which no one seemed to care about, as Miami’s wide receiving corps was a mixed bag in 2019 under the first-year position coach.The departure proved to be addition by subtraction for the Hurricanes when Diaz replaced him with veteran Rob Likens; last seen as Arizona State’s offensive coordinator—but with a strong resume across the board.

Likens pent seven years under Sonny Dykes; a proponent of the Air Raid offense, which fits the mold regarding the staff Diaz wanted to hire with this move to the spread.

Last, but hardly least—a National Signing Day surprise with the last-minute addition of 4-Star safety Avantae Williams to the 2020 class. Williams was a former Canes verbal commit a ways back and appeared to be a full-blown Gators lock, before a change of heart and arguably one of the biggest surprises that first Wednesday of February.

Williams was ultimately the highest-ranked player of the class; the top safety in the nation, according to some—and the move itself vaulted Miami from the 18th-ranked class, to 13th—as well as second-best in the ACC, only behind Clemson.The Canes also benefitted from a coaching change at Washington State, nabbing wide receiver Keyshawn Smith late in the process, after Mike Leach left the Cougars for Mississippi State—as well as picking up cornerback Isaiah Dunson days before NSD.

Combined with the addition of the top running backs in Dade and Broward County—Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton, respectively—as well as Tyler Van Dyke at quarterback, Jalen Rivers on the offensive line and a defensive line trio including Chantz Williams, Quentin Williams and Elijah Roberts—it was a hell of a haul, considering 6-7 and the way Miami faded down the stretch.

Anyone who thinks Ed Reed retuned to ‘The U’ in a lackey-type role—they simply don’t know Ed Reed.

SIX WEEKS OF CHANGE; THE REMEDY?

When taking full stock in the past month and a half, it’s impossible to not praise the efforts of Diaz and the moves that have been made. Things felt beyond dismal as 2019 came to a close—to the point where most already had an understandable stick-a-fork-in-2020 approach to year two and were counting the minutes until the newbie head coach would be fired.

Instead, a handful of moves that not only can breathe life into this stagnant program—but can serve as a true jumpstart that turns things around rather quickly.

The work still has to be done—and yes, there were some off-season moves made this time last year that didn’t translate to wins in fall—but again, even on-paper, the upgrades were nowhere near as impressive as this latest haul.

Also in Diaz’s and Miami’s favor; the softest schedule the Hurricanes have seen in a good while—unlike 2021, where the Hurricanes open the season against Alabama. This coming season, the opposite as Miami starts off against Temple, Wagner and University of Alabama-Birmingham—all at home.

WEAK 2020 SCHEDULE COMES AT IDEAL TIME

The first road trip takes place late September when Miami heads to East Lansing to take on a Michigan State program that’s been in a downward spiral for years—and just experienced head coaching change, which should play to the Hurricanes’ favor.

Pittsburgh at home, at Wake Forest a few days later and then North Carolina in Miami—a much easier out than facing the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. The Canes head to Virginia on Halloween; Charlottesville always a tough spot—but without Bryce Perkins under center, the Cavaliers are also in rebuild-mode on some level.

Florida State treks south early November, Miami heads to Virginia Tech the following week and close the regular season with a road trip to Georgia Tech, before taking on Duke in the home finale.

Hardly a Murder’s Row schedule for the Hurricanes—and one that affords some early breathing room for King, Lashlee, Justice and a revamped offensive line to get their footing—opposed to opening with a Florida (2019) or LSU (2018), getting tagged in the nose and struggling to regain composure.

September is a lifetime away and the next measuring stick for the Hurricanes will be spring football, where the goal is for Greentree to continue morphing back into that place that breeds competition and brings out the best in Miami kids.

From there, summertime—when coaches are hands-off, but players must take on a leadership role and guys need to self-motivate out of nothing more than a desire to be the best—which is what championship programs do.

FIND IDENTITY; EMULATE OTHERS WHO GET IT DONE

A prime example; Clemson players adopted an in-season, team-wide social media hiatus years back—and it remains in place as the Tigers continue chasing titles. Meanwhile, Miami has literally had to discipline players for social media conduct and has to many me-first guys posting individual moments of glory to the platforms from games the Hurricanes lost as a team.

Clemson is now 101-12 since adopting this player-driven social media policy—”We don’t have time to be on social media, to be honest—so it’s no big deal,” senior defensive end Austin Bryant shared a week prior to the 2018 season, where the Tigers went 15-0 and won the national title—so safe to say, it has merit.

Champions don’t become champions overnight, nor are high-caliber coaches all winners out the gate; Dabo Swinney having his struggles early on in Clemson, before finding his footing, creating his team’s identity and becoming the top-tier guy today.

The road to success is always paved with failures; but it’s those setback moments where growth occurs. Diaz and his Canes certainly stumbled out the gate—but many of those potholes got smoothed over this off-season, giving reason for optimism in 2020 and a logical, legitimate step forward year two for Miami’s homegrown head coach.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

February 13, 2020

HURRICANES ARE AGAIN OFF-SEASON KINGS; NOW WHAT?

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