The constant re-litigating of the winning-cures-all-while-losing-exposes-warts sentiment rolls on as Miami faithful continue flailing in their efforts to live through yet another rebuilding season.

For anyone still paying attention and looking for a logic-driven conversation—opposed to the barrage of emotion-fueled rants that follow every loss—supporters have to accept and deal with what is, instead of constantly trying to sell what they believe things should look like.

The Hurricanes dropped their third game in a row this past weekend, on Senior Day in the home finale. After a hot 4-0 start, “The U” has now gone 2-4 since—for reasons we’ll soon delve into.

Miami wound up hanging tough all afternoon in a back-and-forth, 38-31 battle against No. 10 Louisville; one that will send the Cardinals to their first-ever ACC Championship game, while dropping the Canes to 6-5 on the season.

This loss comes on the heels of Miami falling late to No 4 Florida State on the road last week, with Emory Williams making his first-ever road start. In an always-hostile road environment for the Hurricanes the true freshman hung tough, before breaking his arm diving to convert a fourth down in the game’s final minutes, trailing 27-20.

The once-great, since-maligned, recently-benched Tyler Van Dyke stepped in to try and lead Miami to glory in Tallahassee, but after two quick first downs it was a 4th-and-10 situation where the benched starting quarterback was picked off after heaving it into coverage and the Hurricanes’ upset bid fell short.


Accepting the sentiment that moral victories aren’t celebratory, close losses at least have to be acknowledged as part of the grand scheme, overall bigger picture and building blocks for programs in rebuild-mode.

The late, great Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden left us with a slew of feel-good quotes; none more important than the sentiment that, “First you lose big, then you lose close, then you win close—and finally you win big.”

While this dated, somewhat cliché saying understandably brings zero solace in the midst of a three-game losing streak—Miami is undoubtedly in the losing-close-winning-some-close-ones year two, after Mario Cristobal had to strip this thing down to the studs year one—as there was more than surface damage going on with the program he inherited.

The concept of “learning how to win” might sound a bit trite, but when you observe some of the mistakes Miami has made and struggles this program’s had over the past couple of seasons, it more than adds up.

Take unranked Florida State squad last fall—sitting at 5-3 in year three under head coach Mike Norvell and rolling into HardRock early November—laying a 45-3 pasting on Cristobal’s year-one program, while the Hurricanes were at 4-5 with an injured Van Dyke; this beating coming just weeks after embarrassing home losses to Middle Tennessee State and Duke.

Two weeks after Florida State ate Miami’s lunch, the Canes strolled into Death Valley and caught a 40-10 beatdown from a Clemson squad—who like the Noles, went on to field a similar-looking team in 2023 compared to their 2022 versions—same quarterbacks under center, key contributors returning and what not.

Miami absorbed back-to-back losses before taking on Clemson in October; the infamous non-kneel against Georgia Tech, followed by a turnover-defined disaster at North Carolina—where Van Dyke and the Canes gave it away four times while the Tar Heels protected the football in that 41-31 road loss for UM.

Van Dyke pulled up limp for Clemson, Williams got the start and the Canes went on to tame the Tigers in double overtime, 28-20—and eight-point win over a team that rolled them by more than four touchdowns less than a year prior.

The next big moment; the challenge of taking on a Playoffs-focused, fourth-ranked Florida State program—one who spent the past year living off the 42-point pasting they’d put on Miami—with sentiments it’d be worse this year, as the Noles rode a 15-game win-streak into this year’s showdown.

Williams was back in the saddle as coaches benched Van Dyke for a three-interception outing at North Carolina State a week prior—and the freshman kept Miami in the game all afternoon; an early 10-0 deficit turned into 10-10 at halftime—which realistically could’ve been more had ACC zebras not inexplicably whiffed on a non-safety call that would’ve made it 10-9 and Hurricanes’ ball with two minutes remaining.

Emory Williams cleaned up the turnovers for Miami, but relying on a true freshman quarterback had its limitations.

Florida State pushed a 13-10 Miami lead to a 27-13 advantage of their own—before Williams hooked up with Jacolby George on an 80-yard strike—making it a 27-20 ballgame and giving Doak Campbell Stadium it’s first real “oh shit” moment of the season as 8:20 remained.

Miami forced a punt and Williams got the ball at the 12-yard line with 4:20 remaining—scrambling for a first down on 4th-and-2—only to break his non-throwing left arm in the process. Van Dyke entered, threw for two first downs and got the Hurricanes to midfield—before a few quick incompletions set up a do-or-die 4th-and-10 ball that was picked off; the quarterback’s eleventh interception since the wheels fell off against Georgia Tech’s zone defense.


With Williams out for the season, Van Dyke was re-tossed the keys to the offense by default—looking for some of his old mojo with tenth-ranked Louisville headed south and playing for a spot in the ACC title game against Florida State, should they beat Miami.

The blow-for-blow effort ended in favor of the Cardinals, in a game where Van Dyke was turnover-less for the first time since a road win at Temple in late September.

The quarterback threw for 327 yards and a touchdown, while obviously very banged up and taking a beating all game—commentators reporting for the first time all year that Van Dyke has been dealing with Morel-Lavallée—a painful soft tissue injury commonly seen with high-speed traumas like car accidents.


Despite the obvious disappointment of back-t0-back losses and a 6-4 record—where recent Miami teams would’ve absolutely mailed it in—the Canes put up 486 yards to the Cards’ 470.

Louisville turned it over once, while Miami protected the all—and time of possession was roughly even, as were third down and fourth down percentages and penalties—until the final minutes, at least.

Miami went from a disciplined three flags totaling 20 yards on the day, to picking up 30 yards in penalties on back-to-back possessions where two Hurricanes lost their shit and did infinitely more damage than a fourth down timeout that the pundits won’t let rest.

With 1st-and-Goal on the four-yard line after a pass interference call, the Canes were setting up for 4th-and-Goal from the one-yard line—after a Mark Fletcher run netted a yard on first down and Van Dyke had two back-to-back incompletions.

After seeing Louisville’s personnel on fourth down, Miami called timeout—letting the offense talk over what they saw defensively and making sure they were good with the play call.

Van Dyke took the snap, looked left for Xavier Restrepo—who got jammed up on his route—forcing Van Dyke to go right for George, in man coverage. The pass to the right side of the field sailed high—while the receiver immediately reacted as if he was again held—which was the case five plays earlier, resulting in the penalty that put Miami on the four-yard line in the first place.

