MIAMI HURRICANES: STILL DIGESTING DISASTROUS TWO-GAME LOSING STREAK


This started out a recap on Miami’s recent face-plant at Duke, before quickly realizing no one needed a breakdown of a throwaway game that barely 15,000 spectators even witnessed in-person.

If the Hurricanes played the Blue Devils in late November, getting outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter and falling 27-17—and no one was there to see it—did it even really happen? (Unfortunately, yes—it did.) 

For any willing to waste their time seeking out the *why* or *how* of that disastrous outing—just re-read anything written about Miami’s disturbing loss to Florida International the week prior, as it’s all the same nonsense. The Canes again showed up flat, played down to the level of competition and fell to an inferior opponent that it should’ve run out of the stadium—followed by some coach speak about how this type of sub-par football needs correcting.

Rinse, wash, repeat—as the misery continues.

All of this failure obviously falls on first-year, first-time head coach Manny Diaz—who went through the ringer this fall, by way of an up and down season that couldn’t have ended with a bigger, uglier thud than what was on display these final two weeks—getting embarrassed by a commuter college and basketball school, no less.

Diaz seems to have somewhat diagnosed the Hurricanes’ problems—breaking down and identifying things in his sadder-by-the-week post-game pressers—but has made zero headway in correcting any of these glaring issues. Miami managed to show up flat in all three post-bye week games this fall, as well as Duke—despite Diaz inexplicably praising his team’s “effort” in shell-shocked fashion in the bowels of Wallace Wade Stadium last Saturday evening; after stating post-FIU that the Hurricanes were fortunate to have the game against the Blue Devils to right the ship.

Miami has also fallen thrice this season as double-digit favorites; something that hasn’t happened in college football in over four decades; UM’s 15-year decent into irrelevance reaching yet another low. Nice work, fellas.

INABILITY TO RESPOND TO ADVERSITY REACHES NEW LOW

This program felt like it was at least starting to turn a corner with earlier wins at Pittsburgh and Florida State—as well as that rout of Louisville and solid offensive performance in the home regular-season finale. The Hurricanes handled three average opponents, with a chance to close strong by way of a five-game win streak—something that could’ve at least taken a little bit of the sting off of early-season losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

Instead, by Diaz’s own admission, his players viewed that three-game win-streak as some back-on-track accomplishment—allowing the Canes to drop their guard and mailing it in for their two final showings.

Call it what it is; Miami thought a lackadaisical effort was more than enough against a Florida International squad it felt it could out-talent—and even in the wake of that loss, still didn’t roll into Duke pissed off; bringing that same low energy against a team ripe for a knockout blow, riding a five-game losing streak into their home finale.

“That effort was about pride,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said post game. “I watched our defensive front literally twist, scratch, claw, anything they could to rush that quarterback. I watched our offense never say die.”

The Blue Devils hadn’t won a football game since October 12th (when they beat lowly Georgia Tech by 18 points) yet were still able to muster up the balls and heart to close strong against the Hurricanes—even with a post-season berth off the table as a 5-7 team.

Meanwhile, the bad taste from FIU and what Diaz called one of the darkest night’s in UM’s history—on the hallowed grounds where the Orange Bowl once stood, no less—still wasn’t enough for Miami to show the college football world it could bounce back from sheer embarrassment.

If that ain’t a culture and entitlement problem, then what the hell is?

Unfortunately, Miami’s issues run deeper than most care to admit; a perception problem that should force Diaz, his staff and his players to take a long and hard look in the mirror this off-season—as should many in this fan base who refuse to admit the degree to which the college football landscape has changed; inexplicably feeling the Hurricanes should remain the consistently dominant force it was decades back, yet nothing tangible or logical to back that sentiment up.

QUIT COMPARING PRESENT TO PAST CANES’ GLORY

Weeks back, I deep-dove the $200M investment the University of Georgia made into it’s football program—the majority of it coming from alumni donations, that will never be a reality at a small, private school like the University of Miami—with a fan base made up of mostly non-alum that don’t write checks—but will donate towards flying angst-fueled banners or putting up disgruntled billboards, treating UM more like a pro sports franchise than one’s beloved alma mater.

Fact remains, the Canes gamed the system decades back—bringing a level of speed and athleticism to the sport, before others had caught up or college football became the big time, big money machine it is today; one where UM is still looking for consistency and a way to compete, built on some unique traits and those few benefits that come from it’s storied history and premium location.

Another ingredient that always made the University of Miami special during its Decade Of Dominance era was that combination of authenticity and full accountability—guys who took pride in building the foundation, up through those who would do everything in their power to maintain that level of excellence; not wanting to be the class that let streaks die, or ones who let down the legends who played before them.

After falling into a 28-0 hole, the Canes rallied against the Hokies—tying the game, 35-35, before ultimately losing, 42-35.

The iconic Alonzo Highsmith—an integral part of the Hurricanes becoming a national power in the first place, and one of the first local greats to stay home to play for Miami—defined swagger back in spring as the following:

“Swag is watching Michael Irvin running routes, wearing a 30-pound weight vest after practice, in like 100-percent humidity. Swag is running hills at Tropical Park are you’ve done all your work with the strength coaches. It’s the whole team showing up tor un in combat boots on the beach. That’s swag. It’s never missing a practice. It’s practicing like every day is your last day. You don’t get swag because of a haircut—or because you pound your chest because someone said you were a 5-Star. Swag is something that is earned. You don’t just give it to somebody.”

Diaz, a student of Hurricanes football—45 years old, growing up in The U‘s heyday and seeing this all the dominance and authentic swag first-hand—knows the difference between a facsimile and the real thing; and there’s little genuine about this present-day Miami program.

While there are a handful of players talking the talk and backing it up, there are still too many pretenders; guys more concerned with sharing personal highlight moments on social media, in games where the Hurricanes were flat-out embarrassed—the same type of guys dancing on the sidelines, like the attention whores they are, instead of doubling down their efforts and being disgusted with this level of mediocrity.

Practicing like every day like is your last day? How many reports were there this fall about bad sessions or guys being checked out after some early losses? Swag earned—when guys are rocking sideline hardware and posing for cameras, while their counterparts are going three-and-out, or letting an opposing offense answer with a score?

While UM was a truly dominant force for a full decade all those years ago—that condensed period between 1986 and 1992 saw this program go an unprecedented 78-6—winning three national championships (1987, 1989, 1991), leaving two on the field (1986, 1992) and having another opportunity stolen (1988). Even that rare two-loss season (1990)—no one doubted that the Canes were the nation’s best by year’s end; simply pissing away a title shot with a season-opening road loss—before rolling into bowl season ranked No. 4, demolishing the third-ranked team in the nation and racking up over 200+ yards in celebration penalties, putting their own personal “F**k you” stamp on what was considered a “disappointing” season.

TODAY’S CANES LACKING ESSENCE OF PAST GREATS

Anytime the Hurricanes did stumble back in that era; the response was to always bounce back in dominant fashion—the setback used as fuel, as the old adage held strong; the last team anyone in the country wanted to play was a pissed off Miami squad, on the heels of a loss.

Contrast that to what the Hurricanes have become over the past decade-plus; a mid-tier ACC program that was 97-71 from the embarrassing 2005 Peach Bowl loss, through that 35-3 curb-stomping Wisconsin dropped in the 2018 Pinstripe. Even that lucky-bounce 10-0 start in 2017 was followed by a 7-9 before Diaz was handed the keys after Mark Richt prematurely retired; Richt guilty of two four-game losing streaks over his three seasons in Coral Gables.

In a few bright moments in 2019, Miami showed it could bounce back; responding to the Virginia Tech loss with a takedown of Virginia (fueled as much by the Cavaliers’ red zone incompetence as the Canes’ improved defense)—as well as a hang-tough, grind-it-out win at Pittsburgh days after falling at home to a one-win Georgia Tech squad (the Panthers also with their own red zone woes, though the Canes’ defense certainly proved resilient.)

Still, the bad outweighed the good and any progress went to hell in a handbag when getting out-worked at Duke in pride-less fashion, days after being throughly embarrassed by FIU—both of which immediately put Diaz back at square one and reeling, while waiting to hear what third-tier bowl game Miami will have to try and muster up some excitement for. [Editors Note: As of Sunday afternoon, the Hurricanes are officially headed to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA to take on Louisiana Tech on December 26th.]

The only “positive” about 6-6 and heading to a garbage bowl; it leaves Diaz nowhere to hide going into 2020—something already being expressed an unnamed, longtime Board of Trustees member and another “high ranking executive involved in UM’s administration”—as reported by the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson days back.

While no one is forcing Diaz out the door after 6-6, a line in the dirt was drawn regarding where things go from here—expected as UM remains desperate to stop the bleeding in regards to this long-running era of irrelevance.

“Manny better straighten out this mess,” shared the trustee. “He better figure it out, but they’re not getting rid of him after one year”—which in reality, is fair considering how long-running this UM football backslide has been.

