Eight-Day Run Derails Miami Hurricanes’ Season

Seven weeks of success completely undone with back-to-back face plants. 1,066 yards and 83 points surrendered, while a No. 7 ranking plummeted to No. 24. Even scarier—the fact that Miami has lost it’s mojo, as well as a few offensive superstars.

The Hurricanes were knocked as overrated, having snuck into the Top 10 weeks back—a result of winning while others lost, jumpstarted by an early upset of then-No. 12 Florida. In hindsight it really was a case of overachieving.

Atlantic Coast Conference play kicked off weeks back and while Miami was the favorite to win the Coastal Division, it’s played like anything but. Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest all jumped on the Hurricanes early, though Miami scrapped its way to victory.

Since then, Florida State flexed its muscle, obliterated Miami and a week later, Virginia Tech’s discipline were the difference-maker in a game that will most-likely decide the division.

November 9th was circled on Miami’s calendar. The road to the Coastal Division title always runs through Virginia Tech and the Hokies have had the Hurricanes number for years. This was a pivotal moment where Miami needed to brings its best, but managed to beat itself consistently.

Stacy Coley got the Hurricanes on the board early, masterful in cutting through the Hokies’ defense for an 83-yard touchdown.

One possession later Coley coughed up a punt return midfield and Virginia Tech quickly tied the game. Seconds later Artie Burns fumbled the kickoff return midfield and the Hokies’ offense was back in action.

Early in second quarter, punter Pat O’Donnell inadvertently touched his knee to the ground when fielding a snap, giving Virginia Tech the ball on the Miami 13-yard line.

Three plays later, the Hurricanes were in a 21-7 hole. Two quarters later, 42-24 was in the books.

“We didn’t deserve to win,” head coach Al Golden said. “We didn’t protect the ball, a low snap, three big blunders to start the game, and as I just said to them, don’t let anyone say we weren’t ready, we weren’t focused. If everyone is blocking who they’re supposed to be and we return it 50 yards, we’re ready to play. We fumbled the ball. We had a good scheme and we fumbled the ball. We score early on a screen, we’re ready to play. Just really disappointing. It’s impossible to overcome those odds.”

To Golden’s point, yes it is generally impossible to overcome such mistakes, but it begs the question, why is Miami so damn sloppy two-thirds of the way through the season?

Losing to Florida State was forgivable. The Seminoles appear headed to the national championship game and are a few years ahead of the Hurricanes in their rebuild. Chalk up the lopsided loss and move on.

Virginia Tech was beatable. Sure, the Hokies are fundamentally sound and boast a good defense, but how do the Hurricanes explain surrendering 549 yards of total offense? Furthermore, how did Miami again let Logan Thomas look all-world when his success was the ultimate key to a Virginia Tech win?

Thomas finished 25-of-31 for 366 yards, two touchdowns and most-impressive, zero interceptions after tossing six over the past two weeks. The Hurricanes’ defense again made a struggling quarterback look like the nation’s best, as Thomas made play after play

The Hokies were 8-of-14 on third down conversions and owned the time of possession battle, 39:30 to 20:30.

Thomas’ signature moment came on a 3rd-and-17, one play after Denzel Perryman sacked the senior. Miami’s defense brought pressure, but didn’t account for a wide open Willie Byrn, who hauled in he pass and jetted 48 yards before Ladarius Gunter forced the fumble.

The ball was recovered by Demitri Knowles in the end zone and the Hokies were up 35-17—a fitting ending to a familiar and disastrous play.

Again Miami was faced with a signature-win type moment and stepped back instead of up. The Hurricanes’ goal this season was to reach Charlotte and play for an ACC Championship. Last night four quarters were all that stood in the way.

Virginia Tech was on the ropes, having recently fallen to Duke and Boston College. Miami was playing for injured players and for the big moment, looking to move past the brutal loss to Florida State. The Canes got the quick start that had been missing the past few weeks, but in an instant handed the game back to the Hokies on a platter—three times.

For Miami to win the Coastal it must beat Duke, Virginia and Pitt, while hoping that Virginia Tech falls to Maryland or Virginia. From the coveted driver’s seat, to praying the race leader has a last lap blowout.

There’s been so much talk about character regarding this Miami team, but in season-defining moments, the Hurricanes remain unable to get it together. Why?

WQAM’s Jon Linder took to Twitter and paraphrased Golden in the post-game press conference, saying that the head coach is frustrated that kids are saying and doing the right things all week in practice, but come game day they fall apart.

Is this team mentally shot? Too young? Too soft? Poorly coached? Talent not properly utilized? All of the above? None of the above?

