Miami was dusted by Kansas State this season, 52-13, so no one is suggesting Al Golden is the nation’s coach of the year thus far when he lost convincingly to the nation’s coach of the year thus far, K-State’s Bill Snyder.
And no, Boston College, Bethune-Cookman, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State aren’t exactly a murderer’s row of defeated opponents.
That said, Miami is 4-1 and sits atop the ACC’s Coastal Division at 3-0 as the Canes head to Chicago this week to face No. 9 Notre Dame in an absolutely huge showcase game for the resilient ballclub.
You better believe Al Golden deserves credit for that.
Miami was picked to finish fifth out of six in the Coastal, which shouldn’t be confused with a strong division of a strong conference. There were, and are, glaring holes in the roster. There are nine first time starters on offense alone.
The program is under the cloud of an NCAA investigation and a self-imposed postseason ban last year. Just about every upperclassman with a professional future bailed early to pursue it.
If there was ever a team that might slink away, give in or struggle to fight through adversity, be it in mid-week preparation or tight late-game moments, it’d be Miami.
Only the opposite has come true.
“We have incredible human beings on the team,” Golden said Saturday. “It’s a very tight group.”
Miami keeps winning late, keeps churning when all looks lost, keeps pulling out another miracle – the latest a dramatic 44-37 victory over N.C. State on a 62-yard Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett touchdown with 19 seconds left that left Golden with the following reaction: “Holy [expletive]!”
The team didn’t quit when the Nevin Shapiro scandal enveloped it, didn’t quit when a bowl game was pulled away and hasn’t quit when trailing. That’s tough, kids. And good coaching.
“I accepted a long time ago that this would be who we are this year,” Golden said. “We’re going to have a no excuses mentality. We’re not going to listen to everyone say we’re too young to do this.
“We’re not dominant in any one phase. It’s just survive and advance. We’re staying together which is important.”
Golden will list off all of the issues they have. He isn’t trying to claim Miami is anything it isn’t.
“We’re not a perfect team.”
He’s reminded almost every snap.
In a normal game, with less than 10 seconds left in the half, the team with the ball takes a knee and regroups for the third quarter. At worst, you might have expected Baylor to try a Hail Mary pass that would have inevitably been batted away by a West Virginia defender.
However, with both teams forgoing the concept of defense (WVU and Baylor combined for 133 total points), this was anything but a normal game. On the final play of the half, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence tucked the ball, took about seven steps forward and then threw a pass to Lanear Sampson, who broke several tackles and ran down the sideline for a 67-yard score.
The play had to be reviewed because it looked like Florence took a step beyond the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball. The call was upheld. However, West Virginia recovered from its blunder and won the game 70-63.
– Aaron David Harris
“You should hear the headsets,” he said of the coaches screaming. “Every play we’re not perfect. We’re not positioned right. Where if you have a veteran team you’re eliminating a lot of those plays.
“But we don’t point the finger and we don’t give up.”
The guy can coach. He’s just 43 and built Temple into a bowl team. When he took over, the Owls were so bad they had been thrown out of the Big East and were competing as an independent. It then got into the MAC and has since been invited back to the Big East.
The fear for any Hurricane now, however, has to be whether the coach will stay.
It’s not necessarily a fair question because Golden, no matter how dark the day, has always expressed profound affection and commitment to the U. He knows how great the job can be. Look, when in a post-Shapiro world with an uncertain future, you can still win and have a running back as great as freshman Duke Johnson, you’re working with a special program.
That said, it isn’t the only desirable place. In the coming months when Arkansas (for sure) and Tennessee (possibly) go looking for new head coaches, how would their attention not be drawn to Coral Gables? And who knows what else breaks open out there this fall or next.
As much as the Shapiro case has created an anti-Cane talking point for rival recruiters – one missed bowl and some player suspensions thus far – larger sanctions are still hanging out there. That could mean scholarship reductions and maybe further postseason bans. Even Golden has been linked to some allegations.
The job isn’t getting any easier, either.
On Saturday, Miami again played in front of a comically sparse crowd at Sun Life Stadium. The school announced 38,510 tickets were “distributed” but pictures of the rows and rows of orange seats splashed across social media.
The full story is the game kicked in mid-afternoon when the heat index was 99. Of course, that’s what happens in Miami. And it’ll happen again. No one can claim Miami has the fan base of those big state schools and their weekly six-figure crowds.
Golden, as is his way, sees it differently. He has no complaints about good seats still being available, no begging fans to come – he just believes in this likable team.
“I want to thank the fans,” he said. “They were loud. It means a lot. I know it’s hot out there.”
That’s the no-excuses mentality.
“You have to be mentally tough and you have to have unity and you have to be in condition to respond,” he said. “Those three elements, I don’t think we win any of those games absent any of those. Right now we have all three and we have another big one coming up.”
It’s Notre Dame week – big stage, big opportunity, big moment for a coach and a program that don’t appear willing to go down without one heck of a fight.
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