DIAZ: ROCK BOTTOM WITH TWO-GAME LOSING STREAK

Had the Canes closed out with a very-doable, five-game win-streak—it would’ve allowed the first-year leader to shape a positive narrative and to sweep some glaring weaknesses under the rug; taking up an 8-4 finish after a 3-4 start, and some proverbial corner turned—one that could’ve led to an Orange Bowl berth.

Instead, those “everything is under review” or “under investigation” comments Diaz made in reference to his team getting embarrassed by FIU—he has no choice by to turn that same scrutiny toward himself and every decision he made since taking over 11 months back.

It’s impossible for Diaz to speak of a “culture problem” or “brokenness” within his program, without admitting what he’s personally done to feed into the underserved cockiness—based on what this program was decades back, or what he hopes it can someday be again—while conveniently ignoring 15 years of mediocrity and pushing an incomplete narrative that things can turn quickly; which seems to be a go-to motivator.

Diaz admits his team has an “inherent arrogance” around it—again, based on this program’s past success, as well a bar that’s been set as a result of the glory years—but quickly followed up with examples of other program’s bottom-out moments and their ascension back to the top, with no tangible explanation of the work, growth or execution that happened in-between to make the rise possible.

Back in spring, it was the example of Miami beating Notre Dame soundly in 2017—derailing their entire season—only to watch the Irish reach the College Football Playoffs the following fall, where they fell to eventual-defending champs, Clemson and finished their season 12-1.

Post-FIU, again, in the wake of an unthinkable loss by Miami standards—Diaz chose this moment to draw a comparison to a front-runner capable of winning it all this season.

“Two years ago, Troy went to Baton Rouge and beat LSU, who right now is the number one team in the country. Things can change, but it needs to change. It has to start with myself and the coaching. We have to do a lot better job of coaching our guys.”

Huh?

The mere mention of these Hurricanes in the same breath as 2019 LSU or 2018 Notre Dame is completely irresponsible and as amateurish as any early-season talk about a then four-loss Miami team being “a handful of plays away from being undefeated”—as some way to soften the blow of a brutal start to the Diaz era.

As the old saying goes, Manolo—if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle. Enough with the could’ve, would’ve, should’ve rhetoric.

Miami whiffed on 29 tackles and was caught napping on a fake punt in an OT loss to a one-win Georgia Tech team, 28-21.

For a head coach so caught up in the analytics, statistics and metrics of this sport—there seems to be a huge disconnect when it comes to language and understanding the important science and psychology of words. Concepts like “if” or “should” can be dangerous when used to justify or explain how close one was to achieving the ultimate goal—only to fall short—yet Diaz leaned on both months back, with a half-assed explanation of what should’ve been expected out of his Hurricanes this fall.

If we get our team competing to the standard the Miami Hurricanes set, we should be in the mix to go to Charlotte [home of the ACC Championship] every year, starting this year,” Diaz shared at the ACC Kickoff media event back in July.

That statement is as empty and pointless as saying that if Miami scored more points than everyone on their schedule this fall, the should win the national championship.

CANES A CONSTANT DISAPPOINTMENT SINCE JOINING ACC

As Miami’s fifth head coach over the past 14 seasons—not to mention, a Canes history buff well aware that UM has never won an ACC Championship and only has one Coastal Division title in 16 tries—Diaz should be painfully aware that this program hasn’t been “competing to the standard the Miami Hurricanes set” since the team Butch Davis left behind in the early 2000’s faded away under Larry Coker.

Sure, based on where things were 16 years ago, Miami theoretically should’ve been in the mix to go to Charlotte every year since the championship game was introduced in 2005—hence why the Hurricanes were invited into the ACC to begin with; to help bring more football prestige to a basketball conference—yet over a decade-and-a-half on board, that hasn’t happened.

Diaz called out his team’s “arrogance” after falling to FIU, explaining that, “Our blind spot is where there is an expectation to win.” The shell-shocked coach continued, putting his foot in his mouth, before quickly working to clarifying his official point regarding a standard:

“When things get good around here—and a three-game winning streak shouldn’t be ‘good’—but even that, when the sun does come out here, I think our team picks up on the natural arrogance that we have.”

Outside of it being Diaz’s job to counter that arrogant attitude and to have his team ready for “lesser” competition—he should be working daily and situationally to squash out this undeserved, unwarranted entitlement too many in this program possess.

Instead, the Miami-bred leader fuels it with his own actions—yet can’t understand why there’s a deep-rooted problem with his players. Hindsight is always 20/20, but after stumbling to 6-6 and losing so many games this fall in epic fail fashion—Diaz must now own every move up to this point and learn from them as they get dissected.

It’s easy to be brash when undefeated in spring; a fan base again rallying behind the hope a new coach brings—quickly over Richt after three short years, as the former Georgia head coach ran out of gas quickly after taking over his alma mater—fielding one of the blandest offenses in the history of Hurricanes football.

Diaz was brash out the gate and quintessential Miami; rolling into a booster event on an 88-foot yacht, while delivering a witty Twitter game. There was even that WWE-style, lights and smoke-filled practice event where the new coach was out there with his players, tackling dummies that had “7-6” scrawled across the front—some seemingly cathartic exorcizing of demons and shedding skin, while going into a new era—all of which now ring extremely hollow as the product on the field didn’t deliver and things looked as off as the did a year ago.

DIAZ’S OWN ARROGANCE FUELING UM’S BROKEN CULTURE

Diaz also set and a culture that feeds into players’ arrogance when, for lack of a better term, he allowed the inmates to run the asylum. Troubled wide receiver Jeff Thomas was given a second chance this year, after a late season suspension in 2018, followed by him ultimately leaving the program for Illinois—only to return after Diaz replaced Richt.

Had Thomas thrived upon his return, the move wouldn’t have been questions—the same way Diaz’s pre-season antics would’ve been seen as fresh and inspiring, had the Hurricanes put together a 10-2 type of season and won the Coastal.

Instead, Thomas underachieved, underperformed and found himself suspended for multiple games a second consecutive season—as well as reportedly getting called out in a heated team meeting months back, for being selfish, lazy and ultimately being a detriment to his team—relying on his natural talent and being good, instead of working his ass off to be great.

Transfer quarterback Tate Martell is another personnel-related position that is feeding into this soft-ass culture, where Diaz needs to be taking a harder stance against accountability. Aside from not finding a way to inject the talented prospected into a sluggish offense—there have been two, separate leaves-of-absence over the span of a month for the former Ohio State quarterback the Hurricanes pulled from the Transfer Portal.

While one must be delicate in regards to the realities and hardships of mental health these days, it’s impossible to ignore the narrative social media is painting—one showing Martell as a young guy who might’ve out-kicked his coverage a bit in the dating world, by way of an attention-starved Instagram model (one with 875K followers) and a fun-fueled South Beach-type existence—to a point where football appears secondary and the relationship has caused strife with his own family; by way of a mother taking to Twitter to trash the girlfriend in a public forum.

There are always three sides to every story—yours, mine and the truth—but it’s hard not to feel Diaz sold a little bit of his soul this fall in regards to preferential treatment given to both Thomas and Martell; hoping the receiver and special teams speedster could be a difference-maker, while seemingly hanging in there with the fan-favorite quarterback, as the premise of him transferring out and doing well elsewhere would never get lived down.

Instead, a worst-case scenario as Diaz missed a legitimate opportunity to put his foot down, taking steps towards breaking this culture of entitlement—again, identifying a problem, but unable to fix it—while neither Thomas or Martell had positive impact on a Hurricanes’ team that could’ve easily stumbled to 6-6 without either of them.

Where the ‘Turnover Chain’ sparked the defense in 2017—’Touchdown Rings’ were forced and embarrassing 2019’s 6-6 campaign.

While Miami was getting its teeth kicked in by Florida International and Duke, Martell wasn’t with the team—which didn’t sit well with a few vocal UM greats and past national champions—Brett Romberg and Joaquin Gonzalez—who had a little social media back-and-forth on the subject.

“How many ‘mental days’ do you remember anyone getting? Then appearing in photos smiling and enjoying Thanksgiving holidays with your girlfriend and buddies while you’re teammates are getting throttled on TV for the second week in a row,” Romberg shared with Gonzalez—which prompted the following response from his fellow big-ugly:

“6-6, que mierda—and we are still accommodating people like Tate Martell.’When he is ready, we will be here’ [a reaction to Diaz explanation of the situation]—you kidding me? That shit would not have gone dow back in the day, you are either here or you are not!!”

Even the phrase, The New Miami—which was obviously meant as a long-term goal for what Diaz wants this program to grow into; it was poorly explained and executed—while Diaz played up #TNM on social media with recruits.

Meanwhile, fans chose to ignore 15 years of deep-rooted issues at Miami; coaching turnover, average performances on the field and no tangible steps taken over that span to get UM back on a better trajectory—running with the newly-coined marketing term as some insta-fix; immediately expecting a new attitude and energy on display this fall—some going as far as to call for a 12-0 run, a season-opening victory over Florida, another Coastal Division title and belief (by the truly overzealous) that Miami would be ready for a crack at Clemson.

Cocaine is a hell of a drug, y’all.

