October 30, 2023


We can debate the merits of winning-curing-all and losses-killing-perspective at another time.

For now, focus must remain on the Miami Hurricanes finding a way to survive the Virginia Cavaliers in overtime on Saturday afternoon at HardRock—extending the win-streak to two games and pushing UM to 6-2 on the season; “The U” now bowl eligible after wrapping 2022 a dismal 5-7.

Are there some glaring issues with this Miami team? Sure. Is this team getting better and passing both the smell and eye test a year two rolls on under Mario Cristobal, even if there have been some hiccups? Absolutely.

One would be remised to not acknowledge that quarterback Tyler Van Dyke has lost some serious mojo over the past couple week, which is concerning when looking at a November that includes road trips to North Carolina State, Florida State and Boston College—as well as a tough home showdown on Senior Day against a red hot Louisville team

Statistically topping many a best-of list weeks entering Georgia Tech weekend, Van Dyke had 11 touchdowns to one interception on the season after a fast 4-0 start— lauded for dissecting Texas A&M’s fast and talented SEC defense the second week of September, while taking care of business against lesser foes like the other Miami, Bethune-Cookman and Temple.

Over his past three starts, a seven-interception onslaught—one that put Miami in a hole against Georgia Tech, one that arguably cost the Canes against the turnover-less Tar Heels in Chapel Hill and this most-recent two-turnover outing forcing a late ground-and-pound rally against Virginia—where the offensive line and freshman running back Mark Fletcher were the difference late fourth quarter and in overtime, as nothing about Van Dyke’s quarterback play screamed game-winning-drive in regulation.

Earlier in the year, the rest of the ACC didn’t have film on Miami quarterbacks under first-year offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.

A month in, Van Dyke better-resembles Teddy KGB in the gambling film Rounders after Mike McDermott figured out his tell with the twisting of the Oreos—and defenses have since busted up Van Dyke all night.

“Bad judgment…”


How this is solved between Van Dyke, Dawson and Cristobal over the final month of the regular season—time will tell—but a focus on the bigger picture needs to remain at the forefront as year two comes to a close and Miami gets back in the lab this off-season, recruiting like beasts, pulling ballers from the portal and getting ready continue this quest of building a champion come 2024.

Perspective matters and if there’s one thing that’s become crystal clear year two of the Cristobal era; just how short memories are regarding the brutality of last season, expectations going into a new one and a lack of patience exuded once the Hurricanes experienced a modicum of early success this fall.

Miami couldn’t find the end zone last year in College Station and the week after a bye it saw Middle Tennessee State lay 45 points on the Canes in one of the most embarrassing losses in recent memory—which is saying a lot when taking into account a 2019 “home” loss to Florida International on the hallowed ground where the Orange Bowl once stood.

The fingerprints of former head coach Manny Diaz remained on the 2022 version of the Hurricanes; over-celebrating after taking an early third-quarter lead against Duke, before the Blue Devils tore off a 28-0 run rout the Canes, 45-21—as well as a lay-down 45-3 home loss to rival Florida State, with Van Dyke sidelined due to injury. Not to mention the full-blown no-show against a four-loss Pittsburgh squad that held a 35-3 lead going into the fourth quarter before Miami tacked on a few cheap scores.

Fans wanted to deny the culture problem that existed in Coral Gables, but when you had a roster full of country clubbers and betas who were accustomed to Diaz playing favorites, giving guys passes and not holding players accountable—the whole desire to be liked and accepted opposed to feared and respected—resulting in a divided locker room, half full of guys committed to doing the work while others mailed it, more concerned with their personal brands and social media feeds.

Outside of Miami being a non-factor in the college football landscape for the better part of two decades, the Hurricanes bottomed-out last fall when their third head coach in five seasons offered up the program’s third “rebuild” in seven years—yet sitting here in year two, there are knocks for eking out wins or falling in Chapel Hill to a good program in their fifth year with a seasoned head coach.

Anyone losing their minds in regards to a grind-it-out, find-a-way overtime win against Virginia this past weekend, again, head over to YouTube and pull up that abortion of an outing in Charlottesville last fall—one where the Canes eked out a four-overtime, 14-12 win,while a since-transferred back-up quarterback celebrated an ugly victory like Miami just captured a conference title.

Tyler Van Dyke had one interception on the season en route to 4-0, but has coughed up seven more over his past three starts.

This was never a national championship-caliber team in 2023, no matter how much the Crown Royal tried to convince you otherwise in the wake of closing out the Aggies—a game where Canes overcame deficits and diversity, or momentarily looked like old school Miami by way of a kick return, hard hits resulting in fumbles, or perfectly-thrown deep ball touchdowns.

Miami wasn’t even supposed to do too much in the Atlantic Coast Conference—picked fourth behind Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina—and with an obvious game-ending kneel-down to close out Georgia Tech, the Canes are 7-1 with a lone loss to the third-ranked Tar Heels, while knocking off second-ranked Clemson and prepping for a shot at top dog Florida State in two weeks, all underscoring how ahead of schedule Miami truly is in year two of this new regime.

Peruse social media or U-themed message boards and you’ll see a good chunk of fans who called for another 5-7 type season, while many agreed that 9-3 or 8-4 would be a huge step forward for the program in 2023 based on last year and the type of campaign that could build some solid momentum entering year three, which is oft where new head coaches take that step forward and make their marks.


Case in point, Mike Norvell and Florida State—the Seminoles’ head coach going 3-6 in 2020, 5-7 in 2021 and breaking through with a 10-3 campaign year three in Tallahassee—while FSU sits undefeated and fourth in the first College Football Playoffs ranking days back.

Everything has been coming up roses for Norvell—whose Noles are riding a 14-game win-streak—yet going back to year two, an 0-4 start, a home loss to Jacksonville State and a 6-12 overall record before a last-minute win over Diaz-led Miami in mid-November.

The situation was so brutal, fans were actively talking about the struggles Florida State would have buying out Norvell’s contract after being on the hook to pay Willie Taggart roughly $14-million to go away—yet those same fans have lionized their fourth-year head coach over the past 14 months—underscoring the earlier sentiment that winning seems to cure all, while losing can completely ruin perspective.

Shifting back to Miami, as those early wins started racking up under Cristobal, so did the entitlement. The same folks who called for another sub-par season and a home loss to Texas A&M—also the crowd banging the drum the hardest that the Canes were back after rolling the Aggies—only to call or Cristobal’s firing after mishandling the end of the Georgia Tech game.

Despite Cristobal taking over a program that was 29-24 since a rout of third-ranked Notre Dame in late 2017, some early momentum in 2023 got this thing back to a place where losses were not only unacceptable—close, hard-fought victory are now taken for granted and winning ugly is deemed embarrassing.

Until two weeks ago, Miami hadn’t beaten Clemson at home since joining the ACC in 2004—a 2-6 overall record against the semi-newly minted powerhouse—while the Canes’ last win over the Tigers was on the road in 2009. Since then, Dabo Swinney sent Al Golden packing with a 58-0 beatdown in 2015, while Mark Richt took a 38-3 loss in the Canes’ lone ACC Championship appearance in 2017.

Since then, Diaz got worked 42-17 on the road during the quirky 2020 pandemic season, while Cristobal fell 40-10 at Memorial Stadium last fall, before finally taking out Clemson in overtime weeks back, 28-20—in a game where Van Dyke was sidelined and true freshman Emory Williams made his first-ever collegiate start, with only 15 attempts in garbage time against lesser competition this fall.

Miami’s defense held Clemson to 31 rushing yards on 34 tries, stripped a clutch running back on the goal line on what was a sure touchdown, forced a quarterback fumble and interception, overcame a ten-point fourth quarter deficit and ended the game on 4th-and-Inches with a heads-up defensive play… only to have a contingent of this fan base pissing and moaning that Cristobal and Dawson didn’t let their true freshman quarterback sling it all over the yard with 1:26 remaining after getting the ball back at the Miami 28-yard line—content to play for overtime—where the Hurricanes prevailed.

Those of you who see the absurdity in this, thank you. Those of you who don’t, seek help. Seriously.

Miami finally beat Clemson. Sure, these Tigers are a run below the program that played in the national title four of out five seasons a few years back—but it’s still a championship-caliber program with winning DNA—and is anybody really shocked that the Cavaliers gave the Hurricanes fits this past weekend? If so, you haven’t paid attention to this rivalry over the years—many a dogfight against this program from Charlottesville.

Last year’s quadruple overtime shit-show. A doinked-off-the-post last second field goal gone awry for Miami in 2021. Scrappy home wins in years prior—19-14 in a reshuffled 2020 season and a 17-9 defensive slugfest in 2019—while all good vibes from a comeback against Florida State in 2018 went out the window with an ugly 16-13 road loss to Virginia in 2018.

Between 2006 and 2014, Virginia reinvented ways to break Miami’s heart six out of nine times—including that 48-0 massacre in 2007 in the Orange Bowl finale—and the series now 12-8 in the Hurricanes favor since joining the ACC in 2004, proving the Hoos are a program that has had the Canes’ number even in years where it made no logical sense… yet the shortsightedness continues as fans bitch about coaches again playing for overtime in a game where the go-to veteran quarterback was again spotty and Miami leaned on the ground game to win a second overtime game in as many weeks.

Incredible how long-time fans can understand this type history, as well as painfully understanding the irrelevance that’s surrounded this Miami program for decades—yet can’t fully appreciate grind-it-out wins and an improved program, overly-consumed by how the Georgia Tech game inexplicably unfolded, the fact that North Carolina saw its win-streak go to five games in the rivalry or that back-to-back games were closed out in a fashion coaches deemed appropriate based on personnel on the field, flow of the game and what gave the Canes the best odds to prevail.


Fact remains it is year two of the Cristobal era and when all is said and done, the “how” won’t matter—it will be that number, a dash and another number—where the final score won’t even matter; just the wins and losses total as another season loses and it’s back in the lab to build for year three.

Not kneeling, too many turnovers, overtime wins versus fourth quarter close-outs—the only narrative going into recruiting season will be the end game, not the nitty-gritty and how it all went down.

Championship caliber teams all have their moments of imperfection and their seasons of growth—especially early in their new regimes. Nobody just wakes up a winner day one. There are peaks and valley moments where growth occurs; a process where the small victories need to be celebrated along the way as they are fuel for programs that are learning how to close out games, how to show up prepared week in and week out and how to block out the type of outside noise and distractions that have plagued this program for years.

The snark seen online over the past few days from both fans and rivals, knocking these Hurricanes for “celebrating” needing overtime to beat a two-win Virginia team—as if these Cavaliers didn’t just take out North Carolina in Chapel Hill last weekend, ending a run at an undefeated season for Mack Brown in his second stint with the Tar Heels and their best start since the 1997 season.

Miami went on to beat that same Virginia team, hours before Georgia Tech capitalized on a stunned bunch and rallied late to upset North Carolina in Atlanta—the Yellow Jackets managing to beat both the Hurricanes and Tar Heels in a season where they also lost to Bowling Green.

Welcome to life as a mid-tier ACC football program, which is where Miami has pretty much hovered since joining the conference back in 2004—as evidenced by one Coastal Division title and zero ACC championships to show over the past two decades.

Miami’s playmaking defense kept Virginia in check long enough for the Canes’ offense to make plays down the stretch, forcing overtime.


A reminder for those struggling in the week-to-week emotions; Cristobal is looking to build the kind of program that doesn’t need to eke out wins over the likes of Georgia Tech and Virginia—while going toe-to-toe with a Florida State, Clemson or North Carolina annually—chasing conference titles and Playoffs berths… but that type of focus, consistency and dominance don’t happen overnight, or even by year two in most cases.

Mind-boggling to have to keep re-litigating the point, but one more time for the tone deaf or slow-to-accept-reality crowd—Cristobal was Miami’s sixth head coach over 17 seasons and third over a five-year span, at a university that legitimately hadn’t taken football seriously since dropping the ball on a contract renegotiation for Butch Davis in January 2001.

A decade-and-a-half with a liberal, football-averse university president—one who employed a kill-what-you-eat attitude towards athletics as the Hurricanes relied on dumping Nike for adidas or the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference to simply keep the lights on—which is how the Canes wound up with so many second- and third-choice, wrong-fit, not-ready-for-prime-time head coaches this century—yet fans are still gobsmacked this program isn’t already rolling heads early in the Cristobal era?

Same for any backsliding witnessed regarding Van Dyke, who came to Miami mildly-heralded in 2020 and is currently on his third offensive coordinator over those four seasons. Hardly a model of consistency and stability for a roster that still has some upperclassmen who have been around a handful of years.

A metamorphosis is underway in Coral Gables, people—and that’s all you need to focus right now. This program isn’t where it needs—or wants—to be, but the progress and steps forward are undeniable. The Hurricanes are no longer spinning their wheels and the lather, rinse, repeat process of past regimes trying to stumble their way to success—they’re no more.

An infrastructure is in place, an alpha dog head coach is at the helm, the right types of kids are being recruited and developed—as witnessed by playmaking true freshman like Rueben Bain, Francis Mauigoa, Ray Ray Joseph and Chris Johnson is showing just how bright the future looks. Not to mention transfer portal efforts that reeled in instant-impact cats like Ajay Allen, Jaden Davis, Matt Lee, Branson Dean, Francisco Maiugoa and Javion Cohen—as well as last year’s haul that included Akheem Mesidor, Daryl Porter, and Henry Parrish.

The blueprint has been laid and all that’s left is more experience, more bodies, more depth and more on-brand talent to load this roster so that Cristobal’s program can do something Miami’s last four head coaches didn’t do—win big and compete for titles, which is all that really matters at “The U”.

