Another October, another showdown between Miami and Florida State. It also marks another year where game plans and past narratives get tossed out the window. Expect the unexpected when these two throw down. Check the history books for proof.

The Noles entered the preseason ranked third in the nation, with some picking them to topple No. 1 Alabama in the opener. Instead, a dose of humble pie by way of a turnover-fueled, 24-7 beatdown—and a side of insult-to-injury when quarterback Deondre Francois went down. The second-year started suffered a season-ending injury, immediately putting Florida State in scramble mode.

Enter true freshman quarterback James Blackman—as well as a 21-day Hurricane Irma-related layoff and a home date with North Carolina State—and the Noles were 0-2 before they knew up from down. Face was saved in a last-minute road win at Wake Forest last weekend, but the damage had been done and mojo shattered.

This isn’t the same FSU squad that expected to make some noise in 2017—but one that knows it can turn its season around with a takedown of a fired-up UM squad.


Miami’s journey has been a bit more favorable. Natural disaster-related issues also impacted Coral Gables, the early schedule and practice regiment. The Canes cancelled a road game at Arkansas State as the Category 5 storm approached, saw the annual Florida State match-up postponed a month and time was spent away from campus, practicing in Orlando as South Florida worked to get back to normal.

A slow start against Toledo resulted in a second half blowout and Miami followed up with a convincing road win against undefeated Duke. Blemish-less and headed to Tallahassee—all anybody could really ask for year two in the Mark Richt era, outside of breaking a seven-game losing streak to Florida State.

The Canes enter as a three-point favorite in a game taking on a bit of a strange feel. The Noles are wounded, but talented. Injuries plagued the offensive side of the ball—Francois going down, as well as a few banged-up offensive linemen trying to find their groove—but the defense is in tact, albeit underachieving.

Toss in a rowdy Doak Campbell crowd on Saturday afternoon and a sleeping giant could be easily awoken. No better way to turn around a 1-2 start than to “upset” Miami in front of a garnet and gold audience looking for a reason to believe.

Equally as off-base; the premise of an already postponed game dealing with more weather-related issues, courtesy of the latest brewing tropical storm. Talk of the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff getting moved to Saturday morning—or even Friday night—has since been squashed as Nate kicks wide left, but it’s still a distraction after a chaotic opening month to the season.


Matchup-wise, the Canes certainly have more going for them early October than was expected a month back. Florida State had the quarterback edge, but that changed with Francois went down—and Miami junior Malik Rosier stepped up.

Originally seen as a one-year option keeping the seat warm for freshman-phenom N’Kosi Perry, Rosier has looked all the part of a capable two-year starter for the Canes.

Two grossly overthrown interceptions are more than outweighed by a 65.6 completion percentage (59-of-90 passing), 820 yards through the air and eight touchdowns over three games. No. 12 also rushed for 23 carries, 97 yards and two scores during that span—an added dimension his statuesque predecessor Brad Kaaya lacked.

Rosier’s maturity is matched by the even more capable Mark Walton—a combination of next-level back and full-blown leader who is proving to be the heart and soul of the Hurricanes’ offense, much like the departed Dalvin Cook was for the Seminoles the past three seasons.

Walton was a spark plug at Duke last Friday night—churning out 51 yards on 17 carries, as well as four receptions for 79 yards. Not quite the explosive 204-yard outing against Toledo a week prior, but the Blue Devils’ field a better defense and are a quality conference opponent.

Still, the same type of leadership was on display in both outings. When sidelined against the Rockets due to injury, the Canes’ offense lost their mojo. Upon Walton’s second half return, Miami tacked on 42 second-half points and blew Toledo out.

Duke’s hyper-focus on stopping Walton early allowed Rosier to exploit man-to-man coverage on the opening drive, finding Braxton Berrios for a 27-yard score. Later in the game, with a convincing lead—and a injury scare with Walton—Travis Homer reiterated the Canes’ depth at the position, tearing off a 40-yard touchdown, untouched.

While Rosier needs to remain as mistake-free as possible—put in position to succeed by a coaching staff paid handsomely to do just that; all roads to success come on the ground.

Miami native Dalvin Cook single-handedly ate the Canes’ lunch the last three games in the series. went deep-diving on the stats and pointed out that during Miami’s seven-game losing streak to Florida State, the Canes averaged 99.9 rushing yards on 209 carries—with four games under 85 yards. Conversely, the Noles have rolled for an average of 185.7 rushing yards-per-game.

When UM was dominating FSU in the early 2000’s, the Canes were averaging 134.8 rushing yards over eight wins.

The team that runs the ball controls the clock and as far as this rivalry is concerned—has the ultimate leg up regarding a hard-earned victory.

FSU’s Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick haven’t seen the same type of success three games in, courtesy of a Florida State offensive line that has proven to be a hot mess early on. In last week’s showdown at Wake Forest, the Seminoles’ offense allowed 18 tackles-for-loss and five sacks of Blackman.

Defensively, both squads look better than they’ve played; Miami finally closing the talent gap against Florida State on that side of the ball. Both secondaries have room for improvement, but the front sevens are chock full of talent and hard-hitters. Either could change the game on a play—and for the Canes’ sake; a little added momentum by way of the “Turnover Chain” as rocking that Cuban-link in Tallahassee would be as good as it gets.


As always with this rivalry, intangibles will again define everything between these two long-time foes. Looking back at recent years, games have always turned on a dime. Last season, an NFL-caliber throw by Kaaya on fourth down looked to have things overtime-bound—until kicker Michael Badgley had his point-after attempt blocked.