Yes, the hope is to get Miami to a place where it’s a consistent divisional favorite—but some tough-guy expectation and talk of some forever-ago standard that hasn’t been upheld since the turn of the century? Especially when this fourth new head coach since 2007 was taking over a program 7-9 since that miracle 10-0 start in 2017, en route to that lone Coastal Division title, before getting rolled by Clemson in the ACC Championship?

CHANGES MUST BE MADE IN 2020; INNOVATE OR DIE

The Current Miami doesn’t need to be reminded of what it’s capable of when it plays at its highest level; it needs to be constantly brought back down to earth regarding how far removed this program has been from that type of success—housebroken like an unruly dog, with it’s nose rubbed in shit until it gets the message.

Each new generation of Hurricanes must create their own legacy and can’t ride the coattails of what other greats have done in years passed—creating said legacy getting harder each passing year Miami doesn’t find its footing and stays irrelevant.

To Diaz’s credit, he and his staff have spent this past week pounding the recruiting trail and looking to lock down the next great generation of Hurricanes—each next class providing hope that they will eventually be the group who started the turnaround.

The early signing period is days out, with National Signing Day under two months away—and while nothing matters until the ink is dry—the getting has been good and UM has picked up some solid commitments from kids who look like future ballers, even the wake of this late-season stumble.

With a new wave Hurricanes set to get on board in 2020, no better time for Diaz to do a hard reset—rethinking the rookie mistakes he made in 2019—while also revisiting his 2017 brainchild, which obviously needs tweaking.

Where the Turnover Chain was a game-changer for Miami—and college football as a whole, two seasons ago—it’s become a distraction as the Hurricanes have stumbled to a troubling 13-15 record since that fast 2017 start.

The beloved Cuban link was a motivational tool it’s inaugural season—the Canes jumping from 67th nationally in turnovers forced in 2016, to 13th in the nation in 2017—but it’s literally become a participation trophy in 2019; players rushing to the sideline to don the hardware and mug for cameras, while an inconsistent offense retakes in the field in a game Miami is en route to losing.

Per the aforementioned Herald piece by Jackson, the jewelry isn’t sitting well with the way it is currently on display.

“The other thing they’re not happy with is the bling shit,” the executive shared, regarding UM’s Board of Trustees members. “The Turnover Chain, the rings, the dancing on the sidelines—you look like an idiot when doing that with a 6-6 team.”

Where the Miami of yesteryear could tell the BoT to shove their sentiments up their ass—as the product on the field backed everything up—the complete opposite is true now; as there’s simply no talking when playing .500 football. Just shut up and get back to work.

Shelving the jewelry long-term would be a bit aggressive; as the jewelry is vintage Magic City—but only when Miami is taking care of business. The fact it’s not; Diaz must take ownership and responsibility for this thing he created—rewriting the rules and fully realizing that fine line between ultimate motivation and a lethal cocktail of self-absorption and self-promotion.

These kids completely missed the point regarding the hardware these past two seasons—while Diaz couldn’t have whiffed more by introducing Touchdown Rings as a reward for 2019, on the heels of last season’s setback and with too many questions regarding how this offense was going to execute and perform.

Lastly, there also needs to be a long, hard look at this current staff when Diaz works towards an off-season epiphany and ways to right the ship. 7-6 wasn’t good enough to carry anyone over from Richt’s offense staff last year—and with that record Miami’s best-case scenario for this season, barring it actually shows up for a meaningless bowl game, how does Diaz deal with his one-year old staff are this disaster of a campaign? 

Dan Enos was poached from Alabama as some “quarterback whisperer”—one Miami paid a reported and unprecedented $1.2M for, no less. A dozen games in, no Hurricane quarterbacks look vastly improved—while the offense has regressed. Enos constantly trying to out-clever the competition, while sticking with a quarterback under center and long-developing run-pass-option plays that don’t get the ball out of guys’ hands quick enough—behind a garbage offensive line.

Similar cases can be made for offensive line coach Butch Barry—whose unit has struggled all fall, while getting knocked technique-wise by former UM lineman—as well as defensive coordinator Blake Baker; so green he needed Diaz’s help midseason when the Hurricanes whiffed on 29 tackles in that overtime loss to a one-win Georgia Tech team.

When stumbling to 6-6 in the fashion Miami did; it’s cause for some serious alarm—and cranks up the heat on a first-year head coach much more than it would’ve had the Canes eked out 8-4 with wins over the Golden Panthers and Blue Devils. While one might struggle to call those two final losses “blessings in disguise”—failure at that level truly leaves Diaz exposed; forced to make some tough decisions this off-season, or to gamble by staying put—which could put him one step closer to pissing away this dream job opportunity.

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

MIAMI HURRICANES BACKSLIDE AGAINST FIU GOES ONE OF TWO WAYS

If there was any belief the Miami Hurricanes had begun to turn a corner after a recent three-game win streak—it immediately went out the window after an unthinkable “road” loss to Florida International on Saturday night at Marlins Park.

After falling behind 16-0 by the third quarter and 23-3 in the fourth, the Hurricanes rallied for three late touchdowns against the Panthers, but ran out of time in a 30-24 loss as crushing for Manny Diaz as it was redeeming for Butch Davis, the one-time UM leader working to shake the “little brother” stigma for his FIU Panthers—which he did for the night, at least.

Despite all the talk of protecting the Canes’ old turf and UM’s over-the-top marketing efforts to play up a return to the hallowed ground where the beloved Orange Bowl once stood—the message and importance of this game was still somehow lost on Diaz’s squad. Miami dropped to 0-3 in games after a bye week this season, while going down in history as the only team over the past four decades to lose thrice in one season as a double-digit favorite; the Panthers a three-touchdown underdog in a game they controlled from the get-go. Congratulations, fellas.

A few miles west, Davis spent the week-of making it painfully important to his team the magnitude of this game—not just to FIU as a program, but to all of these players individually. He played the underdog card carefully—as few if any of these kids were recruited by any major programs—while giving his squad the belief that an upset was within reach.

Ballsy, considering the Golden Panthers had never knocked off a Power 5 school in their limited history—yet executed perfect for a litany of reasons.

Convincing his kids that Miami was beatable; not a tremendous feat when looking at the erratic nature of Diaz’s inconsistent Hurricanes in season one. Aside from the obvious post-bye week struggles, UM showed its hand thrice now regarding playing down to the level of competition—barely eking out a 17-12 win against Central Michigan in late September, rolling in flat weeks later against a one-win Georgia Tech team; lethargically whiffing on 29 tackles in an overtime loss—and now this latest debacle against a third-rate program Miami simply never should’ve lost to.

The Hurricanes bounced back in recent weeks with a come-from-behind win at Pittsburgh and convincing take downs of both Florida State and Louisville—though the latter two were a direct result of better offensive line play that left first-year quarterback Jarren Williams looking like a completely different player, with extra time to go through his reads.

Still, when pressured, Williams has a tendency to revert back to that rattled, inexperienced, redshirt freshman, first-year starter he is—which beyond having his team emotionally ready to go, was Davis’ second leg-up moment of the evening. Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos didn’t get his quarterback comfortable until too little, too late—yet another Hurricanes’ blind spot in 2019.

Down 17-3 in a flash at North Carolina, or in a 28-0 hole to Virginia Tech, aided by three Williams’ interceptions—slow starts have crippled these Hurricanes too often in Diaz’s rookie season, and in both cases, late furious rallies fell short.

Again, one would be remised to think that Davis didn’t also work this UM weakness into his overall game plan—hammering his team to bust out the gates with a quick start, pouncing early and keeping Miami stunned for as long as possible. The Tar Heels and Hokies did it unintentionally, while laying out an unintentional blueprint even more-destined to work for Davis—knowing how lightly the Hurricanes would inevitably take the Golden Panthers.

CULTURAL ISSUES AT MIAMI NOT ONLY REAL, BUT ONGOING

Diaz often brings up a culture issue that long-time, frustrate fans love to scoff at—but it doesn’t make the assessment any less true. Especially when seeing so many of the same problems persisting today that have plagued this program going back a decade-and-a-half, for all four previous head coaches post-Davis.

Miami players tossing snowballs during 33-17 ass-kicking by Irish in 2010 Sun Bowl; this culture has been off for a while.

Pre-game logo stomps at Louisville in 2006, en route to a 31-7 drubbing, a faux-swag brawl against this same FIU program that was a PR disaster for UM and 7-6 season that ended the Larry Coker era—to snowball fights on the sideline at the 2010 Sun Bowl while Notre Dame was kicking Miami’s teeth in 30-3 in the third quarter, barely a month after the four-year Randy Shannon era came to an end—Hurricanes teams have been grossly missing the mark for years now.

New head coach Al Golden watched in late 2010 from a suite in El Paso, unsure of what he was about to take over—something outgoing senior Ryan Hill was quick to sum up in an interview days later.

“The first thing he [Golden] probably has to do is weed out the guys he doesn’t feel will be beneficial to the program,” the departing cornerback shared with the Palm Beach Post. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have to do a lot of maturing in this program. We have a lot of guys that act like little boys, just not doing what they’re supposed to do”—which referred to players openly mocking Shannon, while blatantly ignoring his rules.