Louisville would’ve taken over on their three yard line with 1:29 on the clock—against a Miami defense that had technically sacked both Clemson and Florida State quarterbacks in similar moments, despite biased conference officials seeing it otherwise.

Tyler Van Dyke played a turnover-free game against Louisville, but 12 interceptions will define his 2023 season.

Instead, George chose this moment to get baited by a chatty defender—going hands-to-the-face and walking right into an unsportsmanlike conduct call that gave the Cardinals the ball on the 18-yard line and some game-changing breathing room.

Miami would stuff three runs and use their final two timeouts—getting the ball back at the :29 mark, instead of just over a minute if there were a third timeout to have used on third down—a situation made worse when Brashard Smith pulled a George on the punt return, costing the Canes another precious 15 yards.

The use of Miami’s first timeout prior to the 4th-and-Goal from the three-yard line became a topic of discussion after the game—especially after Cristobal didn’t respond favorably to the query in the post-game presser.

After Fletcher picked up a yard on first down, Van Dyke threw incomplete on second and third, setting up a one-play, game-defining conversion—which explained offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and Miami wanting to go over the play call and assignment after seeing the defensive personnel Louisville trotted on to the field.

A fourth down timeout would be a logical play call under normal circumstances, but there’s nothing normal about The State of The U as decades of disaster roll on.

Instead, this proved to be the moment of the game the dejected segment of the fan base wants to hang everything on—a it fits the “clock management” agenda and gives them their manufactured reason to make anything and everything about their disdain for Cristobal.

Forget the incompletion itself, the no-call on potential pass interference or two huge unsportsmanlike conduct penalties completely flipping the field being a focal point and more-important topic of conversation—the seething portion of this fan base that will make everything about “coaching” will add this to their running list as they case-build against Cristobal game-by-game, drive-by-drive and play-by-play.

Those who have followed this thing for decades; all these knocks about being a garbage game day coach, as well as a next-level recruiter and stacker-of-talent—present day rants sound identical to the late 90’s knocks Butch Davis—banners flying over the Orange Bowl three games into year three, before a 1-2 start was fast 1-4, after losing the home banner-flying game against West Virginia and then getting destroyed 47-0 at No. 4 Florida State.


Sticking with the running theme in these weekly recaps and the winning-cures-all-while-losing-exposes-warts narrative.

In this scenario, an attempt to villainize the coaching staff for using a timeout to go over the game’s most-important play thus far—a lose-lose outcome unless the Hurricanes scored, stopped the Cardinals in regulation and prevailed in overtime, as the win would’ve given everyone amnesia as to how Miami got it done—similar to the lack of nitpicking that occurred after overtime wins against Clemson and Virginia.

With another loss, the focus remains blaming the coaching staff at every turn as two decades of irrelevance and incompetence are immediately lumped onto the shoulders of every new staff, who is expected to deliver immediately—which also includes taking outlier situations and highlighting them for the sake of case-building.

Jeff Brohm and his year-one success at Louisville is one of many examples; the Cardinals going 10-1 with their first-year head coach—which leaves the jaded Miami fan pointing to the former Purdue coach’s success as a way to underscore their sentiment that Cristobal is a wrong-fit guy for Miami.

A year ago Lincoln Riley was the flavor of the year hire as the former Oklahoma head coach brought his own offense and his Heisman-worthy quarterback from Norman to Troy and Southern Cal hit the ground running with an 11-3 season for the Trojans.

Two losses to Utah were ignored in the storytelling, yet were the focal point in 2021 when Cristobal and his Ducks lost to the Utes in the regular season and Pac-12 Championship game—just like Riley would a year later—and the follow-up for USC was a 7-5 season, with a legit Heisman-winning quarterback under center in Caleb Williams; all blame shifting to recently-fired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who wasn’t the scapegoat last fall when the Trojans’ offense better-hummed with Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison as a portal pick-up.

A year later—exit Riley, enter Brohm—the latest addition to the pedestal for the sake of stigmatizing Cristobal.

Of course the pro-Brohm debate will leave out the fact this year’s reshuffled, division-less ACC saw Louisville with a favorable schedule draw where there was no Florida State, Clemson or North Carolina on the schedule—who were No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in the conference preseason rankings.

ACC preseason No. 5 Louisville saw there highest-ranked conference foe in a road match-up against No. 4 North Carolina State, escaping Raleigh with a 13-10 victory—while preseason No. 6 Miami matched them statistically and took them to the wire.

As for the season’s lone loss; that came against No. 8 Pittsburgh, where the Panthers rolled the Cardinals, 38-17… but why let facts get in the way of one’s slanted argument?

Same to be said for cries that Miami was “undisciplined” after George and Smith had their individual meltdowns. The Hurricanes play a clean game all day long—never shooting themselves in the foot and finally winning the turnover battle—yet two receivers taking the bait and letting emotions get the better of them; it’s an indictment on the staff and somehow a lack of discipline across the board is the culprit?

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis sustained a season-ending ankle injury during a first quarter run against North Alabama hours after Miami and Louisville were in the books—which not only diminishes the Noles chances at running the table—it could arguably impact both their regular season finale at Florida, as well as their shot at an ACC Championship.

Translation; Brohm and his Cardinals just caught another break in their quest for a conference title—but for the sake of the salty Canes fan looking to amplify the first-year head coach’s narrative, the Travis injury will barely be a footnote while creating another way to stack the deck against Cristobal.


The anti-Cristobal fan also seems to love the Mario-handcuffs-his-coordinators narrative—something that started becoming a social media go-to after jaded Oregon fans played their we-never-wanted-him-anyways card when their former head coach returned to his alma mater; on the heels of Ducks fans citing facilities and a big time Nike contract as reasons Cristobal would never leave Eugene.

Of course this has never been proven, while articles after Miami’s rout of Texas A&M back in September speak to the contrary.

The Atlantic featured a blow-by-blow of the Canes’ final offensive series—specifically the sideline interaction on a 3rd-and-7 from the UM 36-yard line—with 2:37 left on the ticking clock in a game Miami led 41-33.

Jacolby George made some big time plays, but losing his cool after a turnover on downs against Louisville was disastrous.