Christian 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Winning might not cure everything, but it certainly can shift a narrative overnight—immediately lightening a mood and renewing hope that had been lost.

The Miami Hurricanes survived the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night at HardRock—erasing a ten-point fourth quarter deficit and doing so without their starting quarterback, top two running backs and a key defensive end—stopping the bleeding of a two-game losing streak that would’ve gone nuclear had a 4-0 start morphed into 4-3 these past three weeks.

Emory Williams replaced injured Tyler Van Dyke—the true freshman with a mere 15 attempts on the year in mop-up duty—tasked with going at a Clemson defense and program that might be a rung lower than what it was during recent title runs, but remains talent-heavy with future NFL draft picks and still has championship DNA flowing though its veins.

Henry Parrish Jr. and Mark Fletcher were sidelined for the Canes, leaving Don Chaney Jr. and Ajay Allen to carry the load on the ground—while defensive end Akheem Mesidor hasn’t played since Miami’s early-season win over Texas A&M—that standard mid-season shorthanded-ness was a thing, but with backs to the wall, the Canes responded, which is a testament to this coaching staff halfway through year two.

Despite being short-handed, Miami overcame a 17-7 early fourth quarter deficit, tied the game 17-17 in regulation, held Clemson to a field goal on the opening possession—answering with a field goal of its own, forcing a second overtime—where the Canes found the end zone and capitalized on a horse-collar penalty on Williams, setting up a shorter two-point conversion attempt that Ajay Allen slammed home, before Miami stuffed a 3rd-and-Goal attempt up the middle, followed by Corey Flagg Jr. taking down Cade Klubnik one-on-one, as the Tigers’ quarterback attempted to run it in to convert.


Snakebitten the past couple of weeks, Miami turned it over nine times against Georgia Tech and North Carolina combined—a barrage of interceptions and poorly-time fumbles where the Canes couldn’t buy a bounce. Against Clemson, it proved to be the opposite as the Tigers turned it over three times—including an early Will Shipley goal line fumble similar to the one Parrish coughed-up in Chapel Hill last weekend.

A play later, a clever wrinkle from offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson—who played chess all night, creating wrinkles and impressively doing the most with the least—as a handoff to speedy wide receiver Brashard Smith went 80 yards to the house.

The play itself wound up giving Miami a 7-0 lead, putting the Canes on the right end of a 14-point swing—but the footnote to the story was receiver Jacolby George staying with the play and hustling all the way to the end zone as a blocker, which is what put him in position to leap on the loose ball when Smith was stripped just as he crossed the goal line.

Without that heads-up football and getting after it, the Tigers arguably recover, take over on the 20-yard line, it’s a 0-0 ball game and Clemson just got back what it lost on the other side of the field. Instead, a touchdown lead for Miami and a cushion for a stout defense, while this temporarily-tweaked offense gave Williams time to get acclimated to the game’s speed in his first-ever collegiate start.


This win over Clemson was the antithesis of a home loss to Georgia Tech the last time Miami hosted an ACC foe at HardRock.

In that memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons showdown, everything that could go wrong for the Hurricanes did—a phantom hold taking a touchdown off the board before Van Dyke served up and end zone interception the following play—as well as self-inflicted wounds where Miami twice settled for field goals in what turned out to be a three-point loss after disaster struck when the now-infamous game-ending knee was not taken.

Regardless of that boneheaded call—as well as the officials blowing getting the Chaney fumble wrong—Georgia Tech rose up defensively and kept the game within reach, to the point where a late touchdown was the difference in a game they were trailing 20-17 in the final minutes.

Had the the Canes played up to their capabilities against the Yellow Jackets—who were a 23-point underdog—that late score is a footnote, not the headline. Miami realistically should’ve been ahead by a healthy amount—one where a late score by the Ramblin’ Wreck wasn’t a game-winner.

Instead, Georgia Tech scrapped and clawed all night, finding ways to remain within spitting distance and it paid off. Two weeks later Miami was finally on the right side of things, in their hang-tough effort against Clemson—where the game was close enough in the fourth quarter to claw back from 17-7, trying the game up in regulation, sending it to over time, capitalizing on the Tigers’ porous red zone play and taking the contest.

Fans tend to look through games through the lens of the team they support, but for a moment it’s worth dissecting this from the enemy’s perspective.

Dabo Swinney and Clemson had zero business losing that football game to a reeling Miami program last night. Not with the powerhouse program that’s been built there over this past decade-plus.

The Canes were on the ropes with back-to-back losses, Mario Cristobal hadn’t won an ACC game at home since taking over at his alma mater last fall and cherry on top of this shit sundae, his star quarterback on the bench and the keys were tossed to a true freshman making his first-ever start.

The Tigers even theoretically caught a break with two of the Canes’ fiercest running backs on the bench—as Swinney’s bunch became synonymous with not being able to stop the run this season.

Even with all of that, Miami’s ground game still pounded out 211 yards, while Williams played game-manager, executed Dawson’s game plan, leaned on Van Dyke for in-game advice during the showdown and when the gloves were finally off and some big fourth quarter plays needed to be made—it was a back-up quarterback taking shots at big, bad Clemson.

Of course all of that was also made possible while first-year defensive coordinator Lance Guidry employed his 3-3-5 defense that gave Clemson’s offense fits, while unleashing defense end Rueben Bain for a monster performance—the freshman with eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.


Admittedly this isn’t Clemson of a few years back. A program that reached the national championship game four of five seasons—winning two rings (2016, 2018)—as well as claiming seven of the eight past ACC Championship games.

Between 2015 and 2022, the Tigers put together an ungodly 100-13 record and even saw their home win-streak reach 40 games—ending last fall with the season finale against South Carolina, which safely protected Miami’s unchallengeable 58-home game-win streak from 1985 through 1994.

Miami swarming defense forced Cade Klubnik into a fumble and an interception that kept Clemson at bay; the Canes forcing overtime.

The type of program that reached the upper echelon—to the point where 11-3 and an ACC Championship in 2022 were considered a “down year” as the Tigers didn’t make it to the College Football Playoffs—reminiscent of the attitude in Miami in the ’80s where it was a “national championship or bust” energy.

Still, a step back is a step back—albeit even a small one. Miami experienced it in the early 2000s, though the catalyst for backsliding was solely due to Butch Davis taking that NFL money in January 2001 when the University of Miami failed to get his contract done. Cleveland upped the ante after the Canes finished 11-1 with a Sugar Bowl rout of No. 7 Florida—Miami finishing No. 2 after getting hosed out of a shot to play No. 1 Oklahoma for the championship—and the keys were tossed to nice-guy offensive coordinator Larry Coker.

The difference between alpha dog beast of a recruiter and hands-off substitute teacher style of management—there was a reason Coker went 24-0 out the gate with Davis’ roster, winning the 2001 national title, getting hosed out of a second on a bad call in the Fiesta Bowl the following season and still reaching the Orange Bowl in an 11-2 “down year” in 2003.

Of course that 35-3 start was followed up by 25-12 over the next three years, which saw 9-3, 9-3 and 7-6 before Coker was shown the door.


Clemson’s slight step back isn’t rooted in the head honcho, as Swinney has been at the helm since taking over for Tommy Bowden halfway through the 2008 football season—but a revolving door of assistants when your name is not Nick Saban and your brand isn’t Alabama—that’s where the Tigers’ are feeling the pain.

Tuscaloosa started out a place where coaches made their name under Saban—Jim McElwain and Mike Locksley—as well as where other guys showed up to rehab theirs; names like Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Bill O’Brien, specifically.

Clemson has been a different journey; a place where much like their leader—it’s been home to the up-and-comers—outside of one move in 2012 that changed the game for Swinney, when he poached defensive guru Brent Venables from his long-time perch at Oklahoma for the same position and a lateral move.

Venables showed up in 2012, soon after the Tigers had gotten rolled 70-33 in the Orange Bowl by West Virginia. Three years later Clemson reached the national championship and spent the next five years in the thick of the hunt—even promoting from within when Tony Elliott was elevated from running backs and Jeff Scott from wide receivers—both taking over as co-offensive coordinators—which Scott held until 2020 when being tapped our the South Florida head coaching job, while Elliott lasted until 2022 when Virginia made him their new leader.

Even more concerning for Clemson, Venables leaving his perch after a decade—when the game of college head coaching musical chairs saw offensive guru Lincoln Riley bailing the Sooners for the Trojans and Oklahoma doubling back to the defensive coordinators that helped them capture the 2000 national title under Bob Stoops.

The tweak in formula saw Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn taking over a in co-defensive coordinator role last fall, while Brandon Streeter was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in 2022—a gig that lasted one season before Garrett Riley was tossed the keys this fall—Swinney going outside the norm and grabbing the TCU play-caller that had just reached the national championship game last season with the Horned Frogs.

Talent-wise, recruiting has remained on-brand, as well—though a rung below what Alabama has done under Saban, which Georgia and Kirby Smart have spent hundreds of millions of dollars working to replicate. The Tigers last five classes ranking 11th (2023), 10th (2022), 5th (2021), 3rd (2020) and 10th (2019)—which is more than enough to keep playing football at a high level in the ACC and chasing Playoffs berths.


All of that way-too-much Clemson backstory is shared by design; a reminder that Swinney still has a damn good football program—and Miami legitimately punched them in the mouth, going toe-to-toe with the Tigers all night—which should leave Canes fans with hope in regards to where this program is headed as this is only year two of the Cristobal era.

This is a Clemson program that blew Miami out of Memorial Stadium last fall—an evening where the phoney Swinney chose not to take a knee on 1st-and-Goal from the Canes one-yard line with :16 remaining and punching it in—as 40-10 looks better in the box score than 33-10, which Cristobal and these players certainly hadn’t forgotten.

Prior to that, a 42-17 beating in Death Valley during a reshuffled COVID-defined football season. The Canes also met the Tigers in 2017 after UM’s first Coastal Division title—rolled up 38-3—and two years prior, a 58-0 massacre in Miami that sent Al Golden to the unemployment line the next morning.

Clemson won the last four match-ups by a combined score of 178-30, while Miami looked like a junior varsity squad—and Swinney was loving every minute of it; mocking the Turnover Chain in a post-game celebration in the 2017 ACC Championship, while having no qualms about late scores and sticking it to a Miami program that used to run roughshod on others.

Miami brought the fight, which has been a calling card of this second-year team all season—even in two losses—and when comparing it to last year’s 5-7 run, it’s a night and day difference that unfortunately has gotten buried the past two weeks with fan frustration after the way the Georgia Tech game unfolded, as well as another turnover-defined evening in Chapel Hill last weekend.

A valiant comeback against Georgia Tech was lost in the shuffle when Miami didn’t close—resulting in a two-week downward spiral where everything was questioned. The fact the Canes completed the comeback against the Tigers; Cristobal, his staff and this team deserve to be judged on this latest milestone, while the past two weeks stay in the rearview—as Georgia Tech and North Carolina were defined by one massive coaching blunder and nine turnovers that saw two winnable games lost by a combined 13 points.

Maligned by Canes fans, linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. added this game-ending takedown to his highlight reel, ending the Tigers in 2OT.

Of course the next act defines this most-recent one and if Miami lays an egg against a Virginia team that just found a way to upset undefeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill—proof of letdown games after big wins as the Tar Heels just beat the Canes a week ago in their house—the textbook definition of one step forward and two steps back.

This win over Clemson absolutely felt like it could be a wheels-off moment for 2023; much like a mid-October home loss to Duke last fall—dropping Miami to 3-4 on the season and setting the stage for 2-3 down the stretch—including a 45-3 ass-kicking at the hands of Florida State.

The Canes puffed up early third quarter after two bang-bang scores put Miami up 21-17—only to watch the team not have the discipline, discernment and fortitude to handle Duke’s second act, as the Blue Devils outscored them 28-0 from that point on in the embarrassing 45-21 loss.

To go from what we saw last year to this type of line improvement on both sides of the ball—a ground attack that and some different alignments that allowed the Canes to rack up 211 yards against the Tigers—while Miami’s front seven held Clemson to 31 rushing yards; incomprehensible for a program that let Middle Tennessee State ring them up for 45 points and 507 total yards last September.


While there are no do-overs for October, Miami has a chance to build off this success over Clemson—taking care of business against Virginia at home, before traveling to North Carolina State on November 4th seeking the Canes first ACC road win of the season.

Should Cristobal’s rejuvenated program complete the mission, Miami is looking at 7-2 going into Tallahassee—where the Seminoles could easily be 9-0 after road trips to Wake Forest and Pittsburgh these next two weeks—night and day from the Canes limping into last year’s home showdown 4-4 after surviving a four-overtime, offensive-less abortion of a football game in Charlottesville, 14-12.

On a weekend where the Canes outlasted the Tigers, there stench of the Seminoles was still in the air as 5-Star defensive end Armondo Blount—who committed to Miami mid-September, a week after the upset of Texas A&M—backed off that pledge on the heels of back-to-back losses (and attending the loss to Georgia Tech), flipping to Florida State after taking in their home win over Duke on Saturday night.

A reminder that the Canes and Noles are always fighting over the country’s best talent, in-state supremacy and national relevancy—this season’s showdown already feeling saltier than it’s been in recent years as both programs are on the rise—Cristobal and staff looking to land a year two blow that could take some shine off of what Mike Norvell and his squad are accomplishing in year five of his regime.

Lots of football to be played between now and then, so the focus shifts to the Cavaliers and Wolfpack, while the Canes get back to work after notching a season-defining win over the Tigers—a moment worth celebrating, before it’s back to the grind and mission at hand—returning “The U” to prominence one big moment at a time.