Lest not forget this was also the same class duped and caught in the crosshairs of the Nevin Shapiro scandal; guys who ignored Shannon’s warning to stay away from the eventually-shamed Ponzi schemer, with Golden inheriting many of those players while dealing with the fallout of a scandal that didn’t happen on his watch.

Mark Richt might’ve commanded a bit more respect as a long-time SEC head coach taking over the Hurricanes in 2016, but a laid back demeanor and unflappable approach certainly hindered Miami from having a team full of alphas and dogs who played with the kind of balls or bark Davis’ FIU squad brought on Saturday night.

“We wasn’t even calling them ‘University of Miami’ during the week,” linebacker Sage Lewis boasted post-game. “We were calling them ‘University of Coral Gables. We’re the true Miami school.”

Ouch.

It’s one thing to openly mock the five-time national champs privately in practice—but when that attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that one can boast about after delivering the goods and putting “big brother” in check; well that right there is the textbook definition of swag and a page out of vintage-era Miami’s playbook.

If it wasn’t the Hurricanes on the wrong end of this upset, every UM supporter would offer up a resounding, “Now that’s the shit I’m talking about, right there. Those kids looked like vintage Miami.”

Even harder to swallow, the fact that Diaz didn’t see Davis coming—the architect of UM’s last rebuild, who orchestrated a monumental upset on those same Orange Bowl grounds 21 years ago next month, which Diaz the super-fan was more than familiar with as a 24-year old fan playing the role of grad assistant at Florida State, weeks before the Seminoles began preparations for a national championship game they’d lose to Tennessee.

DAVIS PROVED UPSET-CAPABLE 21 YEARS AGO; DIAZ STILL UNPREPARED

While few on Miami’s current roster were even around in 1998, safe to assume all have watched The U Part 2 and it’s ten-minute segment on the Hurricanes’ upset of No. 2 UCLA, one week after getting throttled 66-13 by Syracuse in a Big East Championship game. This was year four of the Davis era and just over one year after the laughable-three-years-later “From Chumps To Champs—Thanks Butch!” banner that sailed over the Orange Bowl in a would-be 5-6 season when probation sent the program to rock bottom.

Per a post-game Sports Illustrated article recapping Miami’s improbable 49-45 upset of the Bruins, Davis broke down the week in-between complete disaster and utter redemption—as well as something he saw that gave him a belief that an upset was more than doable.

Miami toppled No. 2 UCLA behind Edgerrin James’ 299-yard effort and a belief Davis instilled in the Canes days after losing at Syracuse, 66-13.

“This is not just going to be a game of stats,” he told his Canes days after losing to the Orangemen, and prior to taking down the Bruins and their potent offense. “We’re not going to shut down UCLA, they’re too good for that. But we can limit them by staying on the field and wearing them down. You don’t have to get beat just because of their big stats.”

Davis identified a flaw in his opponent; one that reminded him of some legendary NFC showdowns between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers when he was on staff under former UM head coach Jimmy Johnson for a few Super Bowl runs. Davis studied the Bruins offense and saw “a carbon copy of the 49ers that I coached against when I was with the Cowboys”.

“The Niners were a machine against us, ran up all kinds of offensive yardage, punted once the entire game—but we hung in there and beat them,” Davis told Sports Illustrated in the December 14th issue.

Much like FIU did to Miami this past weekend, Davis’ bounce-back Hurricanes tagged the Bruins in the mouth early—eventually taking an unexpected 21-17 halftime lead over a UCLA team that underestimated a battered-and-bruised Miami—much like Diaz’s squad didn’t expect little ol’ FIU to bring the fight it did.

The Canes would fall behind 38-21 late in the third quarter, as the Bruins’ offense was explosive as advertised—but as Davis mentioned, Miami did stay on the field and eventually wore down the west coast visitors on a balmy South Florida afternoon. The Canes went on to outscore the Bruins 21-7 over the final fifteen minutes—while forcing two turnovers that got UM’s offense back on the field against an overmatched defense and by day’s end, the upset was in the books.

That same skills-set that allowed a two-decades younger Davis to identify how to hang in there to take down an unstoppable UCLA squad—those same traits, the on-point scheming and a salesman’s ability to convince a lesser team a monumental undertaking was doable; all on display Saturday night under the same Orange Bowl sky where that other unthinkable upset took place all those years ago.

While celebrating—or even merely tolerating—a loss to Florida International is a monster ask; fact remains this upset is in the books and it can’t be ignored—nor should it be dwelled on, either. Fact remains, Miami got tagged in the mouth and the only answer now is to find a lesson in this while working to move on and grow from it.

CAN’T ERASE OR IGNORE WHAT TOOK PLACE; MUST GROW FROM SETBACK

In reality, once the Hurricanes didn’t roll in with any passion or purpose, nor hellbent on smacking down a lippy cross-town rival—last Saturday night was already “lost”, in a sense. Even eking out a late win in the same sluggish fashion Miami displayed when hanging-on against Central Michigan months back; nothing was obviously learned as these Canes continued dancing with the devil on too many occasions since.

When dealing with yet another first-year head coach and fourth season under a new leader over the past 13 years—sometimes those tough lessons and moments in the valley are what spark growth and change. In this case, it’s up to Diaz to use this as fuel—opposed to his first step towards ultimate failure.

While Miami’s season finale at Duke is meaningless in the division race—just as 7-5 or 6-6 doesn’t make a shit-of-difference regarding bowl game quality—it presents a teachable moment for coaches and players, alike. This staff has all the ammo necessary for a we-told-you-so type moment in regards to preparation and this ongoing cancer of taking opponents lightly, after any modicum of success is achieved.

All that to say, this is more of a learning opportunity moving forward as the 2019 draws to a close and a 2020 campaign is put together—which is where Diaz will take the steps that either seal his fate, or he begins taking steps towards getting this thing turned around.

Lest not forget in the wake of this FIU train-wreck that Davis has a 24-year start on Diaz in the head coaching universe—one where fans wanted to run him off up through the middle of his sixth year, when he made up for a stumble at Washington with his first-ever take down of Florida State. Prior to that, the criticism was deafening and few believed Davis would ever get UM back towards contender status, let alone assembling a champion and the most-talented team in college football history.

They’re called “rookie mistakes” for a reason and one would be hard-pressed to find a quality head coach who didn’t have his early-career stumbles—but it’s how one rebounds from those that separates the contenders from the pretenders.

OFF-SEASON DECISIONS WILL ULTIMATELY SHAPE DIAZ ERA

Diaz showed some huevos when sacking Richt’s entire offensive staff upon taking over in the waning moments of 2018—as 7-6 and the lack of production on that side of the ball wasn’t cutting it. The newly-hired head coach stated last January that he wanted an “offense that creates situations the make defensive players uncomfortable”—yet the only thing uncomfortable this season has been watching Enos operate as if he’s the smartest guy on the field—trying to out-clever the competition, instead of taking what’s right under his nose.

Miami ponied up a reported $1.2M for Enos’ services—unprecedented for a Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator and step in the right direction by the admin—under the guise that Alabama’s “quarterback whisperer” could bring some of his magic south from Tuscaloosa to Coral Gables.

To some, 11 games might not be an optimum sample size—but to others, they feel they’ve seen enough to contend that Enos doesn’t seem to be a solid fit—which is hard to debate as a disappointing 2019 season draw to a close.

I mentioned the concept of  thin-slicing weeks back in regards to Enos; a term used in psychology to describe an ability to find patterns in events based on only “thin slices” or narrow windows of experience—allowing an observer to make quick inferences about something, someone or a situation with minimal amounts of information. Strange as it may seem, thin-slicing has proven to be as accurate, if not more, than judgments based on more information (hence terms like “gut feelings” versus “information overload”.)

With five losses already racked up before Thanksgiving—including this disastrous setback to FIU, after a three-game win-streak felt like a step in the right direction—the Miami-bred Diaz knows good-and-hell-well that the heat is on. That, coupled with the general frustration that comes with a 15-year rut for a once-proud program—there is little time for UM’s 25th head coach to dick around.

In other words, Diaz better thin-slice his way to some hard decisions with his current staff, because he can ill-afford to let guys hopefully grow into their positions—as a slowed-down time table will ultimately cost him his dream job.

Aside from what he must do staff-wise, it’s time for a hard look in the mirror regarding the brash talk on social media, properly defining with The New Miami really means, as well as celebratory hardware that started off as college football’s greatest motivational tool in 2017, yet has not only lost all meaning two years later—but might actually be having an averse effect on this broken culture he’s trying to fix.

DIAZ’S BRASH TALK & SHINY HARDWARE NEED TWEAKING FOR CULTURE-SAKE

Like many of us, Diaz is a parent—so he’s more-than-familiar with the concept of tough love when it comes to child-rearing. A lot of times parents are faced with doing things that hurt us more than our kids—knowing that act itself is part of an evolution and will promote much-needed growth.

What do many parents do when their kids are either taking advantage of something, or not appreciative of a gift or privilege? They take it away in a point-proving moment, use their words to explain why and then offer up the opportunity to earn it back through hard work and proof of a lesson learned—the entire process often proving a growth experience for a guardian, as well.

UM’s “Turnover Chain” had a positive impact in 2017 but the Canes’ hardware has fallen flat with a 13-14 run after a 10-0 start two years back.

Miami is now 37 games into the creation that is the Turnover Chain and 11 into this season’s seemingly-forced Touchdown Rings—which even the biggest supporter of swag and the third-generation Cuban link-holding pendant—felt was a big egregious. When the chain was first introduced in 2017, Miami jumped out to a 10-0 start—and was the story of college football that fall under Richt and Diaz’s blinged-out creation; one that had an immediate-impact on his defense.

The Hurricanes were 67th nationally in turnovers-forced in 2016, but made the leap to 13th in the nation after 2017 was in the books. The positive impact was undeniable then—but the current impact seems to be having averse effect, or at minimum is nothing more than a soulless prop that has become somewhat embarrassing to trot out when the Miami is creating turnovers in losing efforts; now an dismal 13-14 since that exciting start in two years back.

This current era has too many Miami players taking to social media and posting successful, individual moments from losing efforts—armed with some faux motivational quote or lyric about being humble, hungry or starting with nothing, but now getting “here”—as if just suiting up for the Hurricanes and playing sub-par football was ever a destination for anyone whose played for this program.

None of this is to say that Diaz even needs to permanently shelve the hardware, but at minimum—rewrite the rulebook he created and make the Miamiesque bling even more situational; creating a culture where a guy is prone to deny the chain and sacrifice an individual moment of mugging for crowd and sideline cameras—instead rallying his offense to go out there and turn a bonus possession into points.

Honestly, the only thing that would’ve been more embarrassing than actually losing to FIU would’ve been a defensive player posing with that chain after a late turnover when down 23-3, after Williams had already coughed it up three times—even having already seen Miami players dancing on the sideline like In Living Color fly-girls when down 16-0 early third quarter, after a three-and-out and on the heels of the Canes’ third interception.

Just like the art of comedy and being funny—timing is everything, and Miami’s lightheartedness in the face of adversity couldn’t have been more out of place. Aside from revamping the hardware rules, a message needs to be sent in regards to all and any look-at-me guys clowning on the sideline in losing efforts—hoping to trend on social media—while their teammates are getting their teeth kicked in by a commuter school with a roster full of kids UM didn’t even bother recruiting.

TRUE GROWTH COMES OUT OF FAILURE, NOT INITIAL SUCCESS

Saturday’s setback against Florida International was ugly any way it’s sliced or diced, but anyone who’s followed this Miami program diligently over the years is aware that sometimes out of the shit is where the flowers grow.

Davis’ late nineties rebuild; his players’ “enough if enough” moment came in Tallahassee on the wrong end of a 47-0 beating. The Canes survived a double overtime thriller at Boston College the next time the took the field and starting to find themselves from there—upsetting UCLA a short 14 months later.

Johnson stumbled to 8-5 his first season in such fashion that had social media and a 24/7 sports news cycle existed then—he might not have seen year two.

The now-legendary JJ blew a 31-0 halftime lead to Maryland, only to fall to Boston College on “Hail Flutie” in Miami’s next game. Toss in a bowl loss to UCLA in Tempe and an earlier season 38-3 waxing via Florida State at home—St. Jimmy had painted himself into a nasty little corner with the defending national champions; fueling disgruntled fans’ fire, as many wanted defensive coordinator Tom Oliviadottito get the gig over the middle-of-the-road Oklahoma State guy who never beat Nebraska or Oklahoma.

The future-Hall-Of-Famer also dropped the 1985 season-opener to Florida—Miami’s last home loss until falling to Washington in 1994—but finally got his first career win in Norman five weeks later when the unranked Hurricanes knocked off the third-ranked Sooners, 27-14 and ended the regular season with a 58-7 pasting of Notre Dame, before getting brought back down to earth with a 35-7 Sugar Bowl loss to Tennessee.

Undefeated the next regular season, before a fatigue-driven misstep at the Fiesta Bowl and choke against Penn State—Johnson’s Canes adopted an “Unfinished Business” approach for the 1987 season, which led to a year-four championship, against an absolutely brutal schedule—another huge step in Miami solidifying itself at the team of the decade.

While it’s impossible to undo what’s already been done—this setback is most-definitely a teachable moment for these players, while also a case-building opportunity for Diaz to part ways with any on this staff who aren’t aligned with his personal championship-related goals.

The only thing that would make a loss to Florida International worse—not finding a way to use it in a motivational sense, or a building block in Diaz’s attempt to resurrect this Miami program from decade-plus long coma.

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

MIAMI HURRICANES COME TOGETHER ON SENIOR DAY; SMOKE LOUISVILLE


The Miami Hurricanes passed their final home test of the season, overwhelming the Louisville Cardinals, 52-27 on Senior Day and homecoming at HardRock Stadium.

This was the type of game that the Canes easily could’ve let slip away due to a slew of reasons—but none bigger than showing up unprepared and not bringing the fight; which thankfully hasn’t been the case the majority of this inaugural season for Manny Diaz and staff. Even in early losses to Florida, North Carolina and Virginia Tech—Miami played scrappy, overcame early error and was in position to win all three games late, before ultimately not getting it done.

To Louisville’s credit, it brought the fight, as well—496 yards on the day, while dominating time of possession—but three turnovers, sloppy-as-hell play (14 penalties for 121 yards) and an inability to stop Miami’s offense, ultimately led to the 31-point blowout.

MIAMI OFFENSE ROLLED ALL DAY; CANES’ D LIMITED CARDS

Early on, it appeared nobody was going to stop anybody; the Canes marching 92 yards on its opening drive—highlighted by a 41 yard hook-up from Jarren Williams to Mike Harley; low-lighted by back-to-back face-mask penalties on the Cardinals that set DeeJay Dallas up for any easy five-yard punch-in on 1st-and-Goal.

Louisville answered with an 80-yard strike to speedster Tutu Atwell; the former Miami Northwestern product shining early back home in front of the local crowd, tying things back up—despite some early self-implosion from the Cards.

If there was any oh-shit-type-feeling that Miami was in for a shootout and questions about the offense bringing it, they were quickly answered when Williams went back to Dee Wiggins on a 67-yard touchdown strike on first down—a play similar to last weekend’s dagger in Tallahassee; the 56-yard early fourth quarter strike that pushed the Canes’ lead over the Noles to, 24-10.

Special teams delivered for Miami, as well—K.J. Osborn helping flip the field in the return game, while Al Blades Jr. partially blocked a punt—both leading to short fields and quick scores—which was ultimately the theme of the day; the Hurricanes showing up in “all three phases of the game”, which coaches especially love to go on about in the wake of a lopsided win.

Diaz touched on this, as well as what finally sparked a turnaround after a slow start to the season.

“The best part is the players get it. They know it is all about their accountability and connections to one another. It is in the little things. We see it in practice. It is like parenting a child. At some point they have to learn and they have to mature,” Diaz explained post-game.

“We have a very young football team. We did not honor very many seniors. We have some young guys that are maturing and starting to get it and they recognize what wins. That has been the most encouraging part.”

CANES TURNED A CORNER AT PITT; HAVEN’T FLINCHED SINCE

After a loss to Virginia Tech, followed by a gritty win over Virginia, only to backslide with an inexplicable loss to a one-win Georgia Tech squad—this season was in disarray, leaving many to openly wonder when these aforementioned young guys were going to mature, get it or recognize what wins. Thankfully that flip soon switched.

The same DJ Ivey that was caught slipping on two plays against the Yellow Jackets that directly cost the Canes 14 points—strutted into Pittsburgh the following week and hauled in game-changing interceptions in a 16-12 slug-fest that Miami pulled out. That road game against the Panthers is also where the season changed at quarterback, with Williams re-entering for a ceiling-hitting N’Kosi Perry, tossing the game-winning touchdown to Osborn; a 32-yard strike with under a minute remaining—Williams coming in cold and delivering.

Where Miami looked like it might’ve turned a corner that Friday night against the Cavaliers, it took two more weeks for things to finally come together—setting the stage for that “perfect storm” moment in Tallahassee the first weekend of November. Florida State’s rough season aside, Miami finally put together what was its most-perfect performance to date; improved offensive line play, Williams hitting the deep ball and a spirited defensive performance—highlight by Greg Rousseau, the one-man wrecking crew.

The Canes took another step forward against the Seminoles, showing they could handle not just adversity, but prosperity—winning a key rivalry game and coming in hot off the comeback at Pittsburgh, opposed to flat, like it did against lowly Georgia Tech days after topping Virginia.

This win over Louisville—again, not a perfect outing—was another big moment for this rebuilding-type season under a first-year head coach. The Cardinals aren’t world-beaters, coming off a 2-10 run last fall that saw the second coming of the Bobby Petrino era coming to an end late in year five.

POTENTIAL TO GET ‘OUT-COACHED’, DIAZ & CREW CAME WITH A PLAN

Scott Satterfield was tossed the keys in the off-season—after a successful five-year stint at Appalachian State, where he won the Sun Belt Conference title three years in a row. A combined 29-9 record over that successful run and known as one of the more-successful, on-the-rise offensive minds in the game, Satterfield had an immediate impact at Louisville his inaugural season—bringing a 5-3 record to HardRock this past weekend; those three losses coming against Notre Dame, at Florida State and Clemson.