Back in 2015, sloppy play by Florida State let Miami hang around longer than it should’ve—the Canes overcoming a 17-3 deficit, yet taking a brief fourth quarter lead, 24-23—before Cook turned it on and rattled off back-to-back 23-yard runs; the latter for a game-winning score.

Most-memorable in recent Miami history; a blown shot at dethroning the defending champs down south. On fire early, the Canes led 23-7, before falling, 30-26. Cook again delivered the dagger; a 26-yard touchdown run to reclaim the lead, while Miami played tight all throughout the second half—a lethal combination that was a fear of success, as well as not knowing how to play with a lead.

A decade prior, it was Miami playing the role of party crasher and dream killer. Florida State’s current streak sits at seven, but the Canes got theirs up to six between 2000 and 2004.

Ending a seven-year, home-unbeaten streak in Tallahassee in 2001, en route to a national championship. Overcoming a 27-14 fourth quarter deficit as the top ranked squad on the verge of being upset by the Noles.

The late, great Sean Taylor taking over the rain-soaked affair in a 22-14 Miami win in 2003 between two Top 5 squads, followed by the Canes eking out BCS win in the 2004 FedEx Orange Bowl, 16-14. Eight months later; a jailbreak screen with under a minute remaining to force overtime, followed by an 18-yard Frank Gore dagger in the extra period.

From the right side of history, to the wrong. So it goes in rivalries. The saving grace; every season offers another clean slate and opportunity to both change the narrative, while starting a new chapter in the storied history.


All of this brings up the ultimate question; is this a must-win game for the Canes? Also-f**king-lutely. Seven game-losing streaks in heated rivalries leave little margin for error.

No, a loss doesn’t ruin a season and the Coastal is still wide open. Virginia Tech’s trek south early November is truly Miami’s “game of the year”—but as Richt continues working to do away with an old, broken culture in favor of the type of program he wants to build—taking down a Seminoles’ squad on the ropes is that next necessary step.

When this season began, many—myself included—penciled in a loss for the would-be September 16th showdown in Tallahassee; remaining focused on an ACC Championship game rematch. Rosier was an unknown, Perry wasn’t ready and the Noles still looked a half-step ahead—especially with Francois and the momentum that came from elevated expectations.

The loss to Alabama was a setback, but paled in comparison to losing a gritty starting quarterback. Toss in the 21-day layoff for both squads, a postponed game and Miami getting to cut its teeth with Toledo and at Duke—while Florida State fell at home to North Carolina State and then struggled at Wake Forest; the script was flipped in every sense of the phrase.

Whatever the quirky path it took to get here, momentum now officially favors the Canes—and it’s time to capitalize on that. If asked the worst part about the past decade of sub-par Miami football—beyond the losses—it would be the incompetence, general no-shows and non-U style of play in said losses.

The U was nothing more than a logo on a helmet. Times when the Canes needed to step up, they’ve consistently stepped down. Nothing about Miami was reminiscent of the program that dominated decade after decade—most-notably the losing streak to Florida State; little brother owning big brother and rebuilding their program while UM suffered.

That can all end this Saturday—and should. The Canes have as legit a shot to take down the Noles as this program has seen since it’s last win in this series. While an offensive shootout circa 2009 most-likely isn’t in the cards this year, Miami has a two-dimensional scoring attack, an aggressive defense and a reeling, albeit worthy opponent.

The Canes also have to be sick-as-hell of losing—hearing it relentlessly from former players and fans who are used to more in this rivalry. To not rise up and take what’s sitting right in front of this Richt-led squad; exploiting weaknesses and and imposing one’s will—absolutely criminal.

Take care of business. Hit. Stick. Bust dick. Talk shit. Leave it all out there as losing pumps the brakes on a program destined for bigger and better.

Wins against the Noles literally slipped through the Canes’ fingers the past half-decade.

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


miami hurricanes football the u duke blue devils atlantic coast conference wallace wade stadium
Inexplicable as it may have sounded if the phrase had been uttered a decade ago; the Duke Blue Devils are a quality football foe and Wallace Wade Stadium a formidable ACC venue.

Then again, folks in the Tobacco Road region would’ve been equally as baffled if you’d told them back in the day that Miami Hurricanes basketball would one day smack around the Blue Devils and Tar Heels en route to a conference title. Times have a-changed, with parity, money and quality coaches making a difference all around.

Miami got a much-needed road win at Duke on Friday night—a convincing 31-6 drubbing that felt more like 13 years ago, than 2013—the lone time the Blue Devils took out the Canes in college football’s modern era.


Durham has given The U fits since Miami joined the ACC in 2004—the Canes largest margin of victory before Friday night’s showdown; 18 points in 2008. Since then a few close calls, a shootout and that loss four years back, where a veteran Blue Devils squad turned a one-point third quarter lead into a humbling 48-30 smackdown, en route to a Coastal Division crown.

Vegas had Miami taking this year’s contest by a touchdown, while ESPN’s quirky computers and algorithms gave Duke a 55% chance of winning. Factor in the revenge element from the eight-lateral comeback two years prior and there was no ignoring the Canes were walking into a spirited affair.

The Blue Devils hit the ground running this season, a 4-0 start with impressive wins over Northwestern (41-17), Baylor (34-20) and arch-rival North Carolina (27-17) over the past three weeks. Conversely, the two-win Canes were still out of sorts and routine-less courtesy of Irma’s impact and a 21-day layoff—brutally obvious in the first half against Toledo six days prior; the Canes trailing the Rockets, 16-10 after two before blowing it out the second half, 52-30.

Toss in a trek to Tallahassee on the horizon and this had all the makings of a trap game—one that a less disciplined, unfocused, poorly coached squad could’ve (and has) easily shit away. Instead, Miami treated the trek to Durham like the business trip and stepping stone it was in the early stages of what has all the makings of a defining comeback season.

Duke moved the ball on the opening drive, setting the stage for a potential offensive battle. Quarterback Daniel Jones relied on his arm and legs to move it around, while veteran running back Shaun Wilson gashed the Canes’ defense for a few hearty runs. Inside the red zone, Jones galloped for six yards on a 3rd-and-7, setting up a statement-making 4th-and-1. The Duke offense stayed on the field—momentarily—before linebacker Michael Pinckney shot out of a cannon and took Jones down for an 11-yard loss.

Statement made. Miami came to play.

miami hurricanes duke blue devils
Miami’s 2013 loss at Duke is easy to reverse engineer. A lack of planning and execution killed the Canes.

Mark Walton was leaned on immediately for back-to-back runs, before Malik Rosier dumped one off to the junior running back for a 39-yard gain. Walton’s next carry resulted in a tw0-yard loss, but the damage had been done; the Blue Devils’ defense baited as Rosier hit Braxton Berrios in the back of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown; hanging in the pocket and getting clobbered.

Sitting on a 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter itself is less impressive than the path taken to get there—a path only noticeable by those who have carefully followed the Canes’ underachieving journey this past decade.

Losses don’t just “happen”. Looking at those Sunday morning box scores over the past few years, wondering how Miami wound up on the wrong end of things—it’s all the little things consistently going the wrong way.

Take that loss in Durham four years back. Miami drives inside the Duke red zone on the game’s opening drive, but settles for a field goal after a 3rd-and-5 pass falls incomplete. After a solid defensive stop, the Canes return a punt and go up, 10-0—short-lived as the Blue Devils drive 75 yards and cut it to three.

Miami answers, pushing the lead to 17-7, holds on defense and is driving again—a chance to blow things up early in the second quarter, before an interception midfield that Duke turned into seven a few plays later. 24-7 becomes 17-14 in a flash and the Canes can only muster up three more over the next two possessions.

A game ripe for the taking early in the second quarter is instead a 21-20 deficit at halftime and the the momentum shift is on.


One can only imagine the intermission speech from then-head coach Al Golden and staff—but a safe bet it wasn’t the confident approach current defensive coordinator Manny Diaz took against Toledo last week; scrawling, “We are going to win this game” on a locker room grease board.

Where the Hurricanes outscored the Rockets, 36-16 in the second half a week ago—Miami was outscored by Duke, 27-17 three years back—including a 17-0 fourth quarter shutout. It was an all-too-familiar blueprint for the Hurricanes this past decade, but one that Mark Richt and staff have put out to pasture as year two gets underway.

None of that is to imply that Miami has everything solved. A scoreless third quarter featured a few offensive drives that stalled, a freshman punt that lost a yard and another head-scratching decision from Rosier that resulted in an ugly interception—but how the Canes responded from there; again, proof things are on the right track.

Rosier made up for his earlier blunder, finding Ahmmon Richards, who scampered for a 49-yard score. A few possessions later, the Miami defense recovered a fumble and on the first play from scrimmage, Travis Homer busted through the line—untouched—for a 40-yard score and exclamation point on an effective evening.

miami hurricanes football defense turnover chain
To think Miami’s defense was the weakest link over the past several years.

Seemingly lost in the shuffle of power rankings and all the are-the-Canes-back talk; the fact that the process is working. Under Golden, there was too much talk and no action, while with Richt, little chatter and business as usual. Miami did what it was supposed to at Duke. No fanfare, defending of stats or back-slapping. Get in, get out, do the job and move on.

Undefeated was the goal going into Florida State week—albeit this wasn’t the path. Miami expected to take on Bethune-Cookman and travel to Arkansas State before facing the Seminoles on September 16th. Irma had different plans, resulting in a cancellation, a postponement, a three-week layoff and practice disruption.

Thankfully for the Canes, Toledo helped ease normalcy back in, while Duke provided that initial road trip before heading to Tallahassee. Toss in the extra rest-up day from a Friday night game and things have gotten back to normal with a demoralized arch-rival on the horizon.

That doesn’t mean a two-loss Florida State squad won’t be ready—but this marks the first time Miami truly has those guys somewhat on the ropes in about a decade.

Get back to work this week, follow the blueprint, take this to Doak Campbell, make a statement and emerge victorious. It’s there for the taking, so take it.

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


miami hurricanes football mark walton travis homer running backs toledo rockets mark richt

Miami’s recent home win over Toledo won’t look like much on paper. Anyone who missed the showdown and went no further than the, 52-30 box score would most-likely chalk it up to a power conference beating up a lesser program, while assuming the Rockets tacked a on a late score for one of those closer-than-it-appeared finishes.

For the outsider with no vested interest, so be it. That’s all they saw and need to know regarding what was utterly a meaningless game on what turned out to be one of those early-season, “Survival Saturday” situations—where it was all about the win and less about style points.

While a contingent of Miami’s fan base will praise the 42-point second half and comeback, others won’t be able to shake off the 16-10 halftime deficit and slow start. In reality, neither should be the focus as the true takeaway had less to do with point totals and everything to do with the Hurricanes taking another steps towards becoming a resilient, win-minded bunch that believes in both themselves and the coaches, but also the message and approach.

Everyone has their different measuring stick in regards to Miami being “back”. Beat Florida State. Take the Coastal. Win the ACC. Bring home a sixth national title. While none of those cries are out of line, for consistency-sake the true measure and jumping-off point comes with the attitude and effort witnessed last Saturday at HardRock Stadium. Those are the necessary first steps in regards to again becoming a contender.


Soon after Miami’s turn-of-the-millennieum dominant run, the Canes became a watered-down version of the giant Butch Davis rebuilt them into. Short version for history-sake; Larry Coker was the nice-guy chaperone who couldn’t recruit, Randy Shannon was the low-cost, low-risk, hire-from-within option and Al Golden proved to be smoke and mirrors; a resume full of padded stats, as well as an all-around shit fit.

That decade-plus of incompetence took it’s toll on both the Canes’ brand, as well as the style of football played in South Florida. Outside of that “U” on the side of the helmet, or ceremonial run through the smoke—nothing about Miami truly looked like Miami. “The U” felt trapped in some type of Bizzaro World; talking the talk, but incapable of walking the walk.

The slow start this past weekend was almost inevitable; a 21-day layoff due to the effects of Hurricane Irma—the Canes’ world getting turned upside down days after a season-opening win over Bethune-Cookman. Since then, a closed campus in repair, a cancelled game—and another rescheduled—while Miami trekked north to Orlando to practice; seeking some semblance of normalcy and routine.

Hours before Miami hosted Toledo, Florida State—also looking to rebound after a three-week layoff—fell to North Carolina State, 27-21. The Noles also started sluggish, down 10-0 after a quarter, while breaking in a freshman quarterback—insult to injury after losing starter Deondre Francois in a season-opening loss to Alabama.

While the ACC’s Wolfpack are a more-formidable foe than the Mid-Atlantic’s Rockets, the common theme for the Canes and Noles was the same; how does one shake off the dust after not playing full-contact football since September 2nd? Florida State didn’t solve that riddle, but Miami—after a spirited, confident halftime—came out guns blazing for the game’s final thirty minutes.

“We’re going to win this game”—those six-word scrawled on a grease board by defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in the home locker room set the tone for a comeback. No desperation, stat-padding or manufactured rah-rah. It was a simple statement that embodies a new, old-school culture and the type of core values that made “The U” such a dominant force years back.

“It was important that we believed it,” Diaz told the Miami Herald, regarding the message he wrote. “It was important that we felt like for as much adversity as we faced to be only down by six and to realize that we were just one stop, one score away from being in the lead, which is in essence what happened, I want to say this: As a coach you can write [things] down, but the players have to go out and make it happen.

Diaz elaborated—touching on the unexpected, extended break between the season opener and this eventual home showdown with Toledo.

“We were having a hard time the second quarter of putting 11 functioning defensive football players on the field because of getting back to just the conditioning level of being able to play in a game. We couldn’t think straight. We couldn’t play a base coverage. We could hardly do anything there for probably the second half of the second quarter. A lot of that was self-inflicted because of staying on the field on third downs. You’re looking at halftime, you’re telling them the path back and how we’re going to win the football game. But for those guys to go out and take control of the third quarter—is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen from the sideline.”

While that last statement may come off to some as blowing smoke, or hyperbole—a look back at the Hurricanes’ recent history proves otherwise.

miami hurricanes football defense the u


Richt’s squad let a few slip away year one, but still put enough together for a 9-4 season and the program’s first bowl win in a decade. Steps were being taken in the right direction and a spirited second half against the Rockets helps underscore the shift.

While most would love to bury or flush the last decade of Miami football, for the sake of this example a trek down memory lane seems necessary.

Weeks before Golden was canned in October 2015—after a historic 58-0 loss to Clemson—an embarrassing Thursday night loss at Cincinnati; an eventual 7-6 squad smoked 42-7 by San Diego State in the postseason. A week later, the Dalvin Cook show, as the Miami native and Seminoles’ running back torched the Canes for 222 yards an three scores. UM took a brief lead early in the fourth—but as has happened so many times in that era, Miami bent, broke and stumbled home a loser.

The season prior; a collapse for the ages as the Canes pounced on the defending national champs early, taking a 23-7 lead over the Seminoles. Fear of success crept in and Miami played tight, while Florida State—a come-from-behind squad in that Jameis Winston era—chipped away, eventually prevailing, 30-26. Even worse—the Canes’ inability to rebound moving forward.

A no-show against a four-win Virginia the following week, pushed around by Pittsburgh at home in the finale and outworked in a suck bowl game against a six-win South Carolina squad. Coaches oft talk about not letting last week’s opponent beat you twice—carrying that hangover into the next contest. During the Golden era, a late season heartbreak to the Noles cost the Canes the next three games and ultimately the season.

Lest all the blame fall on the last guy, Shannon was no prize in this department, either—his final season marred by a 7-6 run in a year where Miami was primed to build off of a 9-4 finish in 2009. Instead, shellacked at home by Florida State as the No. 12 team in the nation, 45-17, and losing three of the next five—falling at an eventual four-win Virginia, at home against a pedestrian Virginia Tech squad and a back-breaking, tenure-ending overtime loss to lowly South Florida.

Those awful memories relived to underscore two points; that a comeback against Toledo shows a culture shift and new set of beliefs, as well as a justification for the pit in Canes fans’ stomachs last Saturday when the Rockets took a halftime lead—muscle memory kicking regarding a decade-plus of stepping down instead of up.

The slow start after the layoff wasn’t optimum, but Miami eventually found it’s groove, took control and survived—and within that; a ton of positive moments that deserve highlighting.

miami hurricanes the u quarterback malik rosier


Malik Rosier has over-exceeded early expectations two games in. Yes, there have been some errant throws and newbie mistakes—but the former 3-star prospect out of Alabama with a lone career start before this season, looks more than capable of leading this offense. There’s a maturity, a poise and a quality about No. 12 that many didn’t expect to see—including Richt, who famously told Rosier (after anointing him the starter) that he never expected the junior to be the guy.