Christian 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 withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

October 23, 2023


  Winning might not cure everything, but it certainly can shift a narrative overnight—immediately lightening a mood and renewing hope that had been lost. The Miami Hurricanes survived the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night at HardRock—erasing a ten-point fourth quarter deficit and doing so without their starting quarterback, top two running backs and a key […]

Original photo courtesy of Ainsley E. Fauth (TarHeelBlue.com)

The only remedy for a gut-wrenching loss to Georgia Tech would’ve been the Miami Hurricanes showing up huge in Chapel Hill.

Instead, North Carolina proved they were the bigger dog in this fight—beating Miami a fifth-straight time in year five under head coach Mack Brown—while second year leader Mario Cristobal and his Hurricanes now attempt another regrouping effort for the visiting Clemson Tigers next Saturday at HardRock.

What a difference eight days can make.

Miami went into last Saturday’s home black-out against Georgia Tech riding high with a 4-0 record and now sit at 4-2, with the reality of dropping a third straight unless it rebounds quickly for another home night game against a Tigers program that’s won six of the past eight showdowns, dating back to 2004.

For longtime fans, a return to those seven stages of grief as another Hurricanes season fails to go as planned—coping mechanisms galore once those first couple of blows are absorbed and losses are notched.


This past week saw supporters of “The U” hovered in the anger and bargaining stage—seething over the brain-dead play call that handed the Yellow Jackets a game that was won with a kneel-down—while attempting to rationalize that a bounce back in Chapel Hill could serve as a reset and wake-up call moment, ultimately resetting these Canes for the second half of this 2023 season.

Working it backwards, nobody expected Miami to undefeated this year—a program that’s only had one double-digit win season (2017) since joining the ACC—so get that first loss out of the way and, refocus and go make things right, as wins over North Carolina and Clemson would put the Georgia Tech upset in the rearview mirror for good.

Easier said than done, of course.

Vegas odds only had North Carolina a three-point favorite on Saturday night—a belief that these two ACC foes were evenly matched on paper—while ignoring the fact that Miami hadn’t beaten a Top 15 team on the road since knocking off No. 3 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg back in 2005.

As the game unfolded, it became crystal clear that these Tar Heels are further ahead in their journey under Brown and that Drake Maye is a total-package quarterback, while Tyler Van Dyke can be a stat-padder who puts up some good numbers, but when it’s all on the line late in a tight or crucial moment, that deer-in-headlights energy is prone to return. Especially these past two weeks as the Canes too a few steps back.

Going into Georgia Tech week, Van Dyke was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

288 yards, one touchdown and three unthinkable interceptions later against the Yellow Jackets—ESPN cameras caught the dead-eyed quarterback looking shell-shocked on the bench, before roommate, sidekick and go-to receiver Xavier Restrepo visibly lifted Van Dyke’s chin, knowing that cameras were panning the bench for a reaction.

The timing of Van Dyke’s gaffes were unforgivable; an end zone interception into triple coverage late second quarter (which at worst should’ve been a field goal), a late third quarter pick that gave the Yellow Jackets the ball on the Canes 26-yard line (where the punched it in for a score four plays later) and the third and most-egregious turnover, a drive-killing cough-up on 3rd-and-7 from the Georgia Tech 25-yard line, where the ball was a mile behind Jacolby George and returned to the Canes 20-yard line, resulting in a field goal after Van Dyke thankfully chased down the culprit and stopped him from reaching pay-dirt.

For all talk that a shit coaching call blew the Georgia Tech game killed this team’s mojo, Van Dyke’s body language and spaced-out vibes feel equally as detrimental as all early-season chatter about the quarterback being back to his 2021 self and putting 2022 behind him; the emotional regression over the past eight quarters is impossible to ignore and cause for concern, lest he post a big outing against Clemson this weekend.

Tyler Van Dyke threw one interception in Miami’s first four games and five over the past two losses.


Miami hung tough early against North Carolina, overcame a goal line fumble by Henry Parrish Jr. in the moment—though leaving seven points on the field loomed bigger as the game went in.

The Canes scrapped their way back to a 17-14 halftime lead, though it was gone just as quickly after the Tar Heels owned the early third quarter—driving 74 yards in four plays, capped by a 56-yard strike to Devontez Walker—his second of three haul-ins of the night.

The Canes started to move the ball on the ensuing possession before the defense quickly got it back, only to see Van Dyke cough up an interception that gave the Tar Heels the ball on the Miami 23-yard line. Three plays later a 33-yard hook up between Maye and Walker on a 3rd-and-20 where the Canes defense couldn’t get off the field, pushing the lead to 28-17.

Another three-and-out for the Canes, another lengthy scoring drive for the Tar Heels—63 yards on nine plays—including another massive conversion on 3rd-and-10 going for 30 yards and proving why North Carolina is one of the best third-down teams in the nation.

The Lance Guidry-led Miami defense gave up 508 yards on the night to a balanced attack—273 through the air, 235 on the ground—while the Canes secondary was generally lit up; superstars like safety Kam Kinchens even falling victim to getting burned, being out of position or not making plays. Same to be said for Oklahoma transfer Jaden Davis, who looked strong against Texas A&M but has faded in the weeks since.

On the other side of the ball, Miami’s offensive line no longer resembles the world-class unit it looked like earlier this year—resulting in Van Dyke not having the time or protection he saw in September where he surgically picked apart secondaries, while the running game hasn’t seen many big plays or bursts in weeks.

Parrish carried the load with 13 carries for 73 yards, while Don Chaney Jr. ran five times for 23 yards and Ajay Allen got 13 yards on two carries—Miami failing to reach the 100 yards mark with 91 on the night. Meanwhile, no sign of the speed Chris Johnson, while freshman sensation Mark Fletcher Jr. hasn’t seen the field the past two weeks due to a nagging foot injury.

An inconsistent offense, a defense making mental mistakes, a quarterback that’s lost its mojo, an offensive line that’s been brought back down to earth—as well as disappearing acts from players like Colbie Young—who looked ready to take a massive step forward earlier this year, but only had six receptions for 76 yards and no touchdowns the past two games; the Hurricanes are regressing at the wrong part of this football season.

In fairness to Miami, it handed a win to Georgia Tech on a silver platter and it lost to a North Carolina team that is probably looking at an 11-1 regular season and is on track to face Florida State in the ACC Championship game in December.

The Canes fell by 10 points on the road to a Tar Heels team that is no slouch—and despite a painful week being the national punchline for a loss to the Yellow Jackets, Miami brought the fight. North Carolina just proved to be the more skilled fighter. The better, more-experienced team simply played a cleaner game—zero turnovers to the Canes’ four—and the more consistently-coached program dominated the second half the football game, going on a 24-0 run at one point.


Lucky for Miami, another chance at redemption as Dabo Swinney and Clemson head to HardRock next Saturday night for another nationally televised showdown.

The two-loss Tigers are a far cry from what they’ve been over the past decade under Swinney—but they’re still loaded with talent and a win over Clemson would be a big shot in the arm for a Miami squad that faces Virginia and travels to North Carolina State in the coming weeks—a little mid-season rally potentially getting the Canes up to 7-2 before a road trip to Tallahassee if Miami can find a way to stop hemorrhaging, which starts with finding a way to get back into the win column.

Saturday marks Clemson’s first trip back to play Miami at HardRock since a Tigers-led, 58-0 beat-down in 2015.

Miami hasn’t beaten Clemson since a triple-overtime road game in 2005 and has never beaten the Tigers in South Florida since joining the ACC—blowing a halftime lead in 2004 before falling in overtime, falling again in overtime in 2009 when Clemson drove the field for a game-tying field goal in regulation and of course the 2015 massacre in South Florida, where Swinney sent Al Golden to the unemployment line after a 58-0 ass-kicking.

Clemson opened this season getting rolled-up 28-7 at Duke—before smacking around Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic. A week later, an overtime home loss to Florida State, before eking out wins over sub-par Syracuse and Wake Forest squads—the Tigers sitting at a similar crossroad as the Canes, also 4-2 with six to play.

Miami’s chances at playing for an ACC title are pretty much out the window barring a miracle—winning out, a well as needing teams like North Carolina, Florida State or Duke to stack up some losses—so all that’s left right now is the cliché sentiment of playing for pride and to prove that this team is everything these players and coaches proclaim that it is.

“This team is special,” Van Dyke shared post game. “We know what we’re capable of. We can’t fold.”

His head coach took a similar path, with the intent of regrouping and keeping the wheels on going into another big home game and redemption-type moment.

“The way our organization is built, there’s no time for self-pity, no time for negativity or pointing fingers or getting in a shell and balling up,” Cristobal shared. “It’s really addressing the things that we gotta get better at, and getting better. That’s it. That’s all we can be focused on.”

How all that coach-speak and robotic player rhetoric translates to the rest of this season, time will tell—but the bigger focus remains on the future and an acceptance that everything Cristobal and staff are doing here in year two is to build Miami into a contender again over time—as two decades of incompetence and irrelevancy don’t change overnight, no matter how tired fans are of both.

Yes, a fast start with a win over Texas A&M, as well as rolling the “other” Miami, Bethune-Cookman and Temple by a combined score of 127-17—it absolutely got the juices flowing and hope was alive—as Hurricanes fans have championship muscle memory and remember days where this dominant program was consistently winning titles, or was at least in the hunt for one year after year.

Two decades of eating shit and being a college football punchline—set up to fail year after year—it not only stings, it has fans losing their minds and getting too high after wins, too low after losses and taking out years worth of frustration and failed past regimes on whichever staff is currently trying to lead the next comeback.

Miami hadn’t seen 4-0 start since Mark Richt got this thing to 10-0 in 2017—before finishing 0-3, going 7-6 in 2018 and abruptly retiring after getting wrecked by Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. Three years of Manny Diaz followed—along with his dismal 21-15 record—and when that low-rent experiment failed, the Canes finally ponied up, paid big and brought in a proven head coach like Cristobal; now Miami’s third head coach in five seasons and sixth since 2006.

Beyond head coaching turnover, there is also the musical chairs game this program continues to play with coordinators—Van Dyke now in a comparable role to what Kyle Wright went through between 2003 and 2007.

Over that five-year span the can’t-miss, 5-Star quarterback from California not only had two head coaches in Larry Coker and Randy Shannon—he also had the misfortune of four different offensive coordinators over his five-year run; Rob Chudzinski, Dan Werner, Rich Olson (as well as new quarterbacks coach Todd Berry) and finally Patrick Nix—while Van Dyke landed Dawson this year, the bland Josh Gattis in 2022 and high-flying Rhett Lashlee in 2021.

And we wonder why quarterbacks regress, offenses aren’t consistent and player development has suspect at “The U” year after year…


Circling back to Brown, despite North Carolina owning Miami during his tenure—the Tar Heels were a dismal 7-6 his first season, 8-4 during the COVID-strapped 2020, 6-7 in 2021, 9-5 and Coastal Division champs in 2022—and are now 6-0 halfway through 2023; their best since 1997 during Brown’s first stint in Chapel Hill.

A similar slow start for Mike Norvell at Florida State as the Seminoles also sit at 6-0 in what is his fourth year in Tallahassee—and while fans may love what he’s doing right now, a quick look back at his first couple of year had the former Memphis head coach looking like a laughingstock—while Seminoles faithful were trying to figure out how the program could afford a buyout after the millions they’d just paid Willie Taggart to walk away in 2019.

Mike Norvell has turned FSU around, but his first season with the Noles saw him going 3-6 and taking a 52-10 beating via the Canes.

3-6 out the gate in 2020 during the shortened COVID season—including a 52-10 loss to Diaz and an average Canes team. Year two, a 5-7 run where Florida State finally beat Miami—ending a four-game losing streak to the Canes—but not before an 0-4 start and home loss to Jacksonville State had Norvell starting out 3-10 overall and sitting at 6-12 before a late-game comeback against the Canes that November.

By year three, a 10-3 season unfolded—albeit not beating the three ranked teams on their schedule (No. 22 Wake Forest, No. 14 North Carolina State and No. 4 Clemson)—and getting to face a 6-6 Oklahoma team in the Cheez-It Bowl. Still, the Noles blew out the rival Canes 45-3 and going back to last fall are now riding a 12-game win-streak under Norvell, who for a while didn’t look like he’d even survive year two.

Shifting to next week’s opponent, another head coach who finally got it together—but not before a strong learning curve.

Swinney’s run in Clemson started in 2008 when taking over for Tommy Bowden— fired mid-year during his tenth season—and far from a fan-favorite as his resume saw him coaching up wide receivers for the Tigers for five years, prior to six years with pretty much the same title at Alabama when the Crimson Tide were a run of the mill program.

Clemson’s new leader went 4-3 down the stretch followed by 9-5 his first year at the help in 2009, 6-7 -year two and 10-4 by year three—though the ACC Championship season still ended with a thud when West Virginia rang Clemson up to the tune of 70-33 in the Orange Bowl, which led to Swinney wisely tapping former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables to head east for year four, which is where the transition finally started.

Still, it took Clemson time to even play for a national title—which they did in Swinney’s seventh year, and lost—before winning their first natty (since 1981) his eighth season in 2016, before a second two years later.

Not the kind of stories ornery, pent-up Hurricanes fans want to hear—after literally not playing for anything meaningful since having a natty stolen in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl—but the facts are the facts and it’s been a long an arduous journey for a lot of programs that have been rebuilt and are just now, or recently, achieved the type of success Miami has been chasing.

Give it time. Patience. Trust the process. It’ll get there.

Not exactly chicken soup for the jaded soul as the Canes’ sixth head coach in 17 seasons looks to do what nobody has been able to do in Coral Gables since alpha-dog Butch Davis was brought home to do back in 1995; rebuild “The U” from the ground up.