Whatever it is, it needs to be identified and solved immediately as Miami must continue taking proper steps forward. 7-0 simply can’t become 9-3 or 8-4 and limping into the post-season. Not with all the positivity that surrounded the Hurricanes the past few months—a wonderful combination of on-the-field wins, as well as the victory of the year in surviving the NCAA’s wrath.

Two losses have been absorbed and season goals have died over the past two games. Miami isn’t anywhere near where it wants to be nationally and even more frustrating, is still a few steps behind in conference, as well.

Star players have been injured, others aren’t playing up to par and all remaining foes absolutely have what it takes to knock the Hurricanes off.

How does Miami respond? How do these coaches right the ship when it’s painfully obvious that kids aren’t bringing practice know-how to game day?

Coming off of 6-6 and 7-5, the Hurricanes weren’t supposed to go next-level this season. It was easy to get caught up in the rankings and hype, but how much had really changed since last season?

Miami’s defense was 116th out of 120 teams last fall. Improvement was definitely expected, but not miracles. Over half of next year’s class are made of up defensive players and an emphasis is being put on defensive line, which has been a weak link for years. Help is certainly on the way, but what happens between now and then?

That’s for Golden to figure out, obviously. The man with the 300-page binder needs to dig deep and find some answers to some tough questions. Is the issue talent alone, or is something getting lost in the translation? Does Miami have the right coaches in place, or do things need to be tinkered as three years in, the clock is officially ticking?

Much of that must be saved for the off-season as three games remain. Next up, Duke. From there, Virginia. Last up, Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes need to play for 10-2 and settle for no less than 9-3.

Neither are optimum after 7-0, but realistically both are a step up from 7-5, which was the biggest goal this year.



8 thoughts on “Eight-Day Run Derails Miami Hurricanes’ Season

  1. You can recruit great every year, but if you don’t develop players or run a scheme that sets them up for success it doesn’t matter. Every crap QB we play looks like a superstar, every pass play the catch is almost a given because there is no Cane within 5 yards, EVER ! ! ! ! ! ! We put almost zero pressure on anyone either. The beginning of the year we got a ton of breaks, the ball bounced our way and the kids gutted out wins too. But the fact remains that DC D’Onofrio and whole defensive staff is outmatched against everyone. How many times do you need to get burned by a TE dragging across the middle or a back out of the backfield before you get them covered. We are nine games into the season and it has yet to happen. That should take a quarter of the game, not three quarters of the season.

  2. I sincerely hope that D’onofrio is gone at the end of the season. Week in and week out he proves that he just can’t cut it as a d-coordinator. Enough of his soft zone schemes and his accusations of players “freelancing”. The defense routinely gets beat on 3rd down, the qb is hitting receivers in underneath drag and crossing routes all day, the corners are playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and you wonder why the defense cannot get off the field. That’s not players freelancing, that’s coaching. Logan Thomas is not that great and VT’s offense is putrid, yet once again Dumbnofrio made him look all freaking world out there. The reason the D had this lofty high ranking is because early in the year we played crap offenses. We are overrated definitely. I like Golden but he needs to go to Dabo Swinney route and make sure you hire great coordinators. I am not a fan of James Coley either. I see why he didn’t call plays at FSU. He leaves and their offense takes off. These guys had an opportunity, at home no less, to take a firm lead in the coastal division and once again sh*t the bed. We play Duke next and after last week’s performance, I am not so sure about a win. Don’t forget we have UVA (who has given us trouble) and Pitt also coming up (away game, cold weather..their achilles’ heel). We are realistically looking at 1-3 to finish the season after starting 7-0. No more excuses, time to face the music. We are not a good team and this staff is overrated. Golden has been great for recruiting and navigating UM through the NCAA fiasco (which I am infinitely thankful), but let’s face the music, he has yet to really prove his compentency as a good gameday coach. Pretenders are born in October, Contenders are made in November and once again, this team has shown itself to be pretenders.

  3. oh yeah, I know you are going to mention the drops, muffed punts, etc that stalled and killed momentum, which is all true and I will concede to those points. Let me point out this though, even with those turnovers there was still a chance for this team to come back but that, along with the inept playcalling by No D, this team cannot get out of its own way. Also, am I the only one who has noticed a seemingly increase in turnovers in the last few days as opposed to say, last year Correct me if I am wrong on this (I hope I am). To me that is a coaching issue if numerous players are turning the ball over. What in the hell are they teaching those players down there? This team has played like shit since the NCAA ruling came down. Maybe this team needs the investigation/cloud hanging back over their heads. Ok, I am done for now

    1. … yeah, I’m not Keith, because I’m not interested in debating pointless stuff like this.

