Sporting a Heisman-candidate-in-the-making and a few big plays, the Bears were still in a dogfight with a young, inexperienced bunch of Canes who traveled the span of three time zones and were in it until the final moments. Those who called for a Miami ‘no show’ were wrong. The Canes showed heart, but came up short – as young teams oft do.
For those who struggle to take any good from a loss, let’s help you make sense of things.
Down 14-0 early in the second quarter, Miami could’ve folded. They didn’t. An 80-yard touchdown drive started in the final moments of the first quarter and culminated with a nine-yard toss to LaRon Byrd on a fade route. Other highlights of the drive – a 41-yard completion to Leonard Hankerson and an 11-yard run by Harris on a 3rd and 8.
Harris also engineered a 69-yard scoring drive early in the third, tying the game 14-14 and breathing new life into the Canes. He finished an effective 25/41 for 194 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, with a bum wing in his second career start.
The true freshman showed poise and promise, playing hurt after sustaining a shoulder injury late in the regular season finale at NC State. Bowl practice and preparation didn’t allow Harris time to heal, yet he still came to play and made no excuses after the loss.
Harris proved he’s “the guy” going into next spring. Regardless if Robert Marve stays or goes, #12 will be the next great Miami quarterback, in due time. The “it” factor is in full force.
There were some freshman mistakes – not sensing the blitz that caused the game changing fumble as well as not getting out of bounds on a run late on the final drive. Still, the upside is impossible to ignore.
Harris had a great outing against one of the better passing defenses in the game. All the talk about Cal’s ballhawks swarming, Harris gave up one interception on the night and only once played like a rattled freshman. The kid has poise, good instinct and makes solid decisions.
This coaching staff, however, a little more suspect this post-season.
In time, few will remember the final score of this third-tier bowl game. Conversely, every fan will remember the incompetence with 2:41 to play, down seven and with a shot at a game tying score.
Think back to ‘the drive’ at Virginia. Remember the amazing comeback? So fluid, effective and well-executed? Against Cal, the exact opposite.
With the ball on the Miami 32-yard line and one time out remaining, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix called for a handoff to Lee Chambers. On 2nd and 11, the ball finally snapped with 2:09 remaining. With time of the essence, upwards of half a minute is wasted.
A five-yard pass to Chris Zellner makes it 3rd and 6 from the 37-yard line. More time squandered, only to come up with a dink pass to Chambers. A typical Nix-designed play where the back is fighting for yards, instead of catching it beyond the sticks. 4th and 1. No one calls time out. Half a minute burns away.
The next few plays, even more discombobulated. Harris scrambles but doesn’t get out of bounds. Tick, tick, tick. Hankerson drops yet another pass. Cooper picks up a few yards on a broken play and gets forced out.
Game over for the Canes, but what about Nix? Will that seal the OC’s fate? For Shannon’s sake, it better. Nothing personal against the second year OC, but nothing about the past two years has earned him a third go around. Not with the future of Miami’s program on the line.
Two years into his stint as head coach, Randy is who we thought he was. That’s not an insult, it’s fact. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As a defensive coordinator, Shannon was no figurehead. He wasn’t lauded for making adjustments or incredible schemes. What you saw was what you got. Superior talent. Coached up, well disciplined Miami-style players who came to play. Stubborn at times, Shannon would stick with his defense and would let his players “out-talent” yours.
If that was the case then, why does anyone expect a brand new Randy today?
You’re not going to see animated behavior on the sideline from a coach who’s spent his whole life keeping his cool in the face of adversity. There have been too many bleak moments in Shannon’s path that he’s overcome. A blown call or misused timeout isn’t going to rattle his cage. Nor will an in-your-face sports media. Shannon won’t play their small-minded game.
Fans who get caught up in the coachspeak (or lack thereof), get a grip. Worry about the end result, not the process. Last year Shannon said no one would be let go. A few weeks later, Tim Walton was canned. Instead of rejoicing and the hiring of Bill Young, some chose to ride Shannon about the process (“But he said no one was getting fired and then he fired someone!”). Same to be said for regarding suspensions, depth charts and other day-to-day events where fans want instant, ESPN-like results and updates.
One thing matters at Miami; winning. Shannon learned it as a player, dealt with it as an assistant and now lives with it daily as a head coach. Talking up the media. Shaking hands and kissing babies. Save that for the politicians. Randy’s job isn’t to be your friend or hero. He’s trying to rebuild a program that was in much worse shape than most wanted to admit. It’s hardly an accident no one else lined up to take the gig two Decembers ago.
My friends, all this revisionist history needs to go. It’s 2008, not 1988. Welcome to where we currently are. The run you saw two decades ago; it was a perfect storm. You’ll never see it again. The landscape changed. There’s more parity in the game today; a result of there being more money to spread around. College ball is big business, meaning even smaller state schools are joining the sweepstakes. Fork out the dough for a big name coach and you too could earn your very own trip to this years BCS!
The turnaround on Butch Davis’ watch a decade ago? It doesn’t happen at that magnitude today. That pre-BCS era where Nebraska and Florida State were your dominant forces and a few other players stepped up here or there? Long gone. Every big conference has their share of players and these days, neither the Huskers or Noles are dominating the conferences they once owned.