While it’s tough to admit in the wake of back-to-back losses, Miami has undoubtedly taken a step forward year two under Cristobal—again, easier to admit at 5-1 if the Georgia Tech collapse never happened, but it did and this is where we’re at. Dawson and Guidry haven’t gotten things all figured out yet, but they’re first-year coordinators feeling out this roster, working with what they’ve got and trying to gel with Cristobal and this program six games into their inaugural seasons.

A harsh, obvious reminder to all that it’s a long way to the top when 5-7 was last year’s basement—a slew of hurdles between losing at home by double digits to Middle Tennessee State and dethroning undefeated conference foes further ahead in their rebuilds in Chapel Hill and Tallahassee.

As far as year two goes, every week is a new opportunity to regroup grow, teach, learn, correct mistakes and to figure out how to be better every next time this team takes the field—so as o now all eyes are set on some form of redemption against Clemson and ending a two-game losing stream—the same Tigers that beat the brakes off the Canes, 40-10 in Death Valley last year, despite what was thought of as a “down” 11-3 season for them, considering it was only their second three-loss season in eight years.


Back to the grind as hard work and growing from setback experiences is a must for a program trying to grind their way back to relevance. There’s no excuses or short cuts to circumvent that.

Yes, the transfer portal and this NIL world can help fast-track the old school type of five-year rebuild that took several organically-built recruiting classes to solve—but there still is no overnight fix; as proven by what the college football world is currently witnessing as media darling Colorado sits at 4-3 after a 3-0 start that was made to be a bigger deal than it really was.

How ol’ Deion Sanders and Colorado fare in the long run, time will tell, but proof that even a brash leader, a brand new roster—with an NCAA-most 68 new transfers—and some early success aren’t enough to rewrite the tried and true playbook of process and rebuilding the right way from the ground up.

Chemistry matters. So does teaching, learning, grinding and putting in those 10,000 hours it takes to master a skills set—be in the weight room, the film room or just the standard camaraderie that comes from teammates hanging, bonding and growing together over time.

All that chatter about the blood, sweat and tears that champions wax poetic about when standing on the podium when handed the trophy—that’s really how it all went down; the suffering and sacrificing that it took when you start at the bottom and wind up on top.

Georgia might not have necessary been basement dwellers when the program parted ways with Richt in favor of Kirby Smart back in 2016, but again—a six-year journey for Smart to take the program Richt had knocking on the door for 15 years an to get the Bulldogs their first national championship since 1980. As well as an administration that dumped low nine figures into football with Alabama as their blueprint and inspiration; their “Do More” campaign directly aimed at pushing a little bit harder across the board to become the next Crimson Tide.

Mark Richt handed Kirby Smart a Georgia program that was 49-17 the previous five years, but still went 8-5 year one.

Kirby went 8-5 year one—on the heels of Richt going 9-3, 10-3, 8-5, 12-2 and 10-4 his final five years in Athens—proving this was hardly a strip-it-down-to-the-studs rebuild for the Bulldogs.

By year two, 13-2 and a title game berth against Alabama, with a soul-crushing overtime loss. Close, but no cigar.

Back-to-back SEC Championship losses years three, four and six—twice to Alabama (2018, 2021), once to LSU (2019)—with a quirky 2020 pandemic season sandwiched in-between, with regular season losses to Alabama and Florida—before this current, dominant run started.

Now in year eight, Smart the Bulldogs are riding a 24-game win-streak and have supplanted Alabama as the odds-on favorite every year to win a title—while Georgia’s new head-honcho is the modern day Nick Saban and king of college football… until somebody eventually knocks him from the perch, as goes in this cyclical sport.

History has proven nobody stays on top forever in this ever-changing game. It’s simply a matter of timing, chemistry, winning recruiting battles and putting all the necessary pieces together—remaining obsessed with success and the ongoing chase of rings, making history and ultimate glory.

Christian 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 withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

October 16, 2023


The only remedy for a gut-wrenching loss to Georgia Tech would’ve been the Miami Hurricanes showing up huge in Chapel Hill. Instead, North Carolina proved they were the bigger dog in this fight—beating Miami a fifth-straight time in year five under head coach Mack Brown—while second year leader Mario Cristobal and his Hurricanes now attempt […]

October 13, 2023


Georgia Tech is in the rearview, undefeated North Carolina is on deck, the Miami Hurricanes are 4-1—one play from 5-0—and this program finds itself at another fork in the road as the reality of an avoidable setback now amplifies the heaviness of this weekend’s monumental showdown; one that will define the rest of this season and the narrative surrounding The U’s long-awaited comeback.

No need to re-litigate what took place at HardRock stadium last Saturday night as it’s been beaten into the ground by insiders, outsiders and every talking head in-between—pundits trying to be more outraged or clever than the big-mouthed clowns before them for the sake of clicks, shares and likes.

The only reminder worth focusing on here, fervent supporters of The U—the fact that it always was, always is and always will be the Miami Hurricanes against the world.

The hate us ’cause they ain’t us. Period, full stop.

Look no further than media coverage this week and the way this coaching staff has been opened mocked, while players photos and videos became memes and the entire college football world not only got their quick laugh at the Miami program—but the made it personal, malicious and showed their asses regarding just how much they loathe our Canes.

Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson certainly deserved legitimate criticism for a bone-headed coaching decision on Saturday night—and they got it—but the joy that outsiders are taking as they revel in the Canes’ pain and make UM this week’s punchline; let it serve as a wake-up call—these mouth-breathers not only fear any rise back to the top of the college football rankings, they remain visibly jealous of the Magic City having any legitimate sports success.


Skeptical of the call-out? Travel back six months at unpack the Miami Heat’s unexpected run and a magical NBA postseason—one where they knocked off #1 Milwaukee, #4 New York and #2 Boston en route to The Finals.

What would’ve been a feel-good story for literally any other underdog in the sport—the consensus was to trash the Heat and to root for anybody Miami was facing this postseason.

Got past the Bucks? No shot against the red-hot Knicks. Took out New York? No worries, Boston will dismantle those pretenders—ESPN even running a graphic on social media that the Heat only had a 3% chance to upend the Celtics.

By the time it was Miami and Denver in The Finals, everybody was all over the Nuggets and celebrated when the Heat were done in five.

Weeks later when the conversation shifted to Damian Lillard wanting out of Portland, with Miami his preferred destination—a full-blown sports-nerd meltdown about how out of line his demands were—to the point the Trailblazers front office took an anywhere-but-Miami approach and dragged ass for months on the trade.

After Lillard ultimately wound up in Milwaukee—moving the Bucks to the frontrunner to win it all in 2024—nobody gave a shit that the rich got richer. The haters were simply thrilled Miami didn’t land its big fish, while openly mocking the iconic Pat Riley for coming up short.


Shifting back to college football’s and last weekend’s biggest storyline—for the sake of argument let’s swap out Miami for Colorado, Cristobal for Deion Sanders, Don Chaney Jr. for Shedeur Sanders and let’s play out the media’s reaction to a phantom fumble that would cost the Buffs a game like this.

It’d be Hands Across America for the injustice and every sports commentator would ramble on about what a travesty it was to steal a game from those kids who clawed their way back from a 17-10 deficit to a 20-17 victory.

Why? Because the media knows no bounds when protecting and glorifying the ones they love while trashing and making a punchline out of the afterthoughts.

Getting a little too conspiracy theory for some of you? Grab your plutonium, let’s get the DeLorean up to 88 m.p.h. and take it back to October 31st, 2015 for Miami’s eight-lateral return at Duke to steal a last-minute victory in Durham—”steal” being the operative word for sports media members who were sideways over this play come Sunday.

USA Today went on to run an article with the headline, “The ACC Needs To Overturn Miami’s Crazy, Controversial Win Over Duke”, despite officials with a lengthy review of the play, confirming the call on the field and awarding the Canes a touchdown.

“The result needs to be vacated and Duke should be awarded the game that was stolen from them,” spewed For The Win columnist Chris Chase—selectively outraged because the Blue Devils were the victim—whereas when it’s the Hurricanes on the wrong end of things, it’s always been generally blown off, justified or even mocked.


Cleveland Gary and his phantom fumble at Notre Dame in 1988 which wound up costing Miami a shot at a national title. Who give a shit? Tony Rice is a feel-good story, baby. Go Irish.

The BCS screw-up in 2000 where computers sent Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles to the national championship against Oklahoma, despite Miami knocking off #1 Florida State and #2 Virginia Tech and ratting off nine solid wins after losing a close road game at #14 Washington early in the year—Saint Bobby in his post-Orange Bowl interview with some aw-shucks, maybe-the-Canes-would’ve-given-them-a-better-game-than-we-did old man ramblings.

Same to be said for a bogus pass interference call against Glenn Sharpe in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl—stealing a 34-game win-streak and bid for back-to-back national championships when a jaded asshole named Terry Porter decided to chuck a flag after fireworks lit up the Tempe skyline and Miami players rushed the field ripping open bags of Tostitos chips in celebratory fashion.

The jadedness is rooted in many things, but a huge part is South Floridians getting the best of both words and sports fans in other regions simply hating that.

Philadelphia, Cleveland, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minneapolis—what do these cities have to look forward to other than frigid cold winters, ungodly summertime heat and generally little else to rally around life-wise outside of their beloved pro sports franchises?

Same to be said for all these podunk southern college towns where football reigns supreme and their fans live to play the attendance game with Hurricanes fans.

I’ve lived in both Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Gainesville, Florida—one-horse towns where the RVs start pouring into town on Wednesday and the entire city shuts down by Friday if there’s a Saturday home game—as college football is literally the lifeblood of regions like this.

Contrast that to a large, diverse metropolitan city Miami; a tropical paradise with beaches, ideal weather, nightlife, culture and a countless options when it comes to figuring out how and where to spend one’s entertainment dollar on any given night.

Miami is an events-driven town, not a traditional sports city—which is why HardRock is a sea of empty aqua-colored seats when UM is playing a lesser foe, but packs it out when a big-ticket rival is in town—turning a college football game into a full-blown event.

This is precisely why The U’s marketing department rolled out black jerseys and an 8:00 p.m. ET kickoff for Georgia Tech last Saturday night—to give it a party vibe to lure in spectators who would’ve blown off a 12:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. kickoff for the average ACC foe.


There’s a scene in the Howard Stern movie Private Parts where his nemesis program director incredulous questions why the shock-jock’s ratings are so strong.

The answer to the query; the Stern supporters listened on average for 90 minutes per day, while the Stern hater tuned in for two-and-a-half hours—both groups citing the same reason for tuning in; they wanted to hear what he what he’d say next.

The same can be said for the Hurricanes; a large portion tuning in to see Miami win—while even more are there to see “The U” eat shit—as seeing a hated rival lose results in as big an endorphins rush as seeing one’s preferred team emerge victorious.

This is precisely the reason the media loves to force-feed the “Is Miami back?” narrative early in any season the Hurricanes have an undefeated September and win a few games. The haters will clap back and share the articles with vitriol and double down on the effort weeks later when Miami finally stumbles—the media getting a two-for-on and the clicks they desire, as UM always moves the needle one way or another.

The biggest problem with irrelevance surrounding this Miami program these past several years is the indifference that .500 type seasons breed—as the only thing worse than being hated is being ignored.

The Hurricanes’ best years took place when Miami fielded talented teams that rolled heads, much to the chagrin of the haters—and UM had been flying under the radar a bit this year, as ESPN and others have focused on their energy on the Colonel Sanders’ narrative out in Boulder.

Without that, there’d have been a lot more “back” chatter after Miami’s convincing win over Texas A&M—which was no fluke considering how the Aggies have looked since taking their lumps in South Florida; beating Auburn and Arkansas, while conservative play calling saw them falling by six against Alabama last weekend.

The way the Canes lost to the Yellow Jackets—Miami was reminded of everyone’s true colors and just how this program is loathed nationally. The joy the critics have taken in knocking these Canes and leaving them for dead—in a game that was literally won with a knee-down—should serve as fuel for Cristobal and staff as Miami prepares for a monster road game at North Carolina on Saturday night.


Don the black cap, accept the role of villain and bring on the hate—knowing everybody wants to see you lose, so they can call the Canes a pretender, the Aggies’ loss a fluke and can point to a stupid personnel decision derailing the entire season for a fragile team; one that coaches “lost” when not kneeling out the clock.

Outsiders work overtime trying to pour gas on this fire, instead of water. Talking heads and click-bait commentators rambling on about breached trust and how the locker room will never get over this—yahoos from across the country with no insight to the inner workings of Miami football or with any real clue how these players and coaches have been dealing with Saturday night’s setback.

Miami has a big chance this weekend to flip the script in Chapel Hill—a place the Canes have only won three times (2011, 2013, 2017) since joining the ACC back in 2004—and if this coaching staff has gotten these kids to bounce back from last weekend’s self-inflicted wound, this could be a net positive in the long run.

There’s no denying that Miami looked lethargic against Georgia Tech, while Tyler Van Dyke was a deer in headlights—locking onto go-to receiver Xavier Restrepo—while not going through his progressions and forcing balls into double- or triple-coverage.

Conversely, the Canes’ offensive line wasn’t the dominant force it was in past games, the ground game didn’t break any big runs and UM’s defense has a bad taste in its mouth from getting burnt on that final drive.

The compare contrast game between Miami teams of old and present day is a bit played out, but its worth mentioning the Hurricanes with a disastrous late season loss at Syracuse in 1998—where a win puts Miami in the Orange Bowl against the hated Florida Gators.

Instead, the Canes were rolled up 66-13 by the Orangemen—and there’s a great clip on “The U: Reloaded”—a documentary by former UM running back Najeh Davenport—who played in that ill-fated game.