Based on recent history and Hurricanes’ muscle memory; it was hardly a stretch to think Miami might not roll in prepared against Louisville. Despite some solid defensive play by Diaz’s squad the past few weeks, the Cardinals’ offense was averaging just over 444 yards-per-game going into this showdown—meaning this wasn’t the week the Canes could afford to struggle moving the ball—and they didn’t.

Five of six offensive possessions in the first half, Miami scored touchdowns—only punting once, with 9:24 remaining in the second quarter, after an incompletion on 3rd-and-7. Leading 28-14 at the time, the defense forced a quick three-and-out and the offense stayed aggressive—Williams scrambling for 12 yards on a 3rd-and-9, setting up a 17-yard touchdown pass to back-up tight end Will Mallory on a 3rd-and-8.

When the Cardinals got back after it, trying to trim the lead before halftime—a seven-play, 57-yard drive was thwarted by way of an end zone interception by the surging Ivey, on 1st-and-Goal from the UM 18-yard line; a ten-yard holding call the play prior, putting Louisville and quarterback Micale Cunningham in a lurch.

Up 35-14, the Hurricanes received the opening second half kickoff—driving 66 yards on six plays, for another score; a 36-yard strike from Williams to Harley—made possible by offensive coordinator Dan Enos finally committing to the run these past few weeks; Dallas scampering for 20 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Cam Harris picking up 12 more, two plays later.

The Cardinals answered on the ensuing drive and the Canes punted, only to be bailed out by more clutch special teams play; this time Jimmy Murphy diving on a ball muffed by Atwell—the fan-favorite, senior walk-on getting his first Turnover Chain moment in his final home game. Three plays later on a 3rd-and-15, Williams found Harley again—this time for a 28-yard score, that proved to be the dagger, putting Miami up 49-21 with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter.

Camden Price tacked on a field goal for good measure in the waning moments of the third quarter—getting the Hurricanes to a nice looking total of 52 in the box score—though a 58-yard touchdown run by Hassan Hall middle fourth quarter gave the Cardinals a meaningless score, making things look slightly less lopsided.

POTENTIAL TO WIN FIVE STRAIGHT; CLOSE BOWL SEASON STRONG

With two games remaining—a bye this weekend before Florida International at Marlins Park and a road finale at Duke—Miami is in very good position to finish 8-4, which seemed almost unthinkable late day on October 19th after the Hurricanes slipped to 3-4 after falling in overtime to the Yellow Jackets.

There were a few different trains of thought coming into the 2019 and year one of the Diaz era—those who expected #TheNewMiami to be some instant-fix, screaming about an undefeated season and rolling Florida game one—and then the more-logical crowd; frustrated with 15 years of irrelevance, but realizing nothing was getting fixed overnight.

For the latter, the season goals weren’t as clear-cut definition-wise—win x-amount of games, win the Coastal and beat both in-state rivals, as anything less is unacceptable—or things of that nature the win-now crowd was demanding. Progress can get lost or ignored in a loss, just as a win can mask deficiencies few (outside the coaching staff and players) take time to dissect when basking in the glow of victory.

Realistically speaking, the goal for this year needed to be growth, progress and the Hurricanes taking steps towards looking like the Miami of old. Yes, there were still three conference losses in the books by late October; the Canes still carrying on the annual tradition of reinventing new ways to drop winnable ACC match-ups—but the recent habit of fading down the stretch after those disheartening Coastal Division setbacks has dissipated.

Miami won four of its past five conference games, against the meat of the schedule most expected to be the most-troubling—Virginia on a short week, at Pittsburgh, at Florida State and Louisville, on the heels of a rivalry game.

All that’s left to do now is close strong; putting in on Florida International—former head coach Butch Davis on the other sideline, in a monstrosity of a stadium built on the hallowed grounds of the beloved Orange Bowl—and taking care of a Duke team that’s lost four of its past five games going into this weekend; the Blue Devils most-likely 5-6 for the finale against the Canes, needing a win for bowl eligibility.

While the Coastal Division is still a mess, Miami’s three losses mean at least a half dozen things have to fall into place for the Canes to back into a match-up with Clemson—something that’s completely moot without a win at Duke, so no reason to put any pointless energies towards what is nothing more than a pipe dream right now.

Crazily, the Hurricanes might actually be in better shape by not winning the division—as an 8-4 record is prettier than 8-5, which most-likely is the result of a showdown with the defending national champions—leaving Miami an outside shot at reaching the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl; insane as that sounds.

If no ACC team is ranked in the College Football Playoff Committee’s Top 25, sans Clemson—the Orange Bowl gets to choose its ACC team to face a foe from the Big Ten, the SEC, or Notre Dame—and the way things are playing out, Wake Forest doesn’t look like it will be ranked (barring an upset of Clemson this weekend); all of which would leave the hometown Hurricanes the most-attractive ACC match-up for the Orange Bowl, despite a four-loss season (should UM win out.)

Improve, get better and look more like Miami. It didn’t seem like that would be the case as recently as a month ago—but credit to Diaz, the staff and these Hurricanes players for a mid-season hard-reset that looks set to save year one, setting up for a strong recruiting haul and step forward in 2020—which is precisely what the University of Miami needs to (finally) get back to contending ways.

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

MIAMI HURRICANES KNOCK OFF FLORIDA STATE FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR

The Miami Hurricanes knocked off the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon on a national ABC broadcast; a one-sided beatdown that could’ve been worse as the Canes struck early and the Noles never found their footing.

Pro tip; marinate on that statement for a little bit and find a way to enjoy the moment, as it hasn’t been the norm. Not this season and not in recent history. Aside from Miami already racking up four losses this fall, Florida State has dominated this rivalry over the past decade—blowing out the Canes on occasion, while stealing some close ones when they were the better team, or things were evenly matched.

For those saying, put this game in the rearview—on-to-Louisville; let the team take that approach. Fans should bask in the glow of beating a rival. Made this point last fall with the on-to-Virginia crowd, only to see Miami drop four in a row after the comeback against the Seminoles; which made savoring that home win against Florida State—the first since 2004—all the more important.

Miami has now taken three-in-a-row in the series; winning in Tallahassee in 2017 behind a gritty Malik Rosier—ending a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles with a last-second touchdown—as well as overcoming the rivalry’s biggest deficit in 2018 when N’Kosi Perry helped the Canes overcome a 27-7 hole, en route to a 28-27 comeback win.

This time around, it was a confident Jarren Williams—another first-year starter in the series—throwing for 313 yards, two touchdowns and protecting the football in the 27-10 rout. Yanked weeks back after a three-interception first quarter against Virginia Tech, Williams yielded to Perry before entering late in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh last weekend, where he delivered the game-winning strike to K.J. Osborn.

Williams’ performance against Florida State wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot to like as No. 15 finally connected on two big deep balls for touchdowns—an early 39-yard strike to Jeff Thomas that kicked off the scoring, followed by a 56-yard dagger to Dee Wiggins that pushed Miami’s lead back to 14 points early in the fourth quarter.

There was also an effective 34-yard strike to Mike Harley on a 3rd-and-4 late in the second quarter, setting up a six-yard DeeJay Dallas touchdown run, extending the lead to 14-3 at the half—Dallas deservedly cashing in after a huge block that afforded Williams the time to find Harley.

Better pocket awareness, coupled with an improved offensive line and better blocking schemes—Miami, to its credit, is showing signs of improvement going into the final third of the season, while Florida State is in full-blown disaster-mode.

While both teams have seen their share of offensive line struggles, the Hurricanes have finally reached a respectable level of play—unlike the Seminoles, whose line was reminiscent of Miami’s in the season-opener against Florida. The Gators smacked Williams around all night back in August, tallying up 10 sacks—while here in early November, the Noles let the Canes’ front seven in their backfield—where Miami notched a season-best nine sacks; four of which were credited to freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau, who was become virtually unstoppable.

Miami tossed quarterback Alex Hornibrook around like a rag doll all evening; a welcomed sight to see the Seminoles’ starting quarterback harassed from start to finish—but a bonus as the Wisconsin transfer played the game of his career against the Hurricanes in the 2017 Orange Bowl, where he earned MVP honors. This time around, sent home battered and bruised—and deservedly so.

As much as Miami rolled in with a stellar effort and solid overall game plan, the complete opposite can be said of Willie Taggart—who dropped to 9-12 overall since taking over Florida State last fall. Having seen what inexperienced mobile quarterbacks have done to the Hurricanes’ defense this fall—even a newbie like Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker—Taggart still opted for the immobile, average-armed Hornibrook, over the erratic-yet-athletic James Blackman.

Similar knocks apply to offensive coordinator Kendal Briles; a name that had some Miami fans overly-concerned as a threat when hired by Taggart in the off-season. Briles spent the first half forcing Hornibrook to throw too often, with Miami’s safeties dropped deep—instead of trying to establish something on first down with the electric Cam Akers—only to put it all on Akers’ shoulders early in the second half; overly-reliant upon their WildCam direct-snap package, too little too late.