If Cristobal were the micromanager and slow-playing head coach he’s being accused of, why didn’t Miami run the ball and force Texas A&M to take a timeout if not converting?

“I don’t think we can run the clock out,” Cristobal told Dawson. “Run the clock out?” Dawson replied. “I’m trying to end this motherf**ker right here. If they match up, we’re gonna throw the vertical.”

The article went on to say that Cristobal “loved what he heard”—as did the players—as Dawson huddled-up his offense. “We gotta go score again,” he told them. “We can’t put all the pressure on the field. We gotta help them out and give them a comfortable lead.”

Miami took the field, the offensive line gave protection, Van Dyke got back, George got open and a 64-yard touchdown strike was the end result—Miami 48, Texas A&M 33 with 2:37 remaining–Te’Cory Couch with the fourth down interception to seal the victory.

Proof that winning cures all?

Imagine for a moment George doesn’t haul in that pass—an incompletion stopping the clock, Miami now punting on 4th-and-7—allowing the know-it-all Cristobal hater to bitch incessantly how the Canes now should’ve run the ball, forcing the Aggies to burn one of their two remaining timeouts.

Texas A&M arguably would’ve gotten the ball back with good field position—two timeouts and two-and-a-half minutes remaining—trailing by eight, where a touchdown and two-point conversion tie things up 41-41.


The exhaustive walk down early season memory lane was done to underscore the bigger picture for Miami as this program looked to take a step forward year two under Cristobal.

Anyone not willingly admitting the Hurricanes better look the part in 2023 than they did in 2022—you’re not to be taken seriously as you show your ass in this conversation.

Furthermore, constantly putting everything on coaching opposed to real-life circumstances is misguided and a sign of a fan who is probably catching way too much shit on Twitter from rivals fans, having run his mouth all off-season and overhyping what Miami was going to look like here in year two.

Pinning all of the blame on Van Dyke is unfair, but failing to weave him into the storyline where this season fell apart—that’s also completely disingenuous; especially if the weekly argument is that Cristobal is the lone culprit.

Did the second-year Miami head coach absolutely make the gaffe of a lifetime when not taking a knee against Georgia Tech? Absolutely. It was and ego-driven, amateur hour, machismo-fueled move that single-handedly cost the Hurricanes a game that was 20-17 in that moment—where the clock would’ve run out and the comeback would’ve been complete—and while it can’t directly be blamed for a loss at North Carolina the following week, at minimum it was an unnecessary distraction that hung over the program for weeks.

Still, putting the non-knee aside, Van Dyke’s inability to read a zone defense became an infinitely bigger problem—and this night was just the tip of the iceberg, as the meltdown would literally last for the next six games—including the ripple effect that saw him benched twice for a true freshman.

Three interceptions gifted to the Yellow Jackets—along with two fumbles—in a game Miami lost the turnover battle five to two; the Canes should’ve been kneeling up by at least three touchdowns—not three points.

A week later in Chapel Hill, the turnover battle was lost four to zero, as the Tar Heels protected the ball—Van Dyke credited with two interceptions, while fumbling a snap in the early third quarter of a 21-17 ball game where North Carolina had just retaken the lead.

The Canes defense would force a punt, which Van Dyke immediately gave back on a first down interception. Three plays later, the Tar Heels were in the end zone and the lead was now 28-17. Facing a crucial 3rd-and-7  on the next drive, Van Dyke took a sack and North Carolina put together a back-breaking nine play, 63-yard drive, going up 35-17.

Banged up and sidelined for Clemson a week later, Van Dyke yielded to Williams and Miami won the chess match—as well as the turnover battle, with one to the Tigers’ three—allowing for a 10-point fourth quarter rally that forced overtime, where defense prevailed in the second overtime and the Canes emerged victorious.

Kam Kinchens pick-six against Virginia is the only reason the turnover-prone, TVD-led Canes aren’t 0-5 since October.

Van Dyke was back against Virginia a week later and had it not been for Kam Kinchens with a pick-six, Miami would’ve officially lost the last five games Van Dyke started—Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina State and Louisville—as it was two interceptions given away to the Cavaliers and three the following week in a touchdown-less loss to the Wolfpack.

Seven attempts coming off the bench for Williams; Van Dyke coughed up his eleventh interception in five games—which saw a 15-to-5 turnover ratio for Miami over that stretch.

Can the triggered Cristobal critic turn the heat down for boil to simmer for a moment to at least acknowledge that a three-to-one turnover ratio average over a five-game stretch is an incomprehensible nightmare for a program who statistically had one of the best quarterbacks in the nation the first month of this season?

Who saw this collapse coming in the wake of Van Dyke throwing it all over the yard against Texas A&M—to the tune of 374 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers?


The Hurricanes finally fielded their strongest overall offensive line starting line-up in decades, boasted four quality running backs in the stable and finally saw a trio of wide receivers turning the corner—Van Dyke was supposed to get that ball in the hands of playmakers and Miami was supposed to light up scoreboards this fall.

Sadly, it was too little too late by the time Van Dyke finally regained his composure against No. 10 Louisville—a respectable 327 yard, one touchdown outing that fell short. In a game where the quarterback was interception-less for the first time since a late September road trip to Temple—Miami’s inability to find the open tight end wound up being the difference in an even match-up.

Three big boys from Louisville were the difference in a seven-point game; the group combining for 112 yards and a touchdown on nine clutch haul-ins as Lance Guidry the Canes defense was on its heels all day.

The trio’s performance was impressive, but still couldn’t hold a candle to Clemson’s one-man wrecking crew Jake Briningstool, who had five monster grabs for 126 yards and two touchdowns in regulation against Miami—but remains a footnote on the season, as a monster takedown of Cade Klubnick in overtime by Corey Flagg will be the definitive moment of the game.

Why? Because Miami emerged victorious and winning cures all, while losing exposes all warts—another reason the Hurricanes need to get back to their championship-caliber ways.

Is Cristobal the guy that will lead “The U” back to glory? Better hope so, as a seventh head coach since 2006 will feel like yet another step back if the native son is unable to succeed at his alma mater.

Whether UM has or hasn’t found their answer with Cristobal, fact remains a two-year sampling after two decades of disappointment—it’s nowhere near enough.

Year three is where the magic usually begins to happen and year four should have Miami back in the national conversation.

Anything less than a 2025 contender—for $8,000,000 a year—all pitchforks out for Cristobal will be deserved and understood, but until then stop the case-building and suck it up, buttercup. “The U” didn’t go to shit overnight and won’t be rebuilt that way, either—no matter how much you want to take shots at the guy showing up daily actually working to right the ship.

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


(The Late Kick with Josh Pate)

Josh Pate gets it… and I’m not just saying that because he dedicated an entire early episode of Late Kick to a comment I’d made on a Canes message board years back. I’m just a sucker for logic, reason, common sense, practicality and educated conversations driven by facts over feelings.

Tuning into these Monday morning breakdowns; it feels infinitely more-productive than the contingent of Miami’s fan base that heads over to WQAM 560—ready to pounce-on and dissect every word Mario Cristobal shares with Joe Rose, in the wake of another Hurricanes’ loss.

The obligatory weekly appearance by a head coach answering softball questions on the flagship station—fueled by coach-speak and back-to-the-grind soundbites—before heading over to Greentree to actually get back to said grind; what kernels of wisdom are people truly expecting from what’s intended to be nothing more than fluff?

Conversely, Pate’s latest six-minute segment—in the wake of an offensive-less 20-6 showing at North Carolina State— all killer and no filler as the on-the-ball host spits knowledge and avoids the type of hyperbole the knee-jerk fans pointlessly dissect with in the aftermath.

A true professional knows to avoid the tired, cliché ramblings about Miami’s staff getting out-coached, while demanding change at quarterback or other emotional, way-too-long, cold takes—rants rooted in authentic embarrassment that comes by way of unabashed fandom in this modern-day, all-encompassing, social media- and message board-driven vortex… which is a bigger societal issue to unpack at another time, but is a real trigger nonetheless.

The Late Kick’s platform is dedicated to an objective view of college football as a whole, with agenda-less, unbiased takes on match-ups, storylines and an in-progress season unfolding in real time—which isn’t something your average, everyday super-fan YouTuber is going to deliver from his orange and green man-cave—triggered after a loss as the trolls lay him out for predicting a Canes’ victory, resulting in a shoddy recap video driven by the visceral shame that comes from being an overly-dedicated fan, opposed to an unbiased observer talking shop.


The trajectory of the diehard Miami Hurricanes fan has been sheer misery over these past two decades—based on self-imposed expectations—and especially for those who lived through the rise-up moment of the ’80s, the rebuild in the late ’90s and what looked like an infallible dynasty in the early ’00s, which soon became a two-decade long drought.

Longtime supporters of “The U” grew up embracing Miami being the villain in the black hat—which was gratifying-as-all-hell watching this counterculture program not just dominate, but do so while turning the entire sport inside out—which is what’s makes the mocking, hate and rival laugher sting that much more after every new hiring, firing and rebuilding effort since the demise.

The only thing worse than being hated-on for once being dominant and great; constantly getting laughed at for becoming inconsistent and irrelevant.

It’s a sentiment that’s taken its toll over the years—resulting in false bravado and overconfidence with every new hire—which quickly results in a desire to burn-it-all-down a year or two in when the new regime hits a few speed bumps early in the rebuild process… which is also why the overemotional contingent of this fan base needs to find a way to self-regulate.

All good things take time and lest anyone expect another microwave dynasty, this is the wrong place and time as college football has become big business and cutthroat competition across the board for ultimate supremacy.

“Everyone that doesn’t properly study the history if these programs leaves themselves vulnerable to mis-defining, or ill-defining expectations—and that sets you up for failure and disappointment,” Pate shared on this latest Canes-themed episode of Late Kick, in regards to fans moving the goal post on Miami’s win total now at 6-3 with three to play—many now pushing back that 8-4 or 7-5 should be deemed progress in the wake of 5-7 last fall.

Pate went on to legitimately ask what business to fans have taking a program with one double-digit win season since 2004 and “just blindly expecting 10 wins to be the baseline” in this situation—rightfully calling the reaction and expectations “illogical”—because that’s precisely what today’s entitled fan behavior has become.


It’s a point re-litigated here ad nauseam, but as the insanity reaches new levels—due to years of incompetence and irrelevance—and patience wears thinner and thinner, it will continue being brought up in some way, shape or form until is resonates with the masses.

Cristobal is Miami’s third head coach over a five-year span; one month from wrapping up year two after three short years after Manny Diaz assembled a 21-15 record—the former defensive coordinator taking over for Mark Richt, who was ready to hang it up after 15 long years at Georgia and the meat-grinder that is the SEC, but instead choosing to give his alma mater three years of his time—and $1,000,000 of his own money—to try his hand at a much-needed rebuild and infrastructure revamping.

That aforementioned 10-win season Pate referenced—Miami’s only double-digit win season since 11-2 in 2003—a fugazi of a 2017 campaign for the Hurricanes, who eked out miraculous early season wins which paved the way to two massive primetime night games against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame—before closing the season 1-3, struggling early before closing out Virginia, falling on the road to a four-win Pittsburgh squad, getting rolled by Clemson in Miami’s first-ever ACC Championship game and outlasted by Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

Mario Cristobal went 35-12 over four years at Oregon, where he won two Pac-12 titles, a Rose Bowl and had two double-digit win seasons.

Richt wound up going 8-9 overall after the Canes’ old school beatdown of the Irish—Cristobal eventually taking over a team that was 29-24 since final stretch of 2017 and through the Diaz era, which ended in 2021—roughly a 7-5 annual average over that span.

Need to run it back even further for some bonus context?

Miami’s record between that 2005 Peach Bowl debacle against LSU—a 40-3 ass-kicking that extended from the field to the tunnel post-game—the Hurricanes were 116-85 prior to the Cristobal era; an average of 7.25 wins per season and 5.31 annual losses over a 16-year span.

Miami’s current senior class were freshman in the COVID-defined 2020 season—one where Diaz’s roster got a quick boost after nabbing D’Eriq King from the transfer portal—replacing Jarren Williams, who famously missed curfew in 2019 prior to an embarrassing “home” loss to Florida International—on the hallowed grounds where the Orange Bowl once stood.

King’s run ended three games into the 2021 season, prematurely launching the Tyler Van Dyke era—which was relatively pressure-free for the redshirt freshman quarterback as expectations were in the tank after the 1-2 start—and quickly 2-4 after close losses to Virginia and North Carolina.

Van Dyke threw it all over the yard in wins over North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech—before his first real career implosion in a road loss at Florida State—rebounding with wins over bad Virginia Tech and Duke teams for a 7-5 run that sent Diaz packing and welcomed Cristobal as next coach up.

Rhett Lashlee took his offense to Southern Methodist when getting his first head coaching opportunity, while Van Dyke was saddled with one season of Josh Gattis calling the shots in 2022 and was looking for a rebirth under Shannon Dawson—his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons—while his short-lived comeback has crashed and burned miserably over the past several weeks.


Week Two of the 2023 season literally feels like a lifetime ago; a long-gone era where Van Dyke looked flawless, slinging it all around HardRock for 374 yards and five touchdowns against Texas A&M—sitting at 11 touchdowns and one interception four games into the season and statistically one of of the best quarterbacks in the game after one month of football.

Three games later—and sidelined for a win over Clemson—Van Dyke has since throw five touchdowns, ten interceptions and fumbled twice the past two outings.

The most-important position on the field—evidenced by a successful program that once owned the moniker “Quarterback U”, en route to four championships over a nine-year span, with four different gunslingers—where would this current team be if Van Dyke was merely playing pretty good and somewhat protecting the football, opposed to next-level awful and morphing into a world-class liability overnight?

We’re literally talking the difference between the reality of 6-3 and what could realistically be 8-1, or even undefeated right now.

Knowing the weakest link with this 2023 is literally tied to a quarterback who lost his mojo—one has to have bigger picture clarity and look past the numerical value of 6-3 with three games remaining—recalling that this team was absolutely passing the eye and smell text before the wheels completely fell off for a third-year starter being praised for making NFL-caliber throws and heady decisions just over a month ago.

The Hurricanes’ improvement at offensive line, running back and wide receiver had this offense humming out the gate under Dawson, while a feisty Lance Guidry-run defense was making a difference before Miami started massively losing the turnover battle weekly and a unit that was bending was now officially breaking.

This most-recent loss at North Carolina State; a microcosm of the entire second act this season in four quarters of football—ill-timed misfortune resulting in field goal attempts and points left on the field when Miami had been driving and was in position to find the end zone—as well as turnovers that gifted the Wolfpack points, while the Hurricanes’ defense stood strong on most drives and continued getting the ball back in Van Dyke’s hands.

Late third quarter, Miami had gone a methodical 72 yards on 12 plays—eating up 7:35 and getting to the 9:47 mark in the fourth—when the Hurricanes faced a 4th-and-Goal from the three-yard line, trailing 10-6.

Had Miami not missed a 45-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half, a safe bet Cristobal and Dawson kick it again—as the goal was for the Hurricanes to finally get a momentum-shifting lead.

Instead, a battle of wills as Miami ran Mark Fletcher into the teeth of the line and the back was expectedly stuffed for no gain.

Manny Diaz went 21-15 over three years at Miami, including an 0-3 run against North Carolina and former boss Mack Brown.

While the focus was on the Canes going for it and not punching it in, the bigger issue was a non-threat, turnover-prone quarterback in the shotgun—everyone in Carter-Finley Stadium well-aware Van Dyke would handoff to Fletcher, as the odds of him rolling out to pass or run it himself were less than zero—which remains a philosophical issue for Cristobal and Dawson, leaving them deciding between a broken junior quarterback, a true freshman not quite ready to go, or an athletic, one-dimensional sophomore whose aerial attack leaves much to be desired.

The struggle is real, as all with ties to this program are painfully aware—but there has to be context within these three losses.

A flubbed kneel-down giving away the Georgia Tech game, while losing the turnover battle to North Carolina and North Carolina State—the Canes coughing it up eight times in those two contests—while the Tar Heels played clean and the Wolfpack had two turnovers.

They “why” in these losses couldn’t be more obvious, while the answer to solving the riddle remains murky—yet the second-year head coach and first-year coordinators remain the punching bags through this understandable, albeit misguided frustration.


Fans love to point at successful programs that are riding high, while often ignoring the arduous path that a successful team and coaching staff took en route to newfound, dominant ways.

Case in point, Georgia didn’t wake up one day as college football’s newest powerhouse.

The Bulldogs benefitted from 15 years of Richt running a very solid program that won two SEC Championships and six division titles during his 145 -51 run—averaging out to 9.66 wins and 3.4 annually. He simply couldn’t get over the hump and spent a big chunk of his career dealing with Urban Meyer and Florida dominating the SEC East, while Nick Saban turned Alabama around and began owning the conference halfway through Richt’s tenure in Athens.

Kirby Smart was handed the keys in 2016—another sign of the University of Georgia’s commitment to building a winner, along with dumping over $200,000,000 into their football program as part of their “Do More” campaign, aimed at outspending the likes of Alabama as their desire was to dethrone and replace the Crimson Tide.

By year six, Smart finally had the Bulldogs’ first national championship since 1980… nabbing another year seven and looking for a three-peat here in year eight.

Southern Cal and the Lincoln Riley narrative of 2022 was understandably compared to Miami and Cristobal, as both were hired around the same time and rolled up their sleeves to rebuild once-proud, private school football programs on opposite costs—Cristobal with a focus on culture and rebuilding “The U” in the mold he once knew as a former player and national champion.

Conversely, Riley brought his high-flying offense in from a powerhouse Oklahoma program; one that Bob Stoops built over 18 seasons, where he won 11 conference championships and one national title—amassing a 191-48 record that averaged out at 10.6 wins a year and 2.6 annual losses—which Riley maintained for five years before bailing and chasing a huge payday and rebuilding effort in Troy.

The only “culture” Riley focused on what implementing his high-flying offense—a system where he calls his own plays, poached his own Heisman-caliber quarterback from the Sooners and reeled in the transfer portal’s top-dog, Biletnikoff-winning wideout—all of which helped the Trojans air-mailed their way to 11-3 in year one.

Fast-forward to the follow-up and the old adage that defense wins championships; it’s rearing its ugly head for USC as Riley’s squad got rolled by Notre Dame, lost its third game over the course of a year to tougher-built Utah and was outscored in a shootout with Washington—while almost losing in triple-overtime to Arizona in-between.

Now USC gets Oregon and UCLA down the stretch—with Riley and the Trojans legitimately staring down the barrel of 8-4 or 7-5 in year two—which would be major backsliding and reason for concern after a strong opening act last fall.

Still, no other comparison is better-suited to what Miami fans just witnessed these past three-plus seasons at Florida State regarding the trajectory of Mike Norvell and roller coaster ride Seminoles Nation has been on since bringing on the former Memphis head coach in 2020.

Norvell went 38-15 with the Tigers—handed the keys to a program future Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente built—before getting the nod at Florida State; a program that was rolling and hit a wall in 2017 when strong>Jimbo Fisher bailed out when Texas A&M backed-up the Brinks truck; leading to a failed two-year run with Willie Taggart, only to settle on Norvell when some bigger names didn’t want to take on the job in Tallahassee.

Sound familiar, Miami fans?

Norvell’s first year was nothing short of a complete disaster; a 3-6 run during the COVID-defined 2020 season—including a 52-10 loss to Diaz at Miami. By year two, it was 0-4 out the gate—including a home loss to Jacksonville State, on the game’s final play—while stumbling to 3-6 before a 5-4 Hurricanes’ squad rolled north and choked away a late lead in Tallahassee; a season that ended with a thud by way of a  road loss against rival Florida.

After two full seasons with the Seminoles, Norvell was 6-12 and any college football fan worth their message board weight saw Florida State faithful in full-blown meltdown-mode—doing that simpleton fan math and trying to figure out if and how FSU could even afford to buy Norvell out after paying Taggart eight figures worth of get-lost money.

It wasn’t a matter of “if” with Norvell those first two years; it was “when” as he was considered dead-man-walking in all Seminoles’ circles… until he wasn’t.

Somehow a No. 23-ranked recruiting class in 2021, No. 20 in 2022 and some moves made in the transfer portal—as well as the emergence of Jordan Travis at quarterback—and things finally got rolling for Norvell in year three and continue.

What a difference a confident and capable quarterback can make…


A fast 4-0 start that was just as quickly 4-3 after Florida State lost to the only three ranked teams it faced in the 2022 season—N0. 22 Wake Forest, No. 14 North Carolina State and No. 4 Clemson—before bouncing back with wins over Georgia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Louisiana and Florida.

Throw in a another fortunate bounce with big-named Oklahoma—despite the Sooners rolling into the post-season 6-6—and that eked-out victory in the Cheez-It Bowl had the Seminoles putting their stamp on a 10-3 season that ultimately set the tone for year four.

Since that mid-October loss to Clemson last fall, Florida State assembled a 15-game win-streak, is now 9-0 in and sits atop the ACC with a legit shot at the Playoffs this season—all while being led by the same head coach their fans wanted to run out of town two years ago, as well as a left-for-dead transfer quarterback who miraculously entered the Heisman conversation this fall.

Had Miami fans had their way, Butch Davis would’ve been canned in year three and not been around to assemble the most-loaded team in history.

None of this is any type of proclamation or guarantee that Cristobal will turn Miami into a championship contender, but 21 games into his tenure—it’s hardly enough of a sample-size to warrant any stick-a-fork-in-him, pull-the-plug chatter.

Especially in regards to the state of the program inherited, a broken culture needing to be stripped down the studs—fully rebuilt—and the fact that all three setbacks in 2023 have been mostly-tied to unprecedented quarterback regression, considering how good and successful Van Yips looked earlier this season.

Too much of the conversation around Cristobal still treats him like the former Florida International head coach of yesteryear, while leaving out a four-year stint under Saban at Alabama—where he earned Recruiter Of The Year honors in 2015—as well as what he pulled off at Oregon after replacing FSU-bound Taggart.

An impressive 35-12 run over four seasons, two Pac-12 championships, two double-digit win seasons, a Rose Bown win over Wisconsin and an upset over No. 3 Ohio State on the road in 2021—not to mention, recruiting like a beast and leaving the cupboard full in Eugene.

Lest not forget the last time Miami had an alpha dog head coach in this mold—who was also a tireless recruiter that was oft knocked for some game day blunders early in his career with the Hurricanes—fans always wanted to run him off, as well.

Butch Davis was lambasted from day one, up through an early year six loss at Washington—constant bearing the brunt of the blame for turning “champs into chumps” after a 1-2 start year three back in 1997, where a banner flew over the Orange Bowl before a loss to West Virginia and fans openly talked about his ousting.

That third-year Davis-led squad bottomed out with a 5-6 run that season and a 47-0 loss at Florida State, but the head coach continued recruiting like a beast, stockpiled talent, got Miami to 9-3 in 1998—including an upset of No. 2 UCLA a week after losing the Big East title at Syracuse, 66-13—before an improved 9-4 campaign in 1999, which featured some big-time moments (an upset over No. 9 Ohio State), a head-scratcher (blowing a 24-3 lead to East Carolina) and a few close-but-not-quite-there outings (No. 2 Penn State, No. 1 Florida State).

Still, the growth was obvious and the talent upgrade undeniable.

By year five in 2000, it was smooth sailing and an 11-1 run—including upsets of No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech, as well as a Sugar Bowl win over No. 7 Florida—which should’ve been an Orange Bowl match-up against No. 1 Oklahoma—but the glory eventually came in 2001 when the most-loaded roster in college football history rolled on to 12-0 and the Hurricanes’ fifth national championship… which never would’ve been the case if the savages had their way, running Davis off in year three.

In short, progress it taking place on a macro-level even if there are some micro-level setbacks that have ruined a handful of Saturdays this weekend—so buckle in for the bumpy ride and pray for smooth sailing over the next couple of seasons—as progress it taking place, even if it felt like one step forward and two steps back these past couple of weekends.

(Editor’s Note: Pate’s deep-dive into the history of “The U” and breaking down why Miami was hated in the ’80s and ’90s—a good use of one’s time—an informed outsider explaining what us veteran insiders and 305 natives lived through during that iconic era.)

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Tyler Van Dyke may very well have thrown his last meaningful pass for the Miami Hurricanes.

That’s not to say the junior quarterback is necessarily headed for the bench as a road trip to Florida State looms.

It simply means, that the broken-beyond-repair gunslinger is out of bullets and even the good-looking ball here or there will pale in comparison to the barrage of game-defining interceptions that’s resulted in the once 4-0 Hurricanes dropping three of their past five games.

Mind-boggling to think that Van Dyke was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in college football a month into the season—11 touchdowns and one interception going into Georgia Tech weekend.

Since then, five touchdowns to 10 interceptions—and zero touchdowns these past two games against Virginia and North Carolina State, where Van Dyke threw five picks and coughed up a crucial fumble.

One would be hard-pressed to see a fall from grace like the Hurricanes have witnessed with Van Dyke. In two decades of unthinkable, irrelevant football at the University of Miami—chock full of forgettable, sub-par quarterbacks—these are absolutely uncharted waters as few have had moments of greatness like No. 9 in 2021 and earlier this season.

The cynic loves to point at Miami head coach Mario Cristobal as a quarterback killer, going back to his days at Oregon where some felt he’d handcuffed future NFL’er Justin Herbert, but even the most-egregious head coach in the world couldn’t do to Van Dyke what he’s mentally done to himself.

Miami’s quarterback has his own version of the yips and it’s been on display since his deer-in-headlights performance against Georgia Tech—an outing where Van Dyke was staring down receivers, completely missing open ones or throwing into triple coverage after not going through his progressions—losing all feel for the game along the way.


What’s taking place this season for the Miami Hurricanes regarding quarterback regression; it’s almost not even about football at this rate.

Once getting past the fandom, one almost has to feel bad for Van Dyke as a human being, as something has gone seriously awry for the Glastonbury, Connecticut native—a kid who had his eyes on the NFL after this season now most-likely needing to rely on that Business Real Estate degree he’s working on at the University of Miami, as any pro football career appears to be slipping away one errant pass at a time.

None of this is to say Van Dyke is the only problem as both Cristobal and first-year offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson aren’t blameless here.

Whatever Dawson did weeks back to game-manage against Clemson with Emory Williams in the shotgun in his first start; the play calling has been non-existent with Van Dyke these past two games—begging the question, if coaches can’t find a way to work with they have in their starter, is it time to burn it all down and toss the keys to a true freshman who can take some valuable snaps while closing out this season?

It worked in 1999 for Ken Dorsey, albeit the freshman got rocked against Virginia Tech when replacing the injured Kenny Kelly mid-game, but starts—and blowouts—against Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple the final three weeks of the season helped set up a successful 2000 campaign when Kelly bailed out to play pro baseball and Dorsey was the guy for the next three seasons.

Unfortunately Miami’s reality in 2023 will see a road trip to Tallahassee against No. 4 Florida State, a home finale against offensive juggernaut Louisville and a Thanksgiving weekend in Chestnut Hill against a feisty Boston College on-deck these next three weeks—a far cry from the Scarlet Knights, Orangemen or Owls of yesteryear.

As good as September was to kick off year two of the Cristobal era; business-as-usual wins over the other Miami, Bethune-Cookman and a road victory at Temple—as well as what felt like a breakthrough rout of Texas A&M in week two—November looks like it’ll make history for all of the wrong reasons.

Closing strong is the goal of every season—this final stretch of football separating pretenders from contenders—the Hurricanes now look like absolute frauds by way of a damaged-goods, non-threat quarterback that defenses can still beat by loading up the box, stuffing the run and daring to do something… anything, at this rate.

Even worse, Van Dyke’s body language in relation to his offensive teammates—the quarterback seems to have lost all and any visible support of that unit.

A far cry from the, it’s-on-me, rally-the-troops, let’s-get-back-out-there-and-deliver energy from the type of rah-rah guys who have defined the position over the years—begging the question, where do things really go from here if Van Dyke is too-far-gone and this team has lost all faith in him as their leader?

Early offensive miscues had Miami settling for field goals in a dogfight of a game; the Canes held without a touchdown for the first time this season.

In the spirit of outing one’s self with a dated pop-culture reference, Van Dyke is giving off some serious Roy McAvoy vibes—the character Kevin Costner played in the nineties rom-com Tin Cup—envisioning the scene where the frazzled golfer is discovered in his trailer with a half dozen gadgety golf improvement devices hanging off of every orifice of his body, searching for anything under the sun that will get him out of his head and returning the mojo that once made him a contender.

The way the Miami offense has stalled out in recent weeks, there aren’t enough training aids under the sun to fix what’s going on with Van Dyke and these Hurricanes.


Unfortunately for Cristobal and staff, whatever is happening with their derailed quarterback—that will be a footnote when this final record is in the books—and at this rate, one would be hard pressed to make a case for these Hurricanes winning another game this year.

That’s not to say the sun can’t shine on a dog’s ass here or there, but on paper how could anyone expect Miami to outscore Florida State, Louisville or Boston College in these coming weeks based on such garbage offensive production against Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina State?

The only game in recent memory where Miami won the turnover battle was against Clemson—whose own self-implosion saw the Tigers coughing up the ball three times to the one Canes’ miscue on a Williams interception, while Van Dyke was in street clothes playing cheerleader.

Three head-scratching interceptions against the Yellow Jackets, two against the Tar Heels—and a fumble when mishandling an errant snap—as well as the two picks against Virginia and now this abortion of an outing against the Wolfpack; three interceptions and one fumble as the Hurricanes finished with 292 total yards, was 4-of-15 on third down and was held without a touchdown for the first time since last year’s bed-shitting outing against the Seminoles, 45-3.

Unexpected circumstances like this are a nightmare for a head coach, but it’s also the reason someone like Cristobal earns a whopping $8,000,000 annually—to figure out how to negotiate this rugged terrain and to find a way to get this thing back on some semblance of a track—which will also require bigger cojones than Miami’s second-year head coach showed in Raleigh on Saturday night.

The Hurricanes settled for early field goals, leaving eight points on the field by early in the second quarter—as well as answering a fumble recovery with a Van Dyke interception, only to pick off the Wolfpack and then give it back when the Canes’ errant quarterback fumbled.

After a first half of red zone struggles, Cristobal and Dawson went conservative on Miami’s opening drive of the second half—choosing a 45-yard field goal attempt on 4th-and-3—instead of drawing something up that could’ve kept the possession going, only to get stuffed on 4th-and-1 from the three-yard line, when choosing to blast Mark Fletcher up the middle as uncreative and obvious as possible in what was still a 10-6 football game with 9:47 remaining.