Former receiver Reggie Wayne explains how coach Curtis Johnson brought all of his wideouts back onto the field to watch Syracuse’s celebration—the standard remember-this-and-know-this-feeling life lesson for a foundational class of difference-makers who would start the return to prominence.

The more-important footnote to this story; the fact that Miami had #2 UCLA on deck the week after Syracuse—a game that for all intents and purposes it’s not far-fetched to say the Hurricanes arguably wouldn’t have won if they’d beaten the Orangemen a week prior, as the fuel and drive to pull off that upset came from a week of stewing and the embarrassment that resulted from getting their asses handed to them in what was the unofficial Big East Championship game.

Then-head coach Butch Davis famously explained Miami’s pre-Bruins week in the December 14th, 1998 issue of Sports Illustrated—citing the 1992 NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Dallas when Davis was coaching the Cowboys’ defense under Jimmy Johnson.

His message to the team; Miami wasn’t going to stop UCLA and all their superstars—but by staying on the field and generally wearing the Bruins down, the Hurricanes could win the football game.

“The Niners were a machine against us, ran up all kinds of yardage, punted once the entire game—but we hung in there and beat them,” Davis recalled when reliving the 30-20 victory en route to Dallas rolling Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII.

Miami and North Carolina in 2023 bears no resemblance to a game played 25 years ago at the Orange Bowl, outside the fact that pain and embarrassment remain timeless motivators and these Hurricanes are feeling the sting on a national level after that final half minute against the Yellow Jackets.


The only unknown entering this weekend; how does it translate? Past Miami teams—as recently as last year—packed it in after faced with adversity, embarrassment or setback; a loss to Middle Tennessee State putting a fork in the 2022 season.

Is this team different? Are guys really buying into what Cristobal, Dawson and new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry are selling? If so, the misstep against Georgia Tech will have been forgiven and Miami will show up with a chip on its shoulder this weekend—ready to throat-punch a North Carolina program that’s on a four-game win-streak against the Canes.

An unexpected make-or-break moment in a game that should’ve been a gimme en route to 5-0 until the unthinkable happened—it needs to result in a rallying cry, pulling within to lean on each other and that us-against-the-world fuel that has always driven this program—as anything less lets the bad guys win and creates the kind of doubt that is the difference between all or nothing.

Christian 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.comwhere 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

The Miami Hurricanes are 3-0 after hitting the ground running to start the 2023 football season.

Unlike other seasons in recent memory, “The U” is truly passing the smell test and actually looks the part year two under head coach Mario Cristobal—who realized halfway through year one that a soft roster of broken-down betas and resolve-lacking quitters were not going to put in that foundational work to start building a championship-caliber program.

As a result, the handful of alpha dogs on board doubled-down and got back to business, while the weak-willed took their ball, put in their transfer papers and took their talents elsewhere—much to the chagrin or nobody.

A season-opener at HardRock on a Friday night against Miami of Ohio weeks back ended any speculation as to what kind of team Cristobal would field in year two.

Critics were fast with their edgy “upset alert” picks—pointing g back to last year’s home loss against Middle Tennessee State as an easy dig against a once-proud program that had gone off course over the past couple of decades.

The Redhawks and their little lippy, sound bite-delivering quarterback dropped his one-liner about who would be “the real Miami” when the clock hit 0:00 and thankfully the Hurricanes showed up ready for business against the feisty little MAC program; 243 yards passing, 250 on the ground and a definitive 38-3 victory while holding the “other” Miami to a measly 215 total yards.

Tyler Van Dyke looked the part—healthy and back under center—while the Canes’ offensive line was a revamped forced, a bevy of running backs made their mark and the receiving corps looked reborn. As did a swarming defense that still has a few holes, but is playing with enough passion and purpose that will help make up for any shortcomings.

There was also that sigh of relief and necessary exhale after seeing Shannon Dawson and Lance Guidry making their debuts as first-year offensive and defensive coordinators for Miami.

Sending the inept Josh Gattis packing and feeling no love lost when Kevin Steele was poached by Alabama—addition by subtraction was only half the battle. Cristobal hitting on their replacements was the bigger piece of that puzzle and the play-calling and preparation by both new coaches and their improved units—the change was palpable and the year one to year two growth looked undeniable.

Of course, the other Miami was the appetizer and the main course was a rematch against Texas A&M in another one of those early season-defining games that would set a precedent.


A win against the Aggies wouldn’t ensure success in 2023 anymore than last year’s loss in College Station had to dictate how 2022 would play out—but one would be remised to admit Miami never bounced back after falling 17-9 on the road last fall.

The offense went into a shell, the Canes couldn’t score in the redzone and a winnable game slipped away, which resulted in lost faith and hope going into a bye week—before a half-assed effort two weeks later against Middle Tennessee State; a few Miami players admitting post-game they weren’t ready for the Blue Raiders and felt they were good enough to go through the motions against a lesser program.

Tyler Van Dyke has thrown for 822 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in three games this season.

Miami looked to bounce back against a North Carolina program that’s had their number—but the comeback fell short, 27-24—because that’s what a losing mindset does; it reinvents ways to lose and causes teams to step down instead of up.

Weeks later, a slow start against Duke before getting big-headed after grabbing an early third quarter lead—taking the foot off the gas and unraveling defensively—before the Blue Devils put up the game’s final 24 points in an embarrassing 45-21 loss.

It was lather, rinse repeat from that point on.

Eke out an ugly win over Virginia. Get rolled at home by Florida State. Show up defensively at Georgia Tech. Forget how to stop opposing offenses against Clemson and Pittsburgh.

By the time 5-7 was officially in the books, it would’ve been hard-pressed to find a Miami fan who actually clamored for a sixth win for bowl eligibility as nothing about last year’s Hurricanes team was going to soak up those post-season practices and set a tone for 2023.

Put this bitch out to pasture; 2022 was a wrap.

Miami wasn’t even out of the month of November before the rats start abandoning the ship, as 24 player transferred out—some by choice, while others were “encouraged” to take their talents elsewhere.

From there, it was out with the old and in with the new. Miami pulled in the 15th-best portal class with 11 new players this season—and those instant-impact upgrades are paying dividends one month in, as are a handful of hit-the-ground running true freshman.


All that to say, probably a good time to give the disclaimer that no matter what a build-’em-up-to-knock-’em-down media tries to sell, the Miami Hurricanes are nowhere near “back”—and won’t be—until competing annually for conference and national championships.

A dominant win over a loaded, talent-heavy SEC roster like the one Texas A&M boasts—that simply put Miami on a good early track and set a tone that carried over to last week’s clean, concise, all-business approach in doing what it was supposed to against Bethune Cookman.

Score fast and early, finish drives, eliminate penalties, stay healthy and sit the first stringers after the opening drive of the second half—getting back-ups valuable playing time, with an on-to-the-next energy after proving there was no Aggies hangover or lethargy when playing to a virtually empty stadium on a rainy Thursday night against the Wildcats.

Next up; a road trip to Temple and Miami’s first road game of the season, before a bye week and opening Atlantic Coast Conference play at home against Georgia Tech the first week of October.

All that win over Texas A&M did was keep Miami focused and hopefully undefeated before a season-defining road trip to Chapel Hill on October 14th, where the Canes will look for their fourth-ever win against the Tar Heels since joining the ACC.

Kenan Memorial Stadium has been a house of horrors for Miami these past two decades; ever-since Larry Coker and the third-ranked Hurricanes were upended in 2004 on a last-minute field goal, 31-28.

Randy Shannon couldn’t get out of the shadow of former mentor Butch Davis, losing on the road and at home three times in a row before his lone win at home in 2010 months before he was sent packing.

Al Golden was able to steal a couple road wins during his tenure (2011, 2013), while Mark Richt and the lucky-bounce Canes held on for a late win in 2017; one of many games that could’ve broken either way during that unexpected 10-0 start.

Hanging on against the likes of the Tar Heels, Yellow Jackets, Seminoles and Orange that season; it got the Hurricanes to 7-0 which resulted in back-to-back, prime time home games against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame, where Miami rolled and was hot shit for a few minutes—which wound up sparking some all of the undeserved “back” talk, which ended soon as it started up.

After a Senior Day win over Virginia, Miami rolled up to four-win Pittsburgh and laid an egg before getting clobbered by Clemson in the ACC Championship—which set up a consolation-prize Orange Bowl against a Wisconsin squad that outlasted the Canes in their own backyard.

The 0-3 finish dampened what felt like a promising season and from that 10-0 start through Diaz’s final game in 2021—Miami amassed a 28-24 record and is now on its third head coach over a five-year span—Richt going 7-9 down the stretch, while Diaz went 21-15 over his three-year run.

The focus on how bad it got; a reminder why 2022 played out as it did—and why those who felt all the “culture” chatter was a cop-out are now seeing first-hand what it’s like when a program is rebuild from the ground on up.

Cristobal obviously came in from Oregon hoping for some cosmetic changes to his alma mater, but under further inspection he fast realized it would take stripping Miami down to the studs and foundation for a full-blown renovation.

Hard to believe how bad it actually got; Miami a different program this fall, opposed to the frauds rolled by MTSU.

Many pointed to Southern Cal and a fast turnaround for Lincoln Riley, which had the opportunity to be turnkey as he is his own play caller and brought both his own high-octane offense and Heisman-worthy quarterback with him to Troy—all of which allowed him to pull the Biletnikoff-winning wide receiver out of the portal—making for a hell of a sales pitch to a slew of other transfers and a solid inaugural season.

Cristobal wasn’t afforded that same instant-fix luxury at Miami as culture has been embedded in this program’s DNA since the ’80s. When the culture is shit, the Canes are an utter disaster—but when the program top-to-bottom is on the same page, you see what you’re seeing early this season and have authentic reasons to believe winds of change are blowing in Coral Gables.


A quote from Dawson is blowing up on social media this week as the first-year coordinator’s late-fourth quarter back-and-forth on 3rd-and-8 is making the rounds.

Miami led 41-33 with 4:51 remaining and after a Henry Parrish run netted 13 yards on first down, the back was stuffed for three on the subsequent fresh set of downs. Van Dyke quickly found Xavier Restrepo for a five-yard gain, setting up a third-and-long.

According to The Atlantic article by friend-of-the-program Bruce Feldman, Cristobal let Dawson know he didn’t believe Miami would be able to run the clock out, to which the fiery coordinator dropped a line that will probably make its way into The U: Part III should that day ever come.

“Run the clock out? I’m trying to end this motherf**ker right here. If they match-up. we’re gonna throw the vertical,” Dawson retorted.

The response to the aggressiveness was understandably favorable, as the new coordinator delivered one final message as the offense took the field.

“We gotta go score again. We can’t put all the pressure on the field. We gotta help them out and give them a comfortable lead.”

One throw, reception and 64-scamper later, Van Dyke found Jacolby George in one-on-one coverage—the receiver bouncing back from his earlier muffed punt to haul in his third touchdown reception of the day—spinning off some lazy A&M tackles and scampering for the go-for-the-throat score and “comfortable” 15-point lead with 2:37 remaining.

The Aggies drove 65 yards over 14 plays, but the comeback was thwarted on 4th-and-Goal from the 10-yard line when Te’Cory Couch picked off Conner Weigman, setting up victory formation for the Canes.

Skeptics will say that it’s too early to believe, while others are simply too burned by two decades of trash football in Coral Gables to let themselves feel anything other than doubt—even when there are enough moving parts, actions and behaviors that should have even the harshest critic considering letting their guard down.

Three games in, a case can be made regarding the brand of football Miami is playing, as well as the energy and attitude surrounding this program.

A fully-revamped offensive line; the perfect mix of transfers, newbies and a few hold over veterans has this unit looking as purposeful as any Canes unit over the past couple of decades—while the result of this type of precedent being put on the line—it’d obviously paying dividends in giving Van Dyke time to dissect offenses, while every running back on Miami’s roster has been absolutely feasting when given their moment in the sun.

The energy has also turned around a receiving room that looked like a liability last year.

Outside of Restrepo being healthy, and George looking the part—Colbie Young and Isaiah Horton are breaking out, while Brashard Smith is being put in position to succeed as both a wide out and returner—breaking off a 98-yard kick return early in the third quarter against the Aggies.

Resolve is also another culture-related piece of the puzzle missing last year, but front and center year two of this new regime.


Compare and contrast the adversity last fall when miscues defined Miami’s first quarter against Middle Tennessee State, versus how it handled some early rough-sledding against Texas A&M weeks back.

Van Dyke’s first pass from scrimmage was intercepted by the Blue Raiders, resulting in a field goal—and his next snap saw him throwing a pick-six and the Canes fumbled four plays into their next drive.

Miami’s defense folded on back-to-back touchdown drives and a few minutes into the second quarter the Canes were in a 24-3 hole—never getting closer than 14 points for the duration of the contest.

Any proof that Miami was a fragile, undisciplined, lost and broke program—that was sussed out by the time 45-31 was in the books and a glorified high school from Mufreesboro, Tennessee took selfies and team photos all over HardRock.

Fast forward a year and it’s another crack at a revamped Texas A&M team—with an even deeper, more-talented roster—as well as offensive guru Bobby Petrino in the booth and expected to pick apart Guidry’s new defense.

Miami opens with a three-and-out and sees its brand-new punter stuffed—the Aggies taking over on the Canes’ 15-yard line and hitting pay dirt three plays later.

Facing a 3rd-and-10 a drive later, a holding call keeps aTm’s drive alive and six plays later, a 24-yard field goal makes it a 10-0 deficit.

The Canes respond with a clean, seven play, 75-yard possession—Van Dyke spreading it around to three receivers—highlighted by a 48-yard connection with Restrepo and finding Young for the score, making it a ball game.