The loss of would-be senior Brad Kaaya felt like a blow early-on. The Canes had so many other pieces in play and instability at quarterback seemed a cruel way for this comeback season to play out; to the point where unrealistic expectations began surrounding true freshman N’Kosi Perry before he’d even arrived on campus over summer.

Rosier has a long road ahead, but appears to have more upside than many originally thought—a godsend when you see what a squad like Florida State is now suffering without Francois under center.

Same can be said for the running back position; a question mark as the season got underway. Hopes were high that Mark Walton would pick up where he left off after a brilliant sophomore campaign—but a lack of depth behind him with Joe Yearby declaring for the NFL and Gus Edwards transferring to Rutgers—was downright scary. How would Walton’s durability fare and was anyone ready to step into the number two slot behind him?

Walton hit the ground running in the opener; going for 148 yards and two touchdowns against Bethune-Cookman. Against Toledo, an 11-carry, 204-yard outing and a score. Even more impressive; the fact Walton absolutely brought the Canes back to life when re-entering the game in the second half. Miami has some bonafide leaders and spark plugs on both sides of the ball—again, something that’s been missing for way too long.

The Canes also found a true compliment to Walton’s game in sophomore running back Travis Homer, who looks the part—carrying 11 times for 108 yards in the opener, while plugging in nicely last Saturday when Walton was temporary sidelined. Toledo’s defense was focused on stuffing the run and forcing Rosier to carry the offense. Homer carried eight times for 32 yards and punched in two scores, while hauling in three receptions for 46 yards.

A 20-yard hook-up from Rosier to Homer opened the second half and lit a fire. Two plays later, a 19-yard grab. Rosier spread it around—and used his legs—on the 91-yard drive that eventually ended in a 12-yard Homer touchdown run. Walton was back later in the quarter, but the message had already been sent; the Canes have two capable cats who can pound the rock.

Another early-season bonus; tremendous play at wideout despite star sophomore Ahmmon Richards being sidelined the first two games of the year. Losing receiver Stacy Coley and tight end David Njoku to the NFL—there was an expected drop-off regarding who to spread the ball around to, as well as Richards’ production level slipping due to double teams and defenses focusing on him.

Instead, it’s been eight quarters of production out of a bevy of receivers. Darrell Langham, Dayall Harris and Lawrence Cager are putting their height and reach to use, while speedster Braxton Berrios is looking more and more like the player many expected the former 4-star prospect to be earlier in his career.

Dionte Mullins is also emerging in his second season, while true freshman Mike Harley is emerging as a threat. Chris Herndon is also picking up at tight end where Njoku left off—and all of this without Richards taking the field yet this season.

If there’s any knock thus far, it’s been the slow defensive start—guys reading their headlines, believing the pre-season hype and what not—but seeing the Canes clamp down in the second half against the Rockets proved reassuring. No, Toledo won’t soon be confused with some of the offenses Miami will see throughout the season—but the Canes defense responded and furthermore, is responding to their leaders.

Be it the “Turnover Chain”, a halftime message on a grease board, or watching clips of the fabled 1986 Miami defense—to learn unity and ball-swarming—Diaz, line coach Craig Kuligowski, safeties coach Ephraim Banda or cornerback coach Mike Rumph, the Canes are in good hands and are responding as such.

Put it all together over the next nine games and 2017 could truly mark the season Miami turned a corner it’s been unable get around in what feels like a lifetime.

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



Heated position battles at Greentree Practice Field are a strong part of the Miami Hurricanes’ folklore, going back four decades now. Competition has forever been fierce and those vying for a starting job have often found another gear, or manufactured a defining moment in their quest for that preseason nod. In many ways, it’s the true heartbeat of Miami Hurricanes football.

Strangely, that wasn’t the case in Coral Gables these past few months regarding the quarterback position and the quest to replace three-year starting quarterback Brad Kaaya. This completion almost felt clinical or corporate; the best man for the job who checked off the most boxes and whatnot.

Malik Rosier—a dual-threat, redshirt junior and former 3-star prospect out of Alabama—expectedly got the nod, despite media hype and fan-fueled chatter surrounding true freshman N’Kosi Perry. Had the 4-star product out of Ocala trekked south in January as an early enrollee, those four extra months of playbook-learning and college-acclimation could’ve produced a more exciting result, courtesy of a heated fall battle.

Such wasn’t the case, which had consistency and maturity edging out potential and sizzle—and based on the squad Mark Richt will field year two at ‘The U’, maybe that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Solid defense. Workhorse running back. Speedy receivers. Whoever is under center doesn’t need to wear an “S” on their chest. They simply need to do just enough and not blow it.


There’s an old adage about a back-up quarterback being the most-popular guy on a team when an offense is struggling. That tends to hold true in this day and age regarding freshman phenoms with next-level high school reels and endless potential. Perry absolutely falls into this category—the legacy already growing before taking his first collegiate snap.

With dual-threat quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston winning three of the last four Heisman trophies—the national hunt for the next great is forever underway. Perry even synced and studied with Winston back in February—by way of a mutual friend—Tampa Bay’s former number-one pick doling out some football knowledge to the then-high schooler weeks after he’d signed with the Canes.

Any way it’s sliced or diced; a sexier narrative surrounds the Perry era, than next-in-line Rosier—who along with Evan Shirreffs, had pulled ahead of both freshman Cade Weldon and r-sophomore Jack Allison, the latter leaving the program late April and transferring to West Virginia by June.