      Mark D’Onofrio isn’t going anywhere. He and Al Golden signed up for this job three years ago, dealt with NCAA sanctions, haven’t had proper talent on the defensive side of the ball and now that the program has just turned the corner on that front, everyone is going to get a chance move forward without that dark cloud.

      To your point about it being a coaching issue that “numerous players are turning the ball over”—c’mon now. Two true freshmen coughed it up on special teams returns in the rain and a tall punter mishandled a punt and his knee grazed the ground. When are we going to “blame” the kids for that and not cry the blues about coaching?

      Virginia Tech had three fumbles. All happened to bounce back to them. Miami defenders went for strips, punched balls out and didn’t get the breaks.

      The team hasn’t “played like shit” since the ruling came down. C’mon now. This squad was 13-11 the past two years and had the 116th-ranked defense of 120 teams last year. What did you REALLY expect this season?

      The win of the year is the NCAA could going away and the fact that Miami fought back against the likes of Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Those are games the Canes would’ve lost years back and as this team learns to win, those are steps forward.

      If that’s not enough for you … I don’t know what to tell you, man. This is the situation. A rough decade-long span for the program with one bad coach (Coker) and one worse one (Shannon). Al isn’t going to dig out of that shit-show in under three years, with the NCAA stuff, no less.

      Go back and look at those recruiting classes between 2010-2012 and it’ll show you why this thing is so off the rails, man.

  4. ok, one last thing for real this time:

    “WQAM’s Jon Linder took to Twitter and paraphrased Golden in the post-game press conference, saying that the head coach is frustrated that kids are saying and doing the right things all week in practice, but come game day they fall apart.”

    This means that the COACHING STAFF is not getting these kids ready for gameday and even the players don’t have confidence in them or the gameplan.

    1. … playing devil’s advocate, OR it means that this coaching staff settled on second, third and fourth choice kids because the NCAA dark cloud killed recruiting for the past three years.

      Look at the 2012 class and all those kids Golden had to settle on. 33 kids brought in an 17 no longer with the program or not making an impact.

      Until the NCAA stuff was in the rear view, it’s impossible to judge the kids that have been brought in by Golden and staff. Fans and outsiders have no idea what that did to this program on the recruiting-front.

      A lot of kids ARE getting it and buying in. Not all are. Safe to believe many that aren’t are most-likely not first-choice kids like Deon Bush, Duke Johnson, Tracy Howard, etc.

      1. I’m just not buying it. NCAA cloud or not, the University of Miami should be pulling in decent enough talent on defense.

        This defense continues to be shredded by mediocre offenses and makes bottom of the barrel QB’s look like world-beaters when they hit their man wide open underneath and he scampers past missed tackles for the score.

        D’Onofrio has had 2 1/2 years to recruit to his defense and it looks just as hopeless as it did last year when we lost a lot of guys to the draft. The same problems keep popping up, and the only adjustments made all season were against GT.

        I’m not even asking for a championship caliber defense – just something that gives the offense a chance against a decent opponent. It’s sickening watching Hokie fans brag about how good Logan Thomas is after he plays the U.

        1. … Danton, you don’t have to “buy it”. What is, is.

          Al Golden is here to stay. Mark D’Onofrio isn’t getting fired. Miami is 7-2. This defense was 116th of 120 last year and is still struggling due to a lack of talent.

          Those aren’t opinions, they are fact.

          Miami is pulling in “decent enough talent” on defense—and some flat-out great talent in guys like Tracy Howard and Deon Bush, as well as an Al-Quadin Muhammad, who will make more of an impact after putting on some man weight and getting some defensive line help.

          D’Onofrio hasn’t had 2.5 years to recruit this defense. Please. That 2011 class was damage control as Shannon was fired two months early. As for 2012, took some big hits with the NCAA stuff.

          2013 started to turn the corner as some local kids were buying in, but nationally there was still the perception that Miami was in trouble. Now the NCAA shit is over and things are going to turn.

          Miami just landed a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Anthony Moten. That makes eight defensive linemen in this 2014 class—five of which are defensive tackles.

          Issues are being addressed, man. Just not on your timeline.

          Miami’s secondary is young, but good. The Canes front seven is shit. No other way to put it. Not enough depth or talent across the board there.

          Also, Miami kicked three linebackers off the team this off-season—Eddie Johnson, Gabe Terry and Gionni Paul. How much help would they be right now as Denzel Perryman is the only linebacker out there who looks like he has a clue.

          Just sayin’, man.

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