Trailing 10-7, Miami stuffs Texas A&M on a 3rd-and-11 only to see George muff the punt on the Canes’ on nine-yard line. Two plays later, the Aggies go back up 17-7 and there’s the sense that UM is going to fold—the moment too big and the adversity too much to overcome.

Miami was all business in dismantling Miami (OH) and Bethune-Cookman by a combined score of 86-10.

Instead, a five-play, 75-yard drive—Van Dyke hooking up with Horton for the 52-yard score and it’s 17-14.

Both sides missed late second quarter field goals, but in a yet-discussed, balls-on-the-line moment with Dawson—Miami took over possession with :44 remaining and went to work.

After years of seeing the Canes run out, or mismanage the clock just before the half—a methodical, well-crafted, six-play, 75-yard drive.

Parrish runs for 18, Van Dyke to Young for a 32-yard gain—and then to Restrepo for a 19-yard pick-up—before the o-line bought the quarterback time to scramble, where he found George open in the back of the end zone.

A first half that absolutely almost got away from Miami saw the Canes leading 21-17 at the half, before holding the Aggies to a field goal to start the third. Momentum slowly shifting in a 21-20 ball game—Smith housed the kickoff and Miami was immediately back in control.

Texas A&M felt the heat, a receiver bit the dust and Kam Kinchens reeled in an interception—Weigman’s first of his career—returning it 28 yards and setting up a Miami field goal, a 31-20 advantage for the good guys.

The Aggies pulled to 31-26 and after a Canes’ punt, the pressure was back on Miami’s defense to respond. In poetic fashion on 3rd-and-1, Oklahoma transfer Jaden Davis got a hat on the ball and removed it from Amari Daniels, which Kinchens hopped on it as the quarter expired.

“Four Fingers” went up as the final quarter was set to start—as always at HardRock, thought it’s been meaningless since the glory days at the Orange Bowl.

Instead, new-look Miami capitalized on the field position and found the end zone five plays later and took a 41-26 lead after a field goal.

The Aggies made it 41-33 after a spirited drive, where the road team woke up and their 5-Star talented started playing up to their potential—but it was met with 3rd-and-8 and a culture-shifting team statement from a revamped staff that wanted to end that motherf**ker right there.

Game, set, match—and detailed account why buying into Miami early this 2023 season isn’t fool’s gold.

Lots of football left to play, but this fan base can finally let its guard down that things absolutely look and feel different three weeks into Cristobal’s second season—and that in itself is reason to believe.

Christian 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

September 18, 2023


Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. The Miami Hurricanes lost another late-game heartbreaker to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Despite dealing with this reality and reading a similar headline countless times since the University of Miami joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004—a whopping five head coaches ago—a disgruntled fan base remains unable to wrap their collective heads around two decades of irrelevance and incompetence that have defined “The U”.

In defense of long-time supporters of this one great program—yes, a 2-3 record five games into the Mario Cristobal era absolutely stings.

No, Miami shouldn’t have lost to a glorified high school from Murfreesboro, Tennessee a few weeks back.

Yes, a home win over the Tar Heels was absolutely within reach and squandered away via a handful of boneheaded plays.

No, these coaches didn’t singularly piss away this football game—and yes, lambasting the staff weekly in knee-jerk fashion year one of their tenure is rather ridiculous considering this program has been a dumpster fire for almost two decades.

While these treks down a not-so-memorable Hurricanes Lane feel repetitive and burn like gasoline on an open wound, too many are still spitting nails while not letting the numbers, or hard-to-digest facts penetrate their thick and stubborn skulls.

For those of you still stuck in the 80’s, early 90’s or even the rebuilt early 00’s—knee-deep in what was, instead of what-is—a few greatest misses regarding the past two decades of Hurricanes football for the delinquents in the back.

Miami entered this football season 118-85 since getting crushed 40-3 by LSU in the 2005 Peach Bowl. When that number is divided by 16 seasons, the Hurricanes have averaged 7-5 every year since—while only reaching double-digit wins once since the 2003 season.

Cristobal is now UM third head coach in five seasons and sixth since Larry Coker was sent packing after going 7-6 in 2006—Miami’s worst season since 1997—Coker slowly bleeding out the powerhouse Butch Davis handed over to him in 2001.

Regarding the lack of balance and inconsistency moving the football, the Hurricanes are also on their third different offensive coordinator and system in four seasons.

Add it all up and it’s hardly a model of stability or consistency in Coral Gables since that last national championship season.


Equally as bad, a series of low-rent, poorly-vetted, cheap hires—including Randy Shannon and Al Golden back to back—pissing away nine rebuilding years at Miami. An on-fumes, big name alum was handed the keys in 2016—a clean resume with 15 close-but-no-cigar seasons at an SEC power that chewed him up and spit him out.

Mark Richt dazzled with his 10-0 start and upset of third-ranked Notre Dame in 2017, while his behind-the-scenes efforts regarding UM’s football infrastructure definitely put things in motion. But his miracle little “Cardiac Canes” run in year two was a house of cards, built on a few last-second, miracle wins that would’ve had Miami at .500 if everything that needed go right, didn’t.

The Canes were fast-exposed after a regular season-ending loss to a four-win Pittsburgh squad, a no-show in Miami’s first ACC title game appearance—a five-touchdown ass-beating handed out by Clemson—followed by a double-digit, fade-late showing against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

Given a mulligan and No. 8 ranking to start the 2018 season, Richt’s Canes were wrecked by No. 25 LSU in the opener, smacked around a few nobodies over the next month and then lost four in a row—barely eking out bowl eligibility and getting a low-rent rematch against the five-loss Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, with an even uglier result than the NY6 showdown a year prior.

Exit Richt, enter Manny Diaz—after a rushed, lazy “search” process—which ended 21-15 and the second straight do-over after a three-year run. Diaz managed to lose to a commuter school year one, face-planting against a former UM head coach (Davis) and a rag-tag Florida International commuter college, followed by a double-digit loss at Duke and a bowl shutout at the hands of Louisiana Tech.

For those quick to dismiss the notion of “culture” issues inside UM’s walls—a reminder of a recent report from former players, that teammates would hype up minor injuries to skip practice with no fear of losing their jobs.

Story continued that Diaz was quick to let things slide—everything from minor team rules violations, to in-game penalties and missed tackles. Unless it was drug-related where the university got involved, the head coach was content sweeping the rest under the rug, in effort to be a a liked and accepted, friend-of-the-players’ coach—opposed to a feared and respected, alpha-male leader of men.

These weak and limp beta-style character traits defined the program and fueled the broken culture narrative, as the rookie head coach was under immense pressure to win and feared losing his most-talented players to the transfer portal, or NFL Draft.

Miami is less than three years removed from an FIU upset where its quarterback Jarren Williams missed curfew, but still started.

Then-starting quarterback Jarren Williams even broke curfew the night before the FIU debacle, yet was still allowed to start, as Diaz had created a consequence-free environment—one where players feared nothing and scoffed at rules, regulations or repercussions for their individual actions.

For lack of a better saying, the inmates were running the asylum as recently as this time last year—yet Miami fan’s still can’t wrap the their heads around a lethargic effort, or inability to close out football games?

All of these aforementioned events happened less than three years ago—with Diaz at the helm the next two seasons, which included last fall’s 2-4 start and an embarrassing November loss that ultimately ran him out of a job after the 2021 season—yet so many remain bewildered that five games into the Cristobal era, years of a cancerous ways are yet to be flushed from the system?

In the wake of an ugly loss to Middle Tennessee State, left guard Jalen Rivers talked about Miami overlooking their lesser opponent and admittedly coming in “unmotivated, kinda slow” before trying and failing to respond after getting “punched in the mouth”—while center Jakai Clark talked about the Canes not being “locked in” during pregame and called his team’s attitude “lethargic”.

Tyrique Stevenson—who muffed a crucial punt in a loss at Texas A&M weeks back—shared in a recent blog posting that when pressed by Cristobal about what took place against the Blue Raiders, the cornerback had no answer.

“I don’t know, coach, we just have to get back to work”—players now with their own say-nothing version of coach-speak.


There’s zero attempt to compare modern era Miami football to all that Nick Saban is accomplishing at Alabama; the iconic head coach racking up five national titles over the past 16 seasons in Tuscaloosa. Though there is a discussion to be had regarding player awareness, attitude, confidence and football IQ for a moment—especially in light of comments from Rivers, Clark and Stevenson.

This recent article by Michael Casagrande—beat writer for the Crimson Tide, who used to cover the Canes for the Sun-Sentinel—is built around a game-changing, heads-up moment by cornerback Terrion Arnold in Bama’s close-call against Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon.

Arnold was a 5-Star prospect out of Tallahassee—the second-best safety in the state of Florida arguably staying home had one of The Big Three been more impressive recently.

Instead, Saban reeled him in and the defensive back stepped up big in a gave-saving moment—Alabama’s back to the wall, up four with three seconds remaining and Texas A&M—ball at the two-yard line and one play from a colossal take down of No. 1 for a second straight season.

Not on Arnold’s watch. The redshirt freshman not only catching Aggies’ head coach Jimbo Fisher tipping off where the plays was headed, the safety was also in position to keep A&M receiver Evan Stewart out of the end zone, even if he had caught the well-guarded pass from Haynes King with that final attempt as time expired.

Alabama, 24, Texas A&M 20—disaster averted.

Crimson Tide safety Terrion Arnold (#3) knew where the ball was going and stopped a goal line stand as Alabama survived aTm, 24-20.

Winning has a way of curing all in sports. Alabama survived and is now 6-0 halfway through their 2022 season. Had they fallen to the Aggies, the fact they were without starting quarterback Bryce Young would’ve been the first attempt at reasoning—but the oddsmakers still saw the Crimson Tide as a 24-point favorite, to an underachieving Texas A&M team that was upset by Appalachian State in early September, and an 18-point loser at Mississippi State last weekend.

Translation, Alabama had no business being in a position where Texas A&M had the ball on the two-yard line, down four, with a shot to cap off a 69-yard game-winning drive—yet that’s precisely where they were when championship-caliber DNA kicked in and the Crimson Tide made another season-defining play.

Disaster was also averted weeks back when No. 1 Alabama trailed unranked Texas, 19-17—the Longhorns playing most of the game with a back-up up quarterback—before Young kept the drive alive with his wing and wheels, setting up a 33-yard field goal attempt with :10 remaining, escaping Austin with a one-point victory.

It’s a tried and true, age-old formula. Winners and winning programs win, while losers with losing muscle memory lose—until something eventually gives and a tide is turned.

This adage is also why Cristobal and this first-year Miami staff work tirelessly to break these Hurricanes of deep-rooted bad habits, with an emphasis on process—because once the correct process is in place and a team learns how to win, the victories follow.


Going into this latest annual match-up, North Carolina had beaten Miami three in a row—and if delving deep into the heads and subconscious of every player on that field, it was the visitors riding the win streak, with the history of winning the close ones, who believed to their core they would emerge victorious—as losing to “The U” wasn’t part of their muscle memory; most of these Tar Heels nowhere near the program the last time the Canes notched a win in this series, back in 2018.

Recent history tells the entire story and the record books will show that Miami has reinvented ways to piss games away against North Carolina.

After digging themselves a 17-3 hole in 2019, Miami went ahead late third quarter via a Will Mallory touchdown, but failed on a two-point attempt—trying to make up for a missed PAT earlier in the game.

Clinging to a five-point lead with 2:55 remaining, the Canes followed up a clutch third-down sack by allowing the Tar Heels to convert on a 4th-and-17 attempt that could’ve ended the game. Five plays later North Carolina was in the end zone and after converting their two-point attempt, took a 28-25 lead—which proved to be the final score after a Miami game-tying field goal attempt sailed wide.

A year later, with Coastal Division title hanging in the balance on Senior Day in Miami—North Carolina scored 34 unanswered in the first half, taking a 34-10 lead into intermission, before falling 62-26 and surrendering 554 rushing yards—the Tar Heels proving that at home, or on the road, they had Diaz’s and UM’s number.

Last fall, another slow start for Miami on the road—North Carolina up, 31-17 at the half—while the Canes finally pulled within four going into the fourth. UNC pushed their lead to 11 points, UM scored and converted and it was now a three-point game with just over three minute remaining.

Miami’s defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Canes’ offense and Van Dyke their moment to shine—one week after a potential game-winning field goal attempt doinked off the goal post in a home loss to Virginia.

Van Dyke—who threw for 264 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions up to that point—saw his third-down attempt from the UNC 16-yard line batted into the air and into the arms of a Tar Heels linebacker, ending UM’s final attempt to win it, which also blew a fourth down attempt at a game-tying field goal and push for overtime.

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in 2019 after Miami gave up a 4th-and-17 at North Carolina, the Heels prevailing, 28-25.

All of which bring us to the misery surrounding this latest missed opportunity and chapter in the rivalry’s history—the Heels now with an 11-8 record against the Canes since 2004, the win-streak now pushed to four in a row.

True to form, Miami scrapped back late, but it wasn’t enough. Down seven early in the fourth quarter, the Canes saw a 65-yard, game-tying drive come to a screeching halt when running back Jaylan Knighton converted a 4th-and-1 with a nine-yard run, only to get half-heartedly stripped as he didn’t secure the football.

What should’ve been 1st-and-10 from the UNC 17-yard line, with momentum—it was Tar Heels’ ball, followed by an 81-yard, clock-chewing drive and conservative field goal attempt, pushing their lead to 10 points with just over four minutes remaining.

Van Dyke responded with a clutch 63-yard drive and 16-yard touchdown to Colbie Young, which set up an improbable miraculous and acrobatic onside kick recovery—negated as Al Blades Jr. stepped out of bounds, without reestablishing himself before touching the ball. Still, the Miami defense forced the three-and out, took possession with 1:08 remaining and again needed a field goal to force overtime, just like their last-ditch effort in Chapel Hill last year.

