7-0 is 7-0, and there’s nothing anyone can say otherwise. Miami has won every game it has played in 2013, and that’s more important than style points, statistics or how they won each of those games.
But for the Hurricanes, it’s become quite clear this team has issues—something that was again on display against Wake Forest—and that’s not good with a trip to Florida State on deck.
Still, as has been the case over the past month, Miami came away with a win despite sloppy play through much of the game. The Hurricanes had to come from behind against Wake Forest, who was a 26-point underdog in the game, with Duke Johnson’s late touchdown giving the team a 24-21 win.
For a while, this looked like history in the making. Wake Forest has improved a great deal throughout 2013, although the Demon Deacons have been a historically bad team against quality opponents.
This would have been the first win over a Top 10 team in 67 years, and their overall record against Top 10 teams tells the story.
Upset Alert in Miami. Wake 1-52 all-time vs Top 10. Last came 67 years ago today vs. Gen. Neyland in Knoxville.— Tom Hart (@tom_hart) October 26, 2013
Although it looked like this trend was about to change, it was not to be. Miami picked off Tanner Price with less than a minute remaining following the go-ahead score to secure the win and, more importantly, avoid defeat.
While the Hurricanes offense struggled at times, the game was not without its highlights. The offense connected on a handful of big plays throughout, including Stacy Coley’s wild juggling catch that will be featured plenty on highlight reels going forward.
Yet, for every big play, there was a setback. An overthrown pass—a theme over the past month—a stop on 4th down or some other small miscue to keep Miami from seizing momentum.
This type of play isn't relegated to the Wake Forest game, either. This problem was on display against North Carolina last week, when the Hurricanes also needed a late comeback to keep their record unscathed.
Stephen Morris certainly improved his play against Wake Forest, although he hasn’t looked comfortable for quite some time. It doesn’t help that his favorite targeting wideout, Phillip Dorsett, is out with injury, although he was struggling well before Dorsett went out.
Beyond the play of the quarterback, the NCAA almost certainly served as a distraction over the past week.
Miami was finally given closure and handed over reasonable punishment by the governing body, closing the book on a strange, drawn-out investigation. While the news was good for the school, head coach Al Golden discussed how emotionally draining the week was, according to USA Today's Lorenzo Reyes.
#Miami's Al Golden: "Nobody was talking about Wake. Everybody was talking about the NCAA."— Lorenzo Reyes (@Lorenzo_G_Reyes) October 26, 2013
With the NCAA in the rearview and their undefeated record still alive, Miami will now hit the road to take on Florida State in the latest "Game of the Year" in the ACC. Although both teams enter ranked in the Top 10—unless voters drop Miami for their latest close call—this game won’t have that kind of feel.
With the Seminoles seemingly destroying everything in their path and quarterback Jameis Winston seemingly improving, Miami will head into Week 10 as the enormous underdog. The assumption is that the undefeated season and close calls will finally give way to a superior opponent, and given recent results, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Good enough will no longer cut it. Miami has the players on offense to keep it interesting, although an improved performance will be needed. And quite frankly, an improved performance might not be enough.
By no means should that takeaway what Miami has done to get there, however.
Al Golden has done wonders to bring this program back into the spotlight, and the long-term outlook is very bright, regardless of what happens next weekend. Recruiting will continue to improve, as will the play on the field with the NCAA out of the way, and “The U” of old no longer feels as distant as it once did.