Eight plays, 97 yards and just under five minutes later the Wolfpack—who offensively had only five yards the entire second half going into a drive they started from their three-yard line—found pay-dirt; sparked by a 16-yard pick-up on 3rd-and-7 from the six-yard line that rejuvenated a North Carolina State offense that had been held in check by Miami most of the night, before the Canes’ defense understandably broke.

The Canes’ defense kept Miami in the game, but a 97-yard scoring drive pushed the Wolfpack’s lead to an insurmountable 17-6 in the fourth quarter.

Zigging when one should zag—it wasn’t just Van Dyke who was off; it was a coaching staff with the wrong call at the wrong time, it was boneheaded penalties by frustrated players and it was a complete inability to make a play when needed—Kevin Conception or Brennan Armstrong keeping drives alive with big plays for the Wolfpack, while someone like Cam McCormick went full-blown stone-hands for the Canes on a key early third down that arguably kept Miami out of the end zone and set the wrong tone.

From top to bottom, the entire outing was a disaster and any confidence Miami had weeks back about facing Florida State this fall—based on a productive September—it’s gone completely out the window.

The Noles might not be as good as advertised and the Hurricanes not as bad a unit as their quarterback has them looking—but the difference between year four for Mike Norvell versus year two for Cristobal are impossible to ignore and ready to come to a head this weekend as one program has an identity and is playing up to its potential, while the other is officially reeling.

Two years ago it was the Seminoles coming off of a November home loss to North Carolina State, knocking them to 3-6 on the season as 5-4 Miami loomed. Weeks prior, Norvell and the Noles fell at home on a time-expiring touchdown against Jacksonville State—which on the heels of 3-6 in a COVID-defined 2020—had Florida State faithful talking buyout and ready to run their second-year head coach out of town.

Then 4th-and-14 happened and the Noles beat the Canes—and while both programs were effectively in the shitter—the victory gave Florida State something to build on; beating Boston College in Chestnut Hill a week later before dropping a close on in Gainesville to finish 5-7—which was still a down year, but two games better than the season prior and marked improvement.

By year three, Norvell officially had a quarterback in Jordan Travis—who looked like a complete joke as a starter in 2021, yet now has the Noles on a 15-game win-streak with the reeling Hurricanes headed to town.


If there’s one thing to trust that Cristobal does understand, it’s the sentiment that everything goes out the window when Miami and Florida State strap it up and go to war.

During his time as a player, the former No. 72 was on a losing end of his first showdown in Tallahassee—a 24-10 stumble when starting quarterback Craig Erickson was sidelined and freshman Gino Torretta got the nod—the Canes winning out and capturing the program’s third national championship with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.

Come 1990, a convincing 31-22 win in the Orange Bowl when underdog Miami rolled, followed by back-to-back thrilling Wide Right seasons, with Dan Mowrey sailing his kick in Tallahassee in 1991—paving the way for the undefeated Hurricanes to win a fourth title—as well as another thriller in 1992 where Gerry Thomas also went wide in Miami as Bobby Bowden played for the tie, the Canes eventually falling in the Sugar Bowl where Alabama claimed the national championship.

A different era for both Miami and Florida State, the fact remains that both teams generally tend to show up when these two tussle—though it wasn’t the case last fall when Van Dyke was injured and Jacurri Brown got the nod—which isn’t a good look for those clamoring for Williams get his second start in such a hostile road environment next Saturday night.

Unfortunately for all who don the orange and green, it’s busted-up Van Dyke or bust this coming weekend against Florida State—which will take a yeoman’s about face effort for this entire coaching staff—Cristobal needing to put on his CEO cap, making sure Dawson dials up a plan that can expose some of the Noles’ glaring defensive weaknesses, while Lance Guidry will need his unit to bring pressure on Travis, which is the only way to get the Florida State quarterback to make some mistakes of his own.

Cliché as it sounds, the pressure is on undefeated Florida State as Miami truly has nothing to lose sitting at 6-3—outside of pride and the stinging that will come from a fourth loss with two remaining.

The Seminoles are playing for an ACC Championship and a Playoff berth—and the Hurricanes are merely looking to assume the role of spoiler, tapping into some early-season mojo and notching a win over a rival riding a three-game win streak in the series, as well as hopefully ending FSU’s bid for a fourth national championship.

A tall mountain to climb, but again—what’s the alternative? Just sitting a the foot of the hill, looking upwards and wondering what it’d be like to accept the challenge? A miraculous win over Florida State would save what’s turned into a dismal season and as unlikely as that miracle would be, what else is there but hope until that clock hits 0:00 next Saturday evening?

The main goal for 2023 was marked improvement—which coming off of 5-7 was a rather low bar—and up until a couple of weeks ago, it felt like the Hurricanes were ahead of schedule with yet another rebuild.

A mulligan for a coaching blunder against Georgia Tech was acceptable, but seeing the Van Dyke turnover machine repeating the same disastrous outing in Chapel Hill a week later—the performance wasn’t a one-off for the quarterback—and when it happened again against Virginia, this was now a pattern, Miami was officially in trouble and the chaos rolls on in November.

Rolling out a broken Van Dyke with the hopes the yips are gone, or throwing Williams into the fire with a scaled down playbook in a raucous Doak Campbell Stadium next Saturday afternoon? Everyone could make their case for either, but only this coaching staff, these players and a select handful of key figures involved know all the intangibles that go into making this critical decision.

Regardless, it’s undeniably stop-the-bleeding and figure-shit-out time, whatever that looks like—three one-game seasons remaining as the Hurricanes are only partially playing for today—next year and the future of this program holding more weight than the difference between 9-3 or 6-6.

Keep grinding. Keep recruiting. Keep developing. Keep stockpiling. Keep building depth… and as impossibly as it feels, keep the faith—if you can.

Few sadder phrases in the college football lexicon than”we’ll get ’em next year”, but such is the case in year two of another rebuild for Miami—the program trying to riddle-solve with its third head coach over a five-year span and Cristobal the Canes’ sixth head coach in 17 seasons, attempting to do something so many have tried and failed over the past couple of decades.

Six days of getting busy on a game plan to raise some hell in Tallahassee. Where it goes it goes, but six points, four turnovers and a head-slung-low energy isn’t the remedy. Tap into the deep rooted hate—and current jealously regarding a rival’s success—and do all this program can to not bring a knife to a gunfight next weekend.

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bad judgment…”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.