The Canes made it as far as midfield, before another amateur-hour mistake—Jaleel Skinner not getting out of bounds after a six-yard reception—which set up a clock-running, frazzled 3rd-and-4 attempt. Van Dyke rushed his throw, which in a deja vu moment was again tipped and intercepted to end a football game and another three-point loss.

While Knighton’s fumble was an inopportune brain-fart at a momentum-killing time, it didn’t lose the game anymore than Van Dyke’s interception sealed Miami’s fate. Same for an early 53-yard field goal attempt from Andres Borregales sailing wide—which could’ve had a different outcome and the Canes not giving up a five-yard sack on third down.

The mistakes were occasional and spread out, starting with blown coverage on the first score of the game—Kam Kitchens not providing safety support to Stevenson, allowing J.J. Jones to break free—hit in stride by freshman quarterback Jake Mayes for the 74-yard touchdown.

No, this was another death-by-a-thousand-cuts, collective loss by a football program cloaked in failure for almost two decades; the type of game Miami has lost a variety of ways for too many years—and when that negative muscle memory kicks in, the struggle indeed becomes real.

Alabama had its back to the wall at Texas and again this weekend against Texas A&M and what happened with their championship-caliber players and plug-and-play coaching staff—as well as a fan base used to winning big? All of Bryant-Denny Stadium had their, “Chill, we’ve got this” moment and the Crimson Tide prevailed. Conversely, the Aggies again showed their true choke-job colors—snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, slipping to 3-3 in a season that started with them ranked No. 6 in the pre-season.

Winners win. Losers lose.


Miami used to be Bama-like in their ways during championship-caliber ways of the 1980’s, early 1990’s and even the 2000-era rebirth—breaking back through with that late comeback against No. 1 Florida State in 2000, after five consecutive losses to the top-ranked Noles. Miami’s 17-0 halftime lead slowly evaporated, and with a minute and change remaining, the Canes—down 24-20—mounted a game-winning drive, capped off by a “wide right” field goal attempt, for the 27-24 victory.

Weeks later the Canes ended another five-game losing streak, taking out No. 2 Virginia Tech for the first time since 1994—and then closing strong with a Sugar Bowl rout of No. 7 Florida, proving Miami was the best team in the nation and should’ve had their crack at No. 1 Oklahoma for the national championship—not the Seminoles squad they beat head-to-head months prior.

A year later, the eventual national champions hit the ground running—before everything almost derailed after a four-interception outing at Boston College and late game fumble put the Eagles in position to end a 17-game win-streak, while also derailing the Canes’ title-game plans.

Ed Reed wasn’t having it. Not after suffering though 5-6 as a freshman in 1997, including that 47-0 massacre at Florida State. The senior safety had his own, “Chill, we’ve got this” moment as he tore an intercepted ball from the hands of teammate Matt Walters and scampered furiously towards game-sealing pay dirt.

Well-built, mentally-tough, physically-superior Miami football teams were hard-wired to step-up—while the brand of football on display the past almost-two decades leaves players, coaches and fans physically feeling the failure in the air and disaster on the bring the moment things start going south. The battle is literally lost before it’s even begun.

Had every Hurricanes fan been miked-up the moment Knighton coughed up that ill-timed fumble, it’d have been some version of, “Here we go again… this one’s over.”

We’ve all watched this movie on repeat for the last couple hundred games and we know how it ends.

It took Butch Davis until year six for a program-defining, “signature win”—beating FSU in 2000 after five straight losses against the Noles.

North Carolina and their spirited little four-game win-streak aside, stepping up and sealing the game late—the theme is all too common; this loser-driven, lactic acid needing to get pushed out and worked out of Miami’s aching muscles by a first-year staff. Another new crew of well-intended coaches—with zero ties to the losing ways over the past 16 seasons, or the type of failure that’s hovered over this program since the waning years of the Coker era.

Fact remains, Miami hasn’t been right since joining the ACC—the third-ranked, undefeated Canes inexplicably gifting the Tar Heels (3-4 at the time) their first-ever win over a Top 5 program back on October 30th, 2004.

North Carolina racked up 545 yards against a slipping Miami defense—279 yards on the ground, mostly from a third-string tailback—before one final defensive collapse set up a game-winning 42-yard field goal.

A week later Miami blew a 17-3 halftime lead against Clemson, shutout in the second half and falling 24-17 in overtime. By early December, a conference title was left on the table when falling to Virginia Tech, 16-10—the first ACC season for both Big East defectors.

To date, Miami is 0-for-18 regarding ACC championships—winning the Coastal one measly time (2017) and getting whooped by five touchdowns in the title game. Conversely, the Hokies won the ACC four times between 2004 and 2013 and took the division six times, before their backslide began.

Miami has been a broken, beat and scarred program since joining this “basketball conference”—unable to even get through the weaker division for a shot at glory—when originally invited to the ACC to improve it’s football pedigree; visions of the Canes and Noles teeing it up in December with big implications on the line.

All for naught.

Miami has seven more one-game seasons on deck and fans have a choice to make; either accepting what-is and buckling in for a rebuild, or living in the past—expecting Hurricanes’ ghosts to win football games, with some foolish belief that the “U” on the side of the helmets and a glorious past win football games, instead of these current players who just did three years under Diaz and staff.

The Miami Hurricanes many of you root for, talk about and believe in—that program is dead and buried, while this new version is experiencing it’s fifth rebuild in 15 years.

Tired as some of you are of “rebuilding”, time to face the hard fact that the last handful of do-overs were nothing more than homes built on bad foundations—which results in a disaster. Cracked walls, uneven floors and moisture damage causing wood rot and mold, which results in a complete tear down and rebuilding on a new foundation—which is where Cristobal and staff sit halfway through the 2022 season, whether you can accept that or not.

Winning has a way of masking inefficiencies—Alabama cheating death against Texas and Texas A&M could expose weaknesses at year’s end—while losing tends to expose all warts, while killing any ability to extract any positives or steps forward by young teams working towards getting better.

Cue the “there are no moral victories” crowd and those old schoolers talking about “lowered expectations”—as if the product on the field hasn’t hit rock bottom several times since the glory days—but there were signs of life against North Carolina last week and things for Miami to build on as the head to Virginia Tech this weekend.

There are mistakes to clean up and players must continue growing up fast and weekly, while  learning on the fly—but them’s the breaks in year one of yet another coaching regime change.

Deal with it.

Christian 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

October 11, 2022


Three years ago then-Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz stood in the bowels of Marlins Park on “a very, very dark night”.

Miami had just been upset by Florida International—a crosstown, commuter school rival—on the hallowed grounds where the beloved Orange Bowl once stood, playing host to a 58 home-game win streak that took place a lifetime ago.

“One of the lowest points ever in this proud program’s history,” Diaz told reporters, followed some coach-speak about taking responsibility and what not, before going out and losing to Duke a week later.

29 games and a coaching change since, the Hurricanes are again reeling from the type of loss that theoretically should never happen to a program of it’s nature; Miami beaten-up by Middle Tennessee State a week after coming up short in a mistake-filled, low-scoring affair at Texas A&M.

Only this time it was the $80-million dollar man on the sidelines for “The U”, with a hand-picked, highly-paid coaching staff that supposedly ensured embarrassing games of this nature would no longer be the norm in Coral Gables.

That’s not to say Mario Cristobal was ever expected to change two decades of a broken culture overnight—but this was the kind of setback that just blew ten months of hope and goodwill right out the window; the honeymoon officially over as soon as the 45-31 loss was in the books.

Rest assured Cristobal will get back to work and will die trying to resurrect his alma mater. The first-year head coach is known as one of the most-tireless workers the sport has seen in some time, though there are two battles being fought as Miami slips to 2-2 on the season, with ACC play kicking off October 8th when North Carolina heads south.

How does Cristobal work towards his long-term goal of rebuilding his version of a competitive, talent-rich powerhouse over the next half decade—while making changes on the fly?

Futhermore, how does Miami’s newest leader figure out how to get the most out of the personnel he has—not the personnel he expects to field after a few more recruiting cycles—as the head coach won’t be given a mulligan or any breathing room by an impatient fan base?

It’s been a quandary past Miami leaders have failed to solve; Cristobal the sixth new Hurricanes head coach in 17 seasons and third in the past five years—putting even more pressure on UM to start winning winnable football games immediately.


Taking over a squad that went 21-15 under Diaz the past three years, as well as a 28-24 run dating back to the 10-0 start Mark Richt posted in 2017—before going 7-9 and abruptly retiring after a 2018 bowl loss—Cristobal inherited a broken program in need of a complete overhaul and a serious culture change.

Of course this isn’t what a pent-up fan base wants to hear. Not after roughly two decades of incompetence, underachieving and a slew of false starts.

Every new Miami head coach—after Larry Coker—has been saddled with the baggage of the failed regime that’s come before him; each new fresh start bring more pressure than the guy who previously walked the path, as the last four coaches have failed the Hurricanes, the program slipping further into mediocrity and irrelevance as a result.

In the wake of this embarrassing upset—where Middle Tennessee State outplayed, out-toughed and out-coached Miami—a ridiculously entitled attitude and mindset from some in the fanbase regarding “lowered expectations” and the Hurricanes having “no business” losing to a team like the Blue Raiders.

All of which begs the question, says who?

The University of Miami entered this season 118-85 since the 2005 Peach Bowl debacle against LSU. When divided by the 16 years it took to accumulate that ugly number, it averages out to 7.4 wins-per-year and 5.3 losses.

For context—and to help explain some of the long-time Canes’ fans deep-rooted entitlement—Miami amassed a 107-14 record between 1983 and 1992, where it won four national championships (1983, 1987, 1989, 1991), left three on the field (1985, 1986, 1992), got screwed out of playing for one (1988) and screwed themselves out of playing for another (1990).

The average season for Miami during that “decade of dominance”—10.7 wins-per-year and 1.4 losses.

Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, Miami has won the lesser Coastal Division once and is 0-for-18 in ACC titles.

In contrast, Virginia Tech—who also bailed the Big East when UM left—picked up six division titles and four conference championships its first 13 seasons in the ACC, before falling on harder times.

Miami’s 30-24 loss to FIU in 2019 was followed with losses at Duke and a bowl-shutout to Louisiana Tech.

Miami closed out the 2019 season with an inexcusable late season loss to Florida International, followed by a double-digit loss at Duke and a bowl game shut-out at the hands of Louisiana Tech.

A handful of players on this current roster were part of that dismal inaugural 6-7 season under Diaz—yet this loss to Middle Tennessee State remains such a head-scratcher?

Again, for what reason—outside of ancient history and too many with their heads in the sand—still living in long-gone glory days for a once-great program?

Fact remains, this is a below-average football program and has been for the better part of two decades. Middle Tennessee State took full advantage of that lethargic attitude and half-ass effort, in the most-recent showdown where UM just assumed it could go through the motions to beat another “lesser” team.

Sure, there was an era a lifetime ago where a dominant Hurricanes program pulverized teams like the lowly Blue Raiders. The type of nobody who lost before even getting off the bus—dead and buried behind the West End Zone by sundown.

That was then, this is now and another little brother-type program just cleaned slipping big brother’s clock.

The uniforms may look similar and the “U” on the side of that helmet evokes memories of championship ways, but the DNA is nowhere near the same and the caliber of players representing this program aren’t worthy of the accolades, belief and trust that past Miami greats fought for and earned.

In short, these current Hurricanes players haven’t done shit and deserve no benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.


The biggest mishap over the past 10 months is the false bravado a fan base exuded the minute a native son head coach returned home to a huge payday; a 10-year, $80-million contract and a budget for a top flight coaching staff, as well as the administrative swap out of a pretender-for-contender when Clemson’s Dan Radakovich took over as athletic director.

Cherry on top, Miami even added Alonzo Highsmith in the previously-discussed general manager-type role that almost took place under Diaz, before the insecure head coach stopped that move from taking place.

Overzealous fans took these upgrades to the bank and ran with them—ramping up the trash talk with rivals and quick to proclaim that Miami was “back”—which made for a fun offseason, followed by a harsh reality when Cristobal and the Canes rolled out the remnants from last year’s 7-5 squad.

This attitude that a staff upgrade would result in some just-add-water approach to rebuilding “The U”—nonsensical and moronic for any who have paid attention to the product on the field since Miami joined the ACC. Cristobal and staff were expected to instantly overhaul a program that brought in classes ranked 11th (2021), 17th (2020) and 27th (2019) the past three years, turning the Canes into a sleek and jelled unit four weeks into year one?

Same to be said by the fans and media making much ado about a sophomore quarterback with only nine starts under his belt.

Starved for the next great hope at a program that hasn’t lived up to its ‘Quarterback U’ moniker in two decades, the legend of Tyler Van Dyke got underway last fall after some unintentional trash talk as four-loss Miami prepped to host No. 18 North Carolina State.

The Canes hung in there for a 31-30 victory and stole another nail-biter at No. 18 Pittsburgh a week later, 38-34—the newest option under center throwing for seven touchdowns and 751 yards in back-to-back upsets of ranked teams, as the narrative began to write itself for a desperate fan base.

By season’s end, Van Dyke went 5-1 down the stretch—throwing for 300-plus yards all six games, with 20 touchdowns to three interceptions—leading to a slew of off-season articles and preseason accolades that are now looking somewhat overblown.

Van Dyke managed to shine brightly when expectations were low as he replaced an injured D’Eriq King, but after an offseason with a slew of hype—ACC’s-best accolades or chatter about future NFL Draft status—when the lights came on for game one in the Cristobal era, undefeated with a lot to prove, it’s been a deer-in-the-headlights reaction ever since.