Money changes everything. It’s no accident Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Alabama are in this year’s BCS – most of them perennial contenders year in and out. The current college game suits the big money schools. Cash to throw around for big names coaches. The best facilities in the game, in an effort to lure in the best recruits. It’s a proven science, people.
If Miami is going to rebound, it will again take someone with an unorthodox approach to rebuild. Anyone in high demand is taking the easier gig, the fatter paycheck and the state funding somewhere else. All of you who want to run Shannon out of town — who do you really think is coming here to replace him? Did you already forget how many big name coaches said ‘no’ a few Novembers ago?
Only a first-timer was heading south for a rebuilding project at a private school with an off-campus stadium, a small budget and a fickle fan base. A newbie who in this case bleeds orange and green and loves this program more than all the smack-talking message board folk combined.
For the Canes to get back on top, it’ll take “out-talenting” the competition… again. It’ll take a masterful recruiter who spots diamonds in the rough, reels in Miami-caliber players and addresses recruiting needs to a T, somehow pulling in a top-ranked class after a 5-7 inaugural season.
It also means doing so with coordinators who aren’t big name, “flavor of the week”, hot commodities.
Of course Gus Malzahn took the Auburn gig and hefty pay raise. Anyone who thought Miami would reel in the uber-hot Tulsa OC is nuts. Four coordinators turned down the job last year before Nix accepted it. Malzahn isn’t leaving Tulsa for a roll of the dice. He’s SEC-bound for the big payday and resume booster.
As for Young, another case where the stars were aligned. The veteran, in his early sixties, is in the twilight of his career. South Florida was a good fit and he believed in Randy, so he took the leap of faith.
Shannon will have to get crafty and find Young’s counterpart for the offense. He needs to find the ‘next Malzahn’ a year before anybody else does – though it starts with firing Nix; something I believe happens in the coming days. There’s too much on the line career-wise for Randy. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells are said to be Shannon’s mentors. Good leaders know when to dump a bad hand. Neither could have a valid reason for backing Nix.
This decision is a make or break situation for Shannon. A fork in the road. His moment of truth. The clock is ticking. Another 7-6 season and those top-ranked recruiting classes will be a thing of the past. You can only sell the dream for so long. There’s no way he doesn’t realize this.
Few leaders are truly sound in all facets of their game. There’s always a flaw and their strength is knowing their weaknesses, filling the voids with people who are strong where they’re weak.
Shannon’s strength was never as some Xs and Os guru. The man can evaluate talent, recruit, sell the program and mentor. Anyone downplaying this discipline issue, you’re dead wrong. No one needs discipline more than 18-21 athletes with big heads. Discipline is necessary for the sake of team. Eliminate the “me first” mentality. Break down boys. Turn them into men.
Funny how this freshman class gets that and embraces Shannon’s culture, but the lazy upperclassmen who were part of the decline – they seem to be the ones not buying the hype.
Let these freshman become juniors and get two more like-minded classes are on board. Only then will Miami becoming “Miami”. When the depth returns and this staff isn’t subbing in a third string guard as a tight end, things will start to feel normal again.
For a program that once had Kellen Winslow II backing up Jeremy Shockey, the fact Tyrone Byrd was behind Zellner – it speaks volumes.
Shannon’s freshmen were the bright spot of an up and down 7-6 season. They made plays against a veteran Cal team and almost stole the game, much like they did from Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech. The culture is changing. The right kids are getting back on board. Don’t let three straight losses take anything from that.
A freshman coughed up a game-deciding fumble, but don’t forget about the senior lineman who couldn’t stop the bullrush of an undersized Pac-10 linebacker.
Reggie Youngblood came to Miami a highly-touted, five-star offensive line prospect. He’ll leave undrafted after an uninspired overall career and a footnote as to where exactly the Emerald Bowl took a turn for the worse.
Romeo Davis and Glenn Cook whiffed, while Sean Spence shined again. Par for the course with this year’s linebacking corps. Let’s get Colin McCarthy healthy and get highly-touted Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch out there next year and see where things go.
Safety Anthony Reddick announces that he won’t petition for another year of eligibility and nobody flinches. One of Miami’s most depleted positions and people would rather rely on a true freshman next year than the services of a once-promising prospect who flamed out.
Freshman stepped up to make plays, while seniors wilted down the stretch. Not exactly the formula for this year’s BCS-bound squads.
Things are always as strong as their weakest link. This defense struggled because of a spotty secondary and serviceable linebackers. The offense never got going because of putrid line play, which directly impacted the ability to run and pass.
Until those holes are filled, the struggles will continue. Some argue that it’s not a talent issue, but when you see games fall apart courtesy of missed tackles, dropped balls and the inability to hold or shed blocks – where else can you look for answers?
The writing is on the wall. Time for Randy to fire, hire and recruit. It’s only complicated if he overthinks it. There’s a proven Miami formula. Stick to it, ignore the critics and the Canes will eventually be back where they belong.