Admittedly, not much offensive good was going to come behind Florida State’s porous offensive line play—especially with Miami’s all-out aggression on defense—but both Taggart and Briles deserve criticism for going with Hornibrook and not finding more creative ways to involved Akers.

In the midst of writing this piece, news broke that Taggart has been relieved of his duties; the Florida State brass having seen enough after a 9-12 run since last fall—to the point where they’ll eat his remaining $17M contract and hope to reel in a better fit next time around.

Tallahassee burning and another Seminoles restart aside, the Hurricanes have now won three of their last four overall; games circled on the pre-season schedule and considered the most-defining of the year—Virginia, at Pitt and at Florida State. Losses to lesser squads like Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech definitely took some shine off of this mid-season run—but in looking at how things have played out, it appears both of those games served as cautionary tales and motivational tools that ultimately seems to be helping these Hurricanes turn a corner.

Having given up 42 points to the Hokies; a sloppy five-turnover, 11-penalty outing—head coach Manny Diaz reinserted himself into the defense’s preparation and days later Miami clamped down hard on Virginia— stuffing the Cavaliers in the red zone and holding them to nine points. After a lethargic outing against Georgia Tech the following week, where the Hurricanes whiffed on 29 tackles and DJ Ivey fell asleep on two plays—costing the Canes 14 points—Ivey hauled in two interceptions at Pittsburgh, while the defense allowed another field goals-only performance, in a 16-12 victory.

A road victory against the Panthers is also where an unintended quarterback quandary ultimately played itself out, sans any controversy—Perry seemingly hitting his ceiling over the course a few starts, with Williams saving the day with a game-winning drive that obviously played into his getting the nod for Florida State week.

Diaz’s choice of Williams as QB1 was confirmed in the rolling of the Noles, as there were enough flashes of what coaches felt this Miami team was capable of months back with No. 15 at the helm. Improved offensive line play (finally), receivers growing up, a secondary coming together and a kicking game that isn’t a full-blown liability—the Canes have somewhat dispelled the myth that a team is what their record says it is; looking and feeling better than the 5-4 staring them back in the face.

Of course all that’s left to do now it continue winning and building off of what’s taken place over the past four weeks; the mostly-good (Virginia, Pittsburgh and Florida State) as well as the bad (Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech), that led to some hard resets and ultimately helped right the ship.

One big knock on Miami in 2019 has been a lack of an identity; who are the Hurricanes and how do they react and respond? Over the first half of the season, it was a question impossible to answer—but over the past few weeks, things are coming into clearer focus.

Defense is again proving to be the calling card as the line has found an ace in Rousseau and others like Nesta Silvera and Trevon Hill are finding their groove and playing with a nasty streak. At linebacker, Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney quietly continue taking care of business and making plays—while a secondary that was tentative early, has seen player like Ivey, Gurvan Hall, Al Blades Jr. and Bubba Bolden finding their identity, which has helped a veteran like Trajan Bandy fall back into the type of player he was as a freshman in 2017 while playing along side guys like Sheldrick Redwine, Jaquan Johnson and Michael Jackson.

Offensively, the Canes were completely identity-less the past few years; right up through 2018 where Miami ranked 104th in total offense. As this year took off, a shoddy offensive line didn’t much help any inexperience at quarterback with Williams—which lent itself to Perry getting a few mid-season starts, as his mobility helped mask line deficiencies. As things have started to level out a bit there, Williams is looking more like the guy coaches expected when giving him the nod back in August—especially with the deep ball now added to his arsenal.

Days after the win, Hurricane Sports rolled out their post-game social media content—where a pre-game quip from Diaz set the tone for the highlights that would soon unfold.

“I don’t know if you can feel it, but there’s something different, man. I have not see this type of focused-aggression, to be honest, since Notre Dame [2017]. Guys, today is the day it all comes together. Offense goes down the field. Defense get the stop. Kicking game makes the game-winning play. All three phases start clicking today in Tallahassee,” Diaz shared, before his Canes aggressively took the field.

The win seemed to mark the first time this season the pre-game chatter matched the product on the field—coaches’ expectations and desires meshing with the belief of the players, as well as their overall effort and execution. The fact it happened at Florida State, sending the Seminoles to their version of rock-bottom; a third head coaching change since a three-game win streak for the Canes got underway—priceless.

With three-quarters of the season in the books, Miami has three remaining—Louisville at home for Senior Day and one final bye week to rest up, before a quick crosstown jaunt the Orange Bowl’s old, hallowed grounds to take on Florida International at Marlins Park—before a regular season-ending road trip to Duke. Mathematically, the Canes are still technically in the running for the Coastal Division—but it’s hardly worth touching on as a dozen things would have to fall into place; starting with winning out.

As Diaz continues building The New Miami—again, a long-term attitude and culture adjustment; not a quick-fix—a huge step forward is taken every time the Hurricanes can show up ready to play, coming off a win or a loss. Miami has struggled in times of prosperity, as well as despair—ill-prepared the week after a big win, as well as multiple-game losing streaks—unable to pump the failure breaks.

Winning at Florida State in that environment at Tallahassee was big for this Miami squad; equally as big, hitting the ground running against an upset-minded Louisville squad. The Cardinals are 5-3 on the season; losses against Notre Dame, Clemson … and at Florida State, while wins have come against Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Boston College, Wake forest and most-recently, Virginia.

Much like Florida State going between Hornibrook and Blackman, Louisville has played musical quarterbacks with Evan Conley and Micale Cunningham since starter Juwon Pass had season-ending surgery back in September. Conley mostly led the charge in a shootout win against the Demon Deacons, while both were used (rather ineffectively) when the Tigers routed the Cardinals. Cunningham got the majority of the snaps in the recent win over the Cavaliers; throwing an early touchdown to Tutu Atwell to tie the game in the first quarter and running for another in the fourth to take the lead for good.

Cunningham is precisely the type of shifty, athletic, mobile quarterback that has given the Hurricanes fits all season—moving the chains on third down, while doing enough with his feet to buy receivers time to get open—while Atwell is another of many Miami natives (Northwestern) over the years, who will return and look to break big playing in front of the hometown crowd this weekend. The Cardinals’ roster has roughly a dozen kids from what would be considered the State of Miami; all with a chip on their shoulders.

Louisville are hardly world-beaters, but lesser teams have given the Hurricanes fits a week after a gritty win or a shitty loss. Saturday represents another step-up moment where Miami has been prone to step-down. Take care of business against the Cardinals and handle the Panthers, which would put these Canes at 7-4 entering a finale at Duke, with a chance to accomplish a hell of 2019 rebound; especially based on how things looked at 3-4 a few weeks back.

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

WIN AT PITT; CLOSED DOOR TEAM MEETING—ARE CANES READY FOR NOLES?


The Miami Hurricanes got a much-needed conference road win on Saturday—smothering Pittsburgh defensively much like it did weeks back on a Friday night at home against Virginia.

The Canes’ offense held the Panthers to four field goals and the Cavaliers to three, while scoring 16 and 17 points respectively—clamping down defensively in the red zone, while managing to eke out enough scoring to outlast the competition.

The biggest difference between these two victories over the Coastal Division’s best competition; the State of Miami … quarterbacks. N’Kosi Perry held it down against Virginia—leading an early drive and punching in another late, though stagnant-as-hell in-between.

Against Pitt, another early score—but Miami only had 10 points on the board at halftime, despite the defense forcing three turnovers. The Canes’ lone touchdown came with 12:00 remaining in the second quarter when Cam Harris punched it in from a yard out, capping a four-play, 17-yard scoring drive courtesy of a second DJ Ivey interception.

Perry also had a short field on 30-yard drive that ended with a Camden Price 22-yard field goal; unable to get anything going—which had Manny Diaz and Dan Enos going back to Jarren Williams for a mid-fourth quarter spark.

After a quick three-and-out, Miami’s defense immediately got the ball back and Willams took over at the Canes’ 38-yard line, driving 62 yards—including a quarterback run on 3rd-and-2 to keep the drive alive. The play was reminiscent of a fourth down scramble Perry had against Virginia; a play that fit the narrative that he deserved to start over the less mobile Williams.

A first down pass to tight end Brevin Jordan fell incomplete, but on 2nd-and-10 from the Pitt 32-yard line, Williams found KJ Osborn through a tight window; the receiver bouncing off of two Panthers’ defenders as he scampered for a 32-yard game-winning score; Pitt unable to get anything going in the final minute, especially after a few dropped passes—a Miami opponent finally un-clutch with the game on the line.

THE U : BETTER RESPONSE TO ADVERSITY THAN PROSPERITY

The win upped the mood a bit, though only slightly as 4-4 is nothing to celebrate and too many remain caught up in the ones that got away. Understandable, but in all reality—the early Florida and North Carolina losses aside—it’s hard to not picture the same record for the Canes after the last month of football.

