With one wet, slippery loss last Saturday at Virginia Tech, the University of Miami Hurricane football team find their bandwagon at less than capacity. This comes as no surprise. Each week, college football experiences more shape-shifting on its landscape than most every sport.
No one in the country (except this author) believed this young UM team could emerge from the brutal opening four-game stretch with one win, much less begin the season 2-0. This is the same UM that just completed its third straight less than mediocre campaign, culminating with an Emerald Bowl loss to California.
The perception of this talented but inexperienced group was that they were a year away, at best, from competing for an ACC crown, nevermind a National Championship.
Although a win is a win, it was the excitement of the FