New Miami, meet the Old Miami.
For the second game in a row, and for seemingly the 15th year in a row, Miami will be left to think about the plays and points left on the field. At least against Florida it was a game where both teams repeatedly tried to blow the game to each other. In this instance, it was the Canes repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot.
Some of the mistakes were a product of a first-year head coach, a freshman QB, a new offense. Maybe those are excusable.
But for an experienced Front 7 to come out flat and get pushed around, for UNC's freshman QB to open the game on fire, to fall behind 17-3 after UNC's first 3 drives ended in FG, TD, and TD....that's not acceptable.
And neither are dropped passes.
We'll probably never be able to explain exactly how the Canes managed to lose a game where Jarren Williams went 30-39 for 309 yards, and 2 TDs while DJ Dallas and Cam'Ron Harris combined for 167 yards.
A complete meltdown in the kicking game will justifiably get most of the focus. Miami missed 2 very makeable FGs (including a chip shot for the second game in a row), went for it on 4th and short inside the 20 when they would have kicked a FG if they had confidence in the kicking game, and had an extra point blocked. Those 10 points lost ultimately prevented the Canes from taking hold of the game.
But it goes beyond that when you play the what if game:
· What if Jeff Thomas comes down with that deep pass on the drive that ultimately ends up running out of downs?
· What if Will Mallory catches the 2-point conversion?
· What if Jarren Williams hits Brian Hightower when he was streaking open on the last drive?
· What if Miami had just defended a 4th and 17?
· What if either of the “call stands” reviews went the Canes’ way? The first killed a good Miami drive, but the second was particularly cruel, as Mack Brown inexplicably was lining up to punt the ball back to Miami with no timeouts left late in the 4th quarter, all but ending the game. The review afforded him the opportunity to change his mind and UNC converted the 4th and 17.
This game can simply be summed up in this sentence: Miami spotted UNC 17 easy points and spent the final 3 quarters trying to overcome that deficit and their own mistakes, running out of chances when a final FG attempt sailed wide.
Same Old Song
The problem is a flavor of that sentence has summarized most Miami losses for the last 15 years.
Were there encouraging signs? Sure. In a vacuum a freshman QB in his second start rallying the team twice (for the go-ahead TD and tying FG) while throwing for over 300 yards is a building block. Particularly with the youth of the offensive line. And a first-time head coach should learn how to manage the clock better. That Miami ended the game with 2 timeouts is downright criminal.
In theory, these things should be encouraging, even if the result is not. Except we’ve been living this for too long.
Remember when the Canes rallied at Virginia Tech only to lose on a last second TD and Al Golden famously broke down crying in the press conference? That team went 6-6 and the only thing that changed in his tenure was the close losses eventually turned into blowout losses.
Before him was Randy Shannon. Remember in his first year, at this very same place in Chapel Hill, when the Canes fell behind 27-0 at halftime, and rallied to lose by 6? They were starting to get it! That team went 5-7 and missed a bowl game, and 4 years later, the Shannon Era ended after an overtime loss to USF, when the Canes similarly came out flat.
Those 2 coaches had one 9-win season each over 9 combined years as head coach.
Ten Games is a Lifetime
The kids fought, don’t get me wrong. Boy did they ever. On the mat repeatedly, often by their own hands, and kept getting up. There was almost a nobility in their flaws, in their ability to keep going, to not collapse under the weight of the self-inflicted wounds. A pride that this flawed team, with all the issues, would not quit.
Jarren Williams, Manny Diaz, and Blake James are linked now. If Williams, who quite clearly has talent, leaves this program without Miami being “back,” then Diaz and James should leave with him. Every hire dating back to the turn of the century has resulted in a firing or early retirement, and in this instance we actually repeated a strategy (hiring a successful Defensive Coordinator off the previously failed staff) that has already not worked.
Williams has time. Diaz has time. They can grow together, they can bring Miami back. But enough talk.
#TNM? That belongs in the dustbin of history with #Renewed and all the other false dawns for a program that is now more associated with hash tags and hot air then football results. Less focus on talking about how things have changed, more focus on actually proving it.
Stop talking about the labor and show us the baby.
For a program that was built on “Big Time Players Making Big Time Plays,” this is a program bereft of players that make winning plays on a consistent basis. And that is the next step…learning how to win. It’s an assumed progression that does not always happen. That close losses are learning experiences that turn into future wins. That there is a corner to be turned, and eventually, the program will turn it.
The Canes next 5 games are at home. Win those games, be 5-2 heading into the Pitt road game, and everyone will feel a lot better. That will allow the team to refocus on the preseason goal of a trip to Charlotte and a date with Clemson. Win some games and we’ll resume our role as Charlie Brown wildly flailing around while Lucy yanks the ball away.