Had Miami come back against Virginia Tech, hard not to believe there’d have been less intensity against Virginia—opposed to the next-level defensive focus in practice that led to a more spirited effort. Same to be said for last weekend. Missed tackles against Georgia Tech and an overall lackadaisical effort—cemented by Ivey taking two plays off that resulted in touchdowns—had the Hurricanes dialed in tackling-wise, while Ivey hauled in two interceptions.

Translation; it took Miami getting burned to wake up and react accordingly. These Hurricanes needed to learn the hard way this fall, for whatever reason—but the fact they’ve responded to the adversity is a big step forward for a program that’s been stepping-down for years when backs were to the wall.

Of course all this begs the question—with four games remaining—what happens next?

Darrell Langham’s touchdown with :06 remaining in 2017 broke UM’s seven-game losing streak to FSU.

In the wake of those early two losses and Miami getting back to 2-2, the hope was that the Canes would shake off those stumbles and quickly autocorrect into the best-case scenario type team coaches hoped for in the preseason; quarterback play setting in, a green offensive line playing better, a young secondary tightening up and a kicking game finding its way.

Instead, Williams unraveled against the Hokies and none of those other areas of inexperience rose to the occasion—causing mid-season chaos that continued for a month, but legitimately might’ve subsided with the win at Pitt.

Each week has felt like it’s own one-game season in 2019, halting any turn-a-corner talk as Miami was picking and choosing when it would, or wouldn’t show up. Beat Virginia, mail-it-in against Georgia Tech.

That said, something felt different about Pitt and talk of a lay-it-all-on-the-line team meeting the Thursday prior-to; it explained the feel and energy Miami had at Heinz Field last Saturday—with manifested in a belief the Canes were finally going to get that late fourth quarter, game-winning drive that’s alluded them all season.

CANES’ CLOSED DOOR BREAK-DOWN; OWNERSHIP TAKEN

“Pretty much everybody you think of as a leader on this team said something,” said offensive lineman Jakai Clark, days after Miami returned home victorious. “And it all meant something to everybody, especially me.”

Osborn, who caught the game-winner, was vocal—as was fellow transfer Trevon Hill; another one-year Miami guy, while Shaq Quarterman was the lone four-year starter who also embraced a leadership role and spoke up.  Beloved walk-on Jimmy Murphy was also called upon; a favorite of fans and teammates for his passionate play and love for the program—everyones words still resonating with Clark almost a week later.

“Obviously after a meeting like that, first day, everybody is gonna be locked in—trying to do their best,” Clark said. “But seeing it in practice today and seeing it carry over is a great thing. And seeing it in the locker room. After that meeting, guys started talking more. Before that, we talked, but it wasn’t like a family type thing. After that, everybody got their feelings out. I feel like we’re more of a family now.”

Wide receiver Mike Harley admitted he spoke directly to two talented, albeit selfish players and did what he could to try and help set them straight.

“Not calling anybody out, but I pointed out two talented guys on our team that play a major role. I told them you have to step up,” Harley shared. “You have to work harder than what you’re doing because you’re talented and we need you on this team.”

While no names were mentioned, hard not to imagine fellow receiver Jeff Thomas—suspended for Georgia Tech and Pitt, but back for Florida State—wasn’t one of those targets. In hot water last fall—to the point where he parted ways with the Canes, appeared Illinois-bound and retuned after having a sit-down with the recently-hired Diaz—it’s been a disappointing comeback for the junior; starting with a muffed punt against Florida that led to a touchdown, right up through this recent sit-down.

Whether Harley’s words resonated with two self-absorbed teammates, or not—Diaz appreciates that his team is starting to understand what it takes to be successful, but is quick to point out that all problems are far from solved.

“Any one’s individual success is tied to our collective success and if somebody is not pulling their weight, it is hurting their fellow teammates,” Diaz explained. “I think what we know now at least is we know the roadmap—and I think our guys understand what works and what doesn’t work … You’re either being a Cane, or you’re not being a Cane.”

Part of that heavy burden; knowing what Florida State represents and the importance of this game on deck.

UM & FSU; EACH NEED WIN AS BAD AS COUNTERPART

While nothing can erase the four losses already racked up by late October, Miami has the ability to close this season strong—which all starts with a third-consecutive takedown of a Florida State program that had won seven straight before the Canes’ comeback victory in 2017; that streak-ending game completely changing false invincibility narrative that kept Miami from closing late so often in the rivalry over recent years.

Emerge victorious on Saturday and games against Louisville, Florida International and Duke immediately feel conquerable—where a loss to the Seminoles allows doubt to creep back in; as well as the fear of a hangover for the home finale next weekend against the Cardinals.

Records-wise, Miami and Florida State are both sitting un-pretty at .500—but it’s hard not to feel like the Hurricanes are slightly more well-rounded and presently stable program; even with this year one of the Diaz era and a sophomore season for the maligned 
Willie Taggart up north.

Both programs have weak-sauce offensive lines, though Miami’s feels like it’s made some sight improvement over the past few weeks. Each also has been playing musical quarterbacks; the Canes settling on Williams for this week—riding the momentum from last Saturday’s comeback win.

Alex Hornibrook—the Wisconsin transfer who carved Miami up in the 2017 Orange Bowl—did the heavy-lifting last weekend as Florida State rolled a sub-par Syracuse squad; throwing for 196 yards on 26 attempts, while protecting the football. James Blackman showed up on the final drive—a 35-17 game already in the bag—after a 27-for-43, 280-yard, two-touchdown outing in a road loss at Wake Forest a week prior.

Michael Pinckney—back from injury this weekend—came up huge with an INT in last year’s 28-27 thriller.

Where Miami welcomes back DeeJay Dallas and has a two-headed monster regarding #13 and his counterpart Cam’Ron Harris, Florida State has seen Cam Akers go next-level the past two weeks; going for 144 yards and four touchdowns against Syracuse and 157 yards with a score in the loss at Wake Forest.

Akers ran for a pedestrian 46 yards and was held in check during last year’s match-up at HardRock, but did put up 121 yards against the Canes in Tallahassee in 2017. The skills are there; it’s simply a matter of Miami keeping the talented back in check—which truly is the name of the game all together.

While Miami incredibly held the Cavaliers and Panthers to a combined seven field goal, while keeping both out of the end zone over eight quarters—it inexplicably surrendered 70 points to the Hokies and Yellow Jackets; turnovers the backbreaker in the former, poor tacking and shit overall defense effort the culprit in the latter.

The Canes dug themselves into a 27-7 hole last fall against the Seminoles, which resulted in an epic comeback for Miami—who hadn’t beaten their arch-rival at home since the 2004 season; four years before abandoning the Orange Bowl and moving north.

As thrilling as comebacks can be, trailing by 20 points early in the third quarter and only having seven points on the board—relying on stout defense, two forced turnovers and a couple of short fields—it isn’t something you can bank on; especially on the road in a rivalry game.

Going punt, punt, touchdown, punt, fumble, punt, turnover on downs, punt and punt—before a forced fumble turned things around; it was one of those games where winning saved everything, but certainly didn’t cure it—and in many ways masked the offensive deficiencies that would’ve been under a microscope without the comeback.

LEAST MISTAKES/BIG MOMENTS; KEYS TO VICTORY

Mid-game offensive lulls or falling into early holes; both have reared their ugly heads this season in all four losses—as well as the last two victories, where stalled drives mid-game were thankfully bailed out by solid red zone defense, as well as clutch scoring late.

The X’s and O’s of this one aren’t hard to figure out. Williams needs to protect the football for Miami, while looking more like the clutch performer he was last weekend in Pittsburgh, opposed to the game-manager he was earlier this year—not getting the Canes in trouble (prior to Virginia Tech), but not driving the offense, either.

Offensive line play needs to stay at the level it’s been, as the Hurricanes absolutely need to establish the running game with Dallas and Harris—something Enos has been quick to bail out on, impatient and relying on a one-dimensional, while completely ignoring the backs he has at his disposal.

All that aside, defense is again the key for Miami. Whereas the Hurricanes used to only go as far as their quarterback would take them, this program in present day is shackled to the success of its defense and the ability for that side of the ball to take over the game.

Turnovers were the difference in the road win against Pittsburgh last weekend, as were red zone stops that thwarted both the Panthers and the Cavaliers, weeks back—including a late third quarter fumble by Virginia on a drive that looked destined to result in points.

The little things; they obviously matter to great teams—but might even be more important for a program trying to rebuild (yeah, the r-word—deal with it) as the margin for error is less, as can be the resolve in moments of adversity. Miami and Florida State—once powerhouses in the truest sense of the word—are in that similar place on-the-mend spot, where both will bring fight Saturday afternoon, where the one who makes that big time play, or avoids that disastrous moment, will most-likely prevail.

On paper—as well as on the national level—it might lack the luster of years passed, but all that critiquing seems to go out the window once the pregame skirmish gets underway and that ball officially gets kicked off, as Canes versus Noles just brings out the dog in both these teams.

For both, a chance to *save* a season that’s had some bumps and bruises—but for Diaz and a Hurricanes’ squad that feels that some air-clearing and recently stepped-up play was a mini-milestone—a chance to prove Miami is closer to the team it thinks it is, than the hit-or-miss squad on display so often this season.

Turn that corner. Beat the Noles.

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