Vincent Testaverde—son of Vinny—was nowhere in the mix, leaving the former Texas Tech transfer to part ways with the Canes earlier this week.

Perry made his way to campus late May for the Summer A session; a solid month after Rosier started putting his fingerprints all over this year’s squad—something that even surprised Richt.

“I did not expect to have a clear leader when [spring practice] was done. I think we are right about where we thought we were. And if I had to say how I peck them right now, it would be just like I got them going into this spring game. Kind of a co-No. 1 thing, and the rest of them are kind of like co-No. 3. Just fighting for that No. 3 spot, at the moment,” explained the second-year Miami coach—who shared with Rosier that upon taking over last season, never foresaw the day when No. 12 would play for him.

Richt went on to tell the Miami Herald that while Rosier stood out about the rest, it wasn’t by “an unbelievable amount” and went on to acknowledge that “it was apparent he was having the best camp. There was enough of a difference to feel comfortable that Malik is the guy.”

Shirreffs, Weldon and Perry were all advised to keep grinding—and there have been reports that Perry will have some special packages designed for certain games as the athleticism is undeniable.

Rosier has seen action in ten games over the past three seasons, with one start—guiding Miami to a miracle win at Duke in 2015 a week after then-head coach Al Golden was fired in the wake of a 58-0 home loss to Clemson.

Rosier was 20-of-29 for 272 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a game the Canes seemingly had locked up, 24-19 before a few bunk interference calls kept drives alive—the Blue Devils going ahead, 27-24 with :06 remaining. From there, an eight-lateral ‘Miracle In Durham’ unfolded and the Larry Scott-led Hurricanes survived with Rosier in for the banged-up Kaaya.

It was a singular moment in the spotlight as the next season was all about Richt’s takeover and the quarterback guru working with Kaaya. Rosier saw action in three games during the 2016 campaign; 2-of-4 for 32 yards against the likes of Florida A&M and Appalachian State early in the year, followed by mop-up duty against Duke in the regular season finale.

Still, the behind-the-scenes can’t be denied—Rosier spending the past three seasons shadowing his predecessor; rooming with Kaaya on the road, hunkering down in the film room together, going over the playbook, always observing and ultimately ready to go as No. 15’s back-up.

Knowledge was absorbed through the experience and now it’s time to put it in play.



A handful of candidates for the job, no one—at this point—is a safer, low-risk / high-enough reward bet than Rosier. Perry may have the most athleticism and potential upside, but that doesn’t currently trump a 22-year old r-junior who’s put in the work, stacked on the man-weight, knows the system and earned the respect of his teammates.

Steady as she goes early-on for Miami this season; the Hurricanes’ early schedule also playing an unspoken role in Rosier getting the nod, as much as his experience—versus Perry’s lack-of.

With both could arguably beat Bethune-Cookman in their sleep next Saturday at HardRock—three of the next four games are on the road; Arkansas State (9/9), Florida State (9/16) and a rare Friday showdown at Duke (9/29), six days after hosting Toledo. From there, a very manageable conference schedule, as well as a late-season home showdown against Notre Dame—the first in South Florida since the revenge-fueled beat-down of 1989.

Regarding all things Atlantic Coast Conference-driven, the Coastal Division looks to be a two-horse race between Miami and Virginia Tech; with the Canes getting a leg up talent-wise, as well s home field advantage for the November showdown.

North Carolina is in rebuild-mode after it’s offense was decimated with departures and Georgia Tech remains one-dimensional offensively—albeit always comes to play on defense. Duke’s upperclassmen-heavy teams of the past few years are no more. Virginia is coming off a two-win season. Pittsburgh is breaking in a new quarterback, while it’s defense gave up 35+ plus points-per-game on average last season.

Translation; Miami has as good of a shot to win the division as it’s had in upwards of a decade. Knowing that, a big part of this season’s strategy is mitigating risk—and entering the season, nothing is currently riskier than an inexperienced freshman forced to learn on the job.

The Canes may lose something here or there regarding Perry’s athleticism—but the tradeoff; eliminating those types of rookie mistakes that could prove detrimental.


Kaaya was thrown into the fire back in 2014 and Miami paid with a 6-7 season. No, the all-around talent level wasn’t the same as what the Canes are currently sporting—and culture-wise, Richt’s squad versus what Golden fielded, are night versus day.

Still, pushing that all aside—there were freshman moments where it was Kaaya in control to make a play and the inexperience got him. Two sacks and two interceptions in the season opener at Louisville were difference-makers. Weeks later, a three-touchdown, 359-yard outing at Nebraska was also marred with two crucial picks.

Georgia Tech beat Miami with ball control—but a late second quarter interception prevented the Canes from taking a halftime lead. Kaaya had a late shot to pull UM to within four late, but another red zone pick sealed the deal—in a game where the Yellow Jackets held the ball for 40:45 and Miami was 1-of-5 on third down conversions. A common theme as the Canes were 4-of-10 against the Huskers on third down and a paltry 1-of-13 versus the Cardinals in week one.

Three years ago, Miami had no option but to go with Kaaya—as it was down to the true freshman, versus an underachieving journeyman in Jake Heaps. Such is not the case this year putting Rosier versus Perry, or even Shirreffs and Weldon as there’s an abundance of talent at the position that the Canes haven’t seen in a good while. Richt has options and with the season opener days away, he made the right one choosing “good enough” over “potentially great”—while saying all the right things to explain his decision and opening the door for change should Rosier backslide, or others step up.

