Anyone else completely forget what it felt like to not hit “erase” on your DVR before the game clock struck zero? What about SportsCenter leading in with Miami victory highlights and a spot on the new head coach? How about checking the box score, seeing a quarterback with 21 of 26 for 275 yards with 2 touchdowns and it’s a QB on the Canes’ roster?
I said earlier today, Texas A&M isn’t Oklahoma – but they’re a good football team. They came to the Orange Bowl believing they’d win, as did most in the media. aTm is light years better than FIU; the nobody bunch Miami hardly showed up for and sloppily beat 23-9 last Saturday.
Nah, to hell with the opponent. Tonight was about The U. It confirmed the ‘something special’ we felt and saw against Marshall wasn’t a mirage. Easy to lose steam (and faith) after 51-13 at #4 Oklahoma. A game where Miami was as out of synch from the get-go as Texas A&M was tonight, if not more.
It was, in most cliche terms, “a Canes thing”. The U looked good no matter who was on the other sideline… and it’s been too damn long since we could say that.
The 34-17 victory is a building block. It showed that Miami is still a force when clicking on all cylinders – something this program hasn’t seen since a 27-7 win at Virginia Tech in 2005. A big night for the defense where the Hokies’ offense was exposed (again). Tonight was about signs of life for the Canes’ offense – something this program hasn’t seen since Ken Dorsey fell to his knees on that Fiesta Bowl turf.
The Aggies are no Sooners, but the impact of this win can have a similar type springboard effect.
For nine months these Canes have been preached the gospel according to Randy Shannon. The scowl. The intensity. The Canes-heavy resume. Right down to how the new 41-year old coach could relate to them. This team wants to believe every word coming out of their new leader’s mouth. Play like a team. No individuals. Be accountable. I’ve won, you haven’t, follow my lead.
It resonates in team meetings and on the practice field.
Then game day it’s 51-13 upside your head.
A complete game against aTm better have whet this team’s appetite for what’s there’s for the taking; the ACC. All this talk of the Canes looking solid at Greentree, it was time to do it come game day – in front of that nationally televised audience. The ante was upped. Miami or Texas A&M was due to shine tonight. The football gods had to allow some Orange Bowl mystique for the final Thursday night ESPN match up in the legendary 70-year old stadium. The hometown kids would expose or be further exposed.
It was Magic City from the get go. A strong defensive three-and-out put the Canes offense on the field within minutes. An opening stuff and Javarris James dropped got things off on the wrong foot, but Miami stepped it up. The rest of the 18-play, 80-yard drive Wright was 5-of-5 on third downs with a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1.
#3 finally showed the “it” factor that’s been virtually lost the past few seasons. On the final third down conversion of the opening drive, Wright stepped up to avoid the pocket collapse and dumped the ball off to James.
In years past, a 3-yard Miami loss. Tonight, a conversion chalked up to some quarterback poise. One play later, a direct snap to Graig Cooper turns into a 7-yard touchdown run. It’s 7-0, the quarter almost over and the Aggies tagged in the nose. Their offense stopped; Miami’s unstoppable. Javorskie Lane, how U like us now?
The haters will say it’s only Texas A&M, but last week was only FIU and Miami was settling for field goals or red zone turnovers. Improvement is improvement. Regardless of the opponent, the Canes were hot tonight and it’s been a while since anyone could say that.
There’s definitely something to build on here. Shannon’s words are ringing true and this team is seeing if they follow their leader, they’re going to wind up right where they want to be. 3-1 is light years from 2-2. It might not sound like much, but right now it’s everything.
Duke is on the docket and 4-1 is safe to pencil a “W” there. A week later, a road trip to North Carolina – a revenge game for the 2004 upset with former Canes coach Butch Davis now calling the shots. Play like it did tonight and Miami is looking at 5-1 entering Georgia Tech weekend on October 13th – another game circled on the calendar after losing two straight to the Yellow Jackets.
A week ago, it’d have been premature to “go there” but after tonight, this team showed it might not be crazy to start thinking that way. There are going to be some setbacks, but this team has tasted some success and they’ll want to build on that.
Hard to remember such a quick turnaround for the Canes in a matter of weeks. Opening the season with Kirby Freeman behind center, Randy Phillips at corner, Khalil Jones at receiver and Richard Gordon returning kicks already seems forever ago. Amazing how momentum can turn on a dime.
Same to be said for this staff. Patrick Nix proving his playcalling wasn’t the issue; execution was. Jeff Stoutland inheriting a sub-par offensive line and is turning them into the offensive MVPs thus far. Tim Walton earning the trust of coach Shannon, to the point where the former defensive coordinator is comfortable taking off the headphones and allowing the former secondary coach to call the shots.
This team and staff are quickly growing up and meshing. We’ll see it more each and every week. This is going to get exciting this team continues to make plays. There’s more than enough talent here to reach the ACC title game, barring Wright keeps looking like he did tonight. Make no mistake – these Canes are only going as far as their quarterback takes them.
For now, a time to relish in a season-changing win. One more wonderful chapter closed in the OB’s history. A final mid-week classic is in the books. A 34-17 win, extending Miami’s record to 11-1 on ESPN’s Thursday night telecasts and giving fans another one for the memory bank.
If things continue as they are, this one will be remembered as the first defining game of the Shannon Era. Something to look back on when we’re on top again, but for now – enjoy the moment.