Glaring weaknesses for the revered quarterback and warts exposed in a new offensive system, without a few next-level receivers who helped bail him out and mask flaws last fall.

Prior to this new season, NBC Sports talked up Van Dyke’s “encore performance” back in August, while ESPN wrote earlier that the Hurricanes had been “waiting two decades” for a quarterback like #9.

Lost in the storybook hype, the fact that Van Dyke had the luxury of stepping in for King when Miami sat at 1-2, throttled by Alabama and outlasted by Michigan State—the Canes losing those two games by a combined 52 points, while barely holding on at home against Appalachian State.

After a few bad-luck breaks against Virginia and North Carolina had Miami and Van Dyke both 2-4 and 0-2 in ACC play—the pressure and the wheels completely off.

The legend of Tyler Van Dyke started against North Carolina State in 2021, but is fizzling out fast in early 2022.

Expectations were low for the rest of 2021 and then-offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had Van Dyke letting it rip in a one-dimensional offense—defined by shoddy offensive line play and virtually no running game—and for the most part, it worked as the quarterback played out of his mind and the Canes had some close-call games go in their favor.

Miami beat North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech by a combined eight points, before a disastrous outing at Florida State. Bounce-back wins followed against Virginia Tech and Duke; the Canes going 7-5 on the season, which could’ve easily have been 4-8 without some unexpected, next-level quarterback play.

A similar storyline in 2020 as King hit the ground running and willed the Hurricanes to an 8-3 season that was also the product of some unorthodox quarterback play, a yeoman’s effort from the energetic signal caller and three more narrow wins.

Miami outlasted Virginia, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech by a combined nine points late in the season—before routing Duke, getting throttled at home by North Carolina (62-24) with a Coastal Division title on the line and falling in a bowl game against Oklahoma State.

Anyone who watched the Diaz era with an honest and discerning eye over those 36 games—the slow starts, sloppy play, games given away, or blowouts against any real competition Miami faced—what was honestly expected year one of the Cristobal era?

“At least doing enough to beat shitty a Conference USA team like Middle Tennessee State!!”

Fair enough, but that statement is also based on Miami as a once-successful program and not this current crop of Hurricanes players, known for playing down to competition for decades—and with the parity in today’s game, good teams simply can’t no-show or half-ass it against “lesser” competition.


Look no further than preseason No. 5 Notre Dame getting upended at home by Marshall, sixth-ranked Texas A&M getting stifled by Appalachian State or UTEP smacking around Boise State the first month of this season. The Hurricanes are the most-recent (and definitely not the last) victim of an entitled generation of players who show up expecting to beat formidable foes, even when they haven’t even put in the work.

Don’t believe it? Dig up a few post-game quotes from a few Miami offensive lineman in the wake of last week’s upset.

“We… I say we, everybody, because we’re all in this together. We looked at that team ‘Oh, we’re gonna win this game’,” said offensive lineman Jalen Rivers postgame. “So we came in obviously unmotivated, kinda slow and we had to ramp things back up when we got punched in the mouth.”

There was also center Jakai Clark, who stated, “We weren’t as locked in as we should have been pregame. During the week we had a good week of practice, but pregame…me personally, I feel as though we weren’t as locked in as we should have been,” while also calling his team’s attitude “lethargic”.

Without naming names, the trend also continues with current Miami player quick to post images or video clips to their social media platforms—glamorizing individual plays they made in a game the Hurricanes collectively lost as a group.

If the Getty Images coming across the feed are legit, toss ’em up on the ‘Gram with some caption about hustling, grinding and getting back to work—a faux attempt at motivation, when reality it’s an immature, self-absorbed practice common for the current generation featuring its share of attention-starved, me-first athletes.

The team losing comes secondary to individuals celebrating a captured moment where they looked good—converting it to social media currency and the endorphin rush of likes, or ass-kissing fan comments.

All that to say, social media isn’t the culprit—a pretender’s and loser’s mentality is, as well as a lack of leadership and veterans in that locker room not having the stones to call out the destructive behavior.

You’d think the level of disgust, embarrassment, frustration and anger would be palpable around Greentree since Saturday’s laughing-stock loss. Things getting thrown around, or at minimum some serious soul-searching.

The aforementioned Clark was a freshman on Miami’s 2019 team that lost to FIU—yet he’s giving quotes about players not being locked-in pre-game, rolling in unmotivated and slow—getting “punched in the mouth”? Where was any conversation from upperclassmen on this roster who took it in the shorts via the Golden Panthers three years back?

“Don’t sleep on these Blue Raiders. I’m telling you. Look at that shit that happened to us three years ago when FIU took us out. Need to keep that guard up as these cats are coming to play and believe they can win.”

Miami’s mostly non-alum fan base is doing opposing teams a solid with their no-show game-day efforts; a lot of blue seats watching MTSU.

Does anybody really believe Cristobal and staff didn’t have a collective foot up the ass of this team all week after that loss at Texas A&M? The first-year head coach talked postgame about his team coming up short, needing to improve and eliminating issues that hurt Miami in the loss.

“We’ve got to get better. Playing a tight game doesn’t automatically make you more successful next week. We’ve got to go to work. We’ve got to look in the mirror and face reality. We gave up some opportunities that you just can’t give. And we did that. That’s upsetting,” said Cristobal, postgame in College Station.

“It should burn. It needs to burn. It needs to feel really, in a way, motivational knowing we could be a good team but becoming a good team is not just going to happen. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve made some progress, but we could have coached better tonight. We could have played better tonight. We could have executed better tonight. We’ll get back and we’ll get back to work.”

The only thing that burned the following week was Miami’s secondary getting torched for passes that went 69, 71, 89 and 98 yards, respectively—three of which went for touchdowns, the other leading to one.


How does a hot-and-cold player like D.J. Ivey look like he’s turned a corner at Texas A&M, with a pretty-good showing—only to revert back to burnt toast-mode and that same dude who got torched on a fake punt and a late touchdown in an overtime loss to a one-win Georgia Tech squad in 2019?

How does Tyrique Stevenson—who for a minute looked like he was going to declare for the NFL Draft earlier this year—write in a recent CaneSport blog post that when pressed by his head coach as to what happened the day prior, he had zero answers?

“I talked with coach Cristobal on Sunday before a team meeting, he just ran into me. He just asked me, `What happened? What do you think happened?’ I said I don’t know, you just have to get back to the drawing board and see the holes that we’re missing and we just have to start plugging them in with the right players and the right mindset. He thought I had an answer, but the answer is `I don’t know, coach, we just have to get back to work, figure out what went wrong, where the holes are and keep working and try to improve in those areas.’”

The phrasing of the head coach’s questioning is important here; “What do you think happened?”—to which Stevenson had nothing.

Don’t doubt for a minute Cristobal couldn’t have answered it for his cornerback.

A two-time national champion at Miami, recruited by Jimmy Johnson and spending four years under Dennis Erickson, on a 44-4 squad, loaded with superstars and future NFL’ers—who parlayed that experience and knowledge into a coaching career, instead of going his original route of joining the Secret Service.

Grad assistant under Butch Davis, position coach and recruiting head after following Greg Schiano to Rutgers—and then back to Miami, before getting his shot to cut his teeth for six years as a bottom-feeder program like FIU, before getting picked up groomed by Nick Saban when originally on his way back to Coral Gables under Al Golden in 2013.

Four years in Tuscaloosa and the four years as head coach at Oregon, where he went 35-12 and won the Pac-12 twice—Cristobal knows that the teacher isn’t teaching if he’s feeding the pupil the answers. It’s a learning experience for his cornerback to figure out and articulate what went south and why.

Who knows if Stevenson even picked up on any of that, or if the majority of this current roster even truly comprehends all the hell that just took place?

Plus, how do these players even get “back to work” when to a man they can’t even identify what went wrong?

First-year head coach Mario Cristobal fast in a 2-2 hole; the honeymoon over after UM was recently-upset by MTSU.


Fans don’t want to buy into the whole “culture” argument—quick to cite the massive payday and coaching staff upgrade, as if it equates to a turnkey solution and immediate buy-in from the 100-plus players on this roster.

Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way—no matter how salty you are that this program sucked for the past almost-20 years.

Fat and want to lose weight? It comes off one pound at a time. Skinny and want to bulk up? Start lifting and prepare for incremental results. Want to become a guitar player? Get ready to suck for a few years and to shred your fingers in the process.

Planting a garden as it feels like the apocalypse is coming any day now? Drop those seeds, water away and wait patiently while seeds become seedlings, before they flower, fruit and ripen, giving you some tomatoes … in half a year.

Everyone knows this by now; nothing good comes easy, success takes time and hard work is the cornerstone of everything. Progress can’t be fast-tracked and the only thing that can be controlled right now is the infrastructure—which despite the 2-2 stumble out the gate, it still where it needs to be for this program’s long-term future, minus a few tweaks here and there if this first wave of coordinators and position coaches don’t fit the bill.

All that to say, Cristobal must quickly figure out how to parallel path and build for tomorrow, while solving the problems of today. It simply can’t be a long-term vision with an “Under Contruction” sign at the front door of Hecht Athletic Center with some “Project Complete — January 2025” declaration, while a fan base sits around waiting for three years.

The quarterback solution everyone felt was a strength going into this season; welcome to a full-blown conundrum before even getting out of September.

Whether that’s all on Van Dyke, this loss of his two go-to options to graduation and his top new target sidelined with a foot injury—or the scheme that first-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is running—something has to give, and fast.

Miami wideouts struggled to get open against Texas A&M’s third-string secondary, while the Canes defensive backs got absolutely torched in man coverage against Middle Tennessee State, after looking halfway decent against the Aggies.

Doesn’t take Canestradamus to predict that combo is no recipe for 2022 success.

The result entering the ACC portion of the schedule; every coach’s nightmare—a loose-playing back-up quarterback looking more comfortable than the starter. Jake Garcia has just entered the chat and now the one position on the field that looked like Miami’s biggest strength entering the season—while salvaging last year and making 2020 look better than it was—it’s seemingly entered train wreck-mode.

Even worse, the wrong decision could absolutely destroy psyches and fast send the 2022 down the drain; coaches giving up on Van Dyke too quickly, Garcia underperforming and then going back to the starter that the staff showed they had no faith in by making the switch.

Fun times ahead.

While the overhyped yahoo fan either seriously, or jokingly woofed about “15-0!!” when Cristobal was hired—fact remains this current crossroads is where the first-year coach needs to earn his paycheck; problem-solving on the fly, as the wrong moves set the program back and ultimately push the turnaround timeline further down the road.


Fans love to mock the annual, “Coastal is still within reach!” narrative when year after year fall apart for the Canes, but as far as Cristobal’s inaugural season goes,  Miami did lose the two of the most “meaningless” games on the schedule—despite the fact one was a glorified high school team that hails from a place called Murfreesboro.

North Carolina. Virginia Tech. Duke. Virginia. Florida State. Georgia Tech. Clemson. Pittsburgh. The result of those eight showdowns will write Miami’s 2022 season narrative; not the last two weekends.

Of course if one shits the bed against the likes of a Middle Tennessee State, the odds of beating half of those teams—let alone all eight—is an uphill battle, but then again so is life. Welcome to Cristobal’s and his staff’s challenge for the rest of this football season. Figure it out, gents.

Xavier Restrepo’s injury depletes a receiving corps that already lost Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley to graduation last year.

Outside of Clemson, the rest of these teams are absolutely pedestrian—and even the Tigers are a shell of what they’ve been the last decade.

Cristobal knows what’s at stake; the same dilemma his last few predecessors faced—winning big enough with what he has, in order to land the kids he needs to ultimately win bigger—which feeds off itself, attracts more talent over the next few recruiting cycles, putting Miami in position to be a true contender in the next three to five years.

Whether this team has the guts, heart and character to scrap its way into the Coastal Division hunt year one, we’ll see— but anything less than obvious improvement over last year’s 7-5 debacle is an indictment on this staff for not figuring out how to get the most out of these kids.

An fortunate and opportune time for a bye week as this program needs to stew on this loss a little longer; especially when players are offering up media quotes about not being ready to play, while others can’t answer the simple where-it-all-went-wrong question for the coaching staff.

Safe to say back-to-back losses are keeping this coaching staff up all night, during this 14-day lull before Miami takes the field again—but what about these Hurricanes players? Are they stewing and ready to take the frustration out on North Carolina, or are they in that dangerous it-is-what-it-is state of mind?

Fans can bitch about high-priced coaches all they want, but these players can’t be immune to the same harsh criticism.

Not at Miami, not when they’re very vocal on social media and not in an NIL era where amateurism has gone out the window and college athletes have pretty much reached the semi-pro ranks. Everybody is fair game once you take a check for services rendered.

Miami’s football history is rich, distinguished and hangs over the head of anyone who puts on that “U”-adorned helmet—but until enough current Hurricanes realize heavy is the head that wears the crown, nothing is going to change. These kids have to want it—and if they don’t, then the next few recruiting classes will push them aside, as the ones ready to rebuild this thing the right way.

Rest assured, every class Cristobal brings in from ’22 on out will fast-understand what it means to be a Mi-am-i Hurr-i-cane—authentically; not in some nonsensical, “It’s All About The U” marketing department, t-shirt, schedule poster verbiage or hashtag.

The question over these next eight games; can this coaching staff drill pride, winning ways and next-level effort into the heads of the last three classes—or are Diaz’s kids too far gone?

There’s still time to write your history, Miami.

Sky’s the limit, but you best clean it up fast if you don’t want to be a footnote in this disastrous chapter for the Canes.

Christian 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 is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

September 28, 2022


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