Miami is a favorite to win the watered-down Coastal Division—arguably setting up a rematch with Florida State on December 2nd in Charlotte. That in itself inevitably puts less short-term pressure on September 16th in Tallahassee and more long-term focus on the seven regular season ACC games that follow.

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


miami hurricanes football the u mark richt paradise camp

Outside of playing some downright sub-par football over the past decade-plus, the Miami Hurricanes also spent that time suffering from a full-blown identity crisis.

Who is The U and what does present-day Hurricanes Football embody? It’s a question that was at one-time easily-definable, but got rather convoluted when contender status and consistent BCS appearances became a thing of the past—traded in for a middle-of-the-pack ACC existence amongst never-ending “rebuilding” cries.

It’s also a query Mark Richt has been working to solve by way of reshaping Miami’s brand identity—on display this weekend with his second annual Paradise Camp, where the second-year head coach tapped into a deep football alumni pool, welcoming home some legends and giving those great players defined roles in the Hurricanes’ rise from the ashes.

In decades past, college football was more or less the Wild West—a wide-open landscape and endless opportunity for any upstart program who dared challenge the in-place, traditional powers—which the University of Miami did in the early 1980’s and beyond. Locking down South Florida’s local, homegrown talent—which most opponents hadn’t quite caught onto yet—produced speed, swagger, dominance and an anti-establishment attitude that inevitably helped the Hurricanes turn the sport upside down.

Probation derailed the agenda in the mid-1990’s, but the success formula remained the same; bring in Miami-style kids who understood the blueprint and get things back on track. Success wasn’t far removed for those Hurricanes—the late nineties guys growing up watching the “Decade of Dominance” era and chasing the ghosts of those greats.

The game plan worked to perfection and by the early 2000’s, Miami was again on top. Four consecutive BCS games, back-to-back title games, a national championship and 34-game win-streak—not to mention sending top-flight talent to the NFL in droves.

Wins produced swag while swag also fueled those history-making victories. The proof was in the results and there was little room for interpretation. Ultimate success and style point defined the Hurricanes—and then it stopped, making way for a “Decade of Disaster”, with no reprieve in sight.

Prior to the fall, Larry Coker went on a run with the talent assembled by Butch Davis, but the tank was soon on empty and it would take more than a nice-guy, interim-style leader to rebuild proper. Financially-strapped and playing catch-up facilities-wise, Miami football wasn’t yet the desirable gig it’s since become—leading to a promotion-from-within and dice rolled on a former player and longtime assistant, Randy Shannon—who had his flaws and proved better-suited to be a career assistant than CEO and backbone of a program.

When that failed, enter Al Golden—praised for his efforts turning a doormat Temple program around, but still an unproven outsider plucked from the northeast and low-risk, low-reward option for a cash-strapped program with a then-university president lacking a long-term vision for athletics, with her (understandable) focus on a world-class medical school legacy.

miami hurricanes football greentree practice field
Legends are made and frauds exposed at Miami’s Greentree Practice Field.


Timing is a quirky thing and so often since the turn of the millennium, it hasn’t worked in Miami’s favor. That said, timing also has a way of leveling itself out and eventually coming back around—which happened for the Hurricanes a few Decembers back when Richt’s run in Athens came to an end.

One man’s trash certainly proved to be another’s treasure. The long-time Georgia leader was let go, leaving Miami to scoop up the veteran immediately—believing Richt to be an ideal fit; a proven commodity with a chip on his competitive shoulder and something left to prove with one last go-around.

More than just chasing an elusive championship, the former Hurricanes’ quarterback is proving to be the rebuild-it-right and leave-it-better-than-you-found it type leader—especially in the case of his alma mater. Richt put his money where his mouth is, investing $1M out of his own pocket towards a much-needed indoor practice facility—while leaning on creativity with the forward-tanking Paradise Camp; an event that finally puts the University of Miami on offense regarding how it challenges the competition, moving forward.

For years, the Hurricanes have inexplicably been in defense-mode. Defending the program’s facilities, defending an off-campus stadium or a lack of a traditional college-town atmosphere and the steadfast small-town support that comes from being the only channel to watch in a one-horse town.

The experience in Coral Gables won’t soon be confused with one in Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, South Bend or Ann Arbor—and conversely, none of those smaller towns can compete with Miami’s “paradise” vibe and overall style, so quit with the pointless comparisons or inferences that the Hurricanes don’t measure up.

Richt is changing the narrative; playing up the University of Miami’s unique strengths, which more than negate any perceived weaknesses.

No on-campus stadium? Who gives a shit? The Canes play in a recently-renovated, first-class NFL stadium that houses Super Bowls. No rah-rah college town vibe? Good, as it sets the bar even higher. Hurricanes Football is treated like a big time pro sports franchise. There are no sympathy points or forced support because of emotional alumni ties.

This is Miami. There are countless ways to spend one’s entertainment dollar and everyone is jockeying for the spotlight. Win, and you earn the keys to a diverse, international, big time city. Lose and you’re feel the heat as there are no free rides and tremendous competition for the community’s eyeballs.

Bigger risks equating in greater rewards—which is something the past Miami greats did when putting their balls on the line to play in that orange and green spotlight. Former receiver, mouthpiece and self-appointed motivational speaker Michael Irvin touched on all of that when “Paradise” wrapped on Sunday.

“I just wanna be around the kids, man,’’ the legendary wideout said, “Just pass on to them what it was like when we stepped on these practice fields and how it became what it was, how proud we were to play for one another and how hard we worked against one another.

“You could see their eyes light up at what they have an opportunity to be a part of,’’ Irvin continued. “Being here is important. … This is Miami. You come be a part of something. You dominate here, you own Miami. … You dominate here, you own the world.’’

Owning the Magic City and the world. Sounds a shit-ton better than being king of “Too-ka-loo”—Irvin’s purposeful mispronunciation of Tuscaloosa and the small fish in a big pond experience at cookie-cutter universities across the nation.


Having spent 15 years in Athens and a decade in Tallahassee prior-to, Richt is well aware of what makes programs in those smaller regions tick—but he also reaped the benefits of growing up in South Florida and playing his college ball at Miami. Right knows “The U” also stands for “unique”; hence tapping into over a dozen former UM legends for this special camp—while continuing to play up the weather, energy, environment and atmosphere in the 305.

In other words, we play where you vacay. Get on board, or get left behind and deal with the consequences.

Along with Irvin, this past weekend brought Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey, Vince Wilfork, Jon Vilma, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Jon Beason, Bryant McKinnie, D.J. Williams, Brett Romberg, Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell all back home as player-coaches, wisdom-spouters and veteran motivators, while current coaches intensely led practice.

Coupled with the impossible-to-argue sales pitch regarding South Florida’s weather and the University of Miami’s unique vibe—”paradise” proved the be the ideal adjective. A day later, it’s still hard to tell who got more out of it—the recruits, or the former Miami greats chomping at the bit to see this program back on top again.

“They told us, ‘Just be yourself. Do whatever you feel is right,’ ” former running back McGahee told the Miami Herald. “These guys look up to us, and they can get a lot out of two or three hours. I wish we had this. Didn’t have nothing like this. Didn’t have nobody to talk to but neighborhood friends.”

miami hurricanes football dyme life jon vilma
The DymeLife mentality and approach from past Hurricane legends appeals to tomorrow’s greats—as well as recruits who chose otherwise.

Rolle echoed his former teammate’s sentiments.

“I see something in them,” Rolle shared with the Palm Beach Post. “It’s a different mentality that they have. It’s a different look at they have. Before I had to feel the guys were just too anxious here. They were just too anxious to try to get to the next level. Right now I’m not so much seeing that. I’m seeing the guys are really anxious to get back to winning and that’s what it’s all about. If you win everything takes care of itself.”

It seems so simple, really—but much like the game of college football itself, without nailing the finite details and properly executing, The Hurricanes haven’t been able to bring it all back together until Richt’s arrival.

Coker and Shannon had their camps, but neither were like the one current on display. Golden tried, as well—earning positive reviews for his efforts, which helped mend fences with local high school coaches burned by his predecessor—but it wasn’t enough to make a real recruiting dent. Steps were taken forward, but the New Jersey native and Penn State alum lacked the authenticity that Richt brings to the table as “one of us”, as well as checking off the “proven commodity” box as a head coach and leader.

Richt’s pedigree also affords him the ability to know how to properly incorporate those uber-successful Hurricane legends into his long-term game plan—another area where recent leaders of this proud program came up short. Shannon was inexperienced, unproven and unable to implement a workable strategy, while Golden simply didn’t have the roots and history with those who helped build this program one snap at a time.

Outside of the obvious, something as intangible as timing is also proving to be on Richt’s side—where others didn’t have that luxury. Miami’s three-year probationary period ended last October—fallout from the NCAA investigation that prohibited former players, boosters and trustees from standing sideline on game.

Richt worked around this last spring, but inviting former greats to the official spring game and night-before banquet—seeds planted that helped lead to these game-changing summer camps that are destined to have the Hurricanes reeling in some of the nation’s best athletes after an unfathomable drought.

miami hurricanes football clemson tigers sun life stadium october 2015 al golden fired
Painful as that Clemson dick-kicking was in 2015, Miami football has been on the rise ever since.


Phrases like “perfect storm” are easy to toss around when discussing the state of Hurricanes football, but in all reality, there’s no other way to describe the serendipitous nature for Miami over the past almost-two years—beginning with rock bottom when Clemson delivered that 58-0 ass-kicking in late October of 2015.

What felt like the ultimate gut punch at the time—that annihilation proved to be the first step in the journey back. A lesser beat-down might not have cost Golden his job, but suffering the worst loss in the proud program’s history was the proverbial last straw. Interim head coach rallied the troops for a 4-2 run down the stretch and less than six weeks after Golden’s dismissal, Richt fell into Miami’s lap.

Another six weeks later, a solid foundational recruiting class was locked down—Golden and staff’s initial efforts to plant seeds, while Richt’s style, energy, confidence and resume sealed the deal with future stars like Shaq Quarterman, Ahmmon Richards, Zach McCloud and Joe Jackson; the type of player the Canes had swung and missed out on too often.

A serviceable inaugural season followed, full of highs and lows. Late-game losses to Florida State and Notre Dame stung, while a five-game win-streak and convincing bowl victory ended things on a high note—a high the Canes have continued riding, with momentum rising ever since.

All of this will inevitably pose the standard, “Is Miami back?” line of questioning from the national media as fall rolls around—and so be it. Love or hate the Hurricanes, the program remains polarizing. For those in-the-know, best suited to brush off that small-mindedness as the moves being made in Coral Gables aren’t going be measuredly a mid-September showdown in Tallahassee.

Something bigger is finally in the works; a much-needed, revamped process and proper plan is in effect—put into place by the right guy at the right time, with a clear cut vision as to how to make all right for Hurricane Nation once again.

Outsiders, you’ve been warned—and this time it’s coming from the top; rooted in process, not hype.

ed reed miami hurricanes the u mark richt paradise camp
Legends like Ed Reed will be leaned on heavily in the Mark Richt era. (Image courtesy of @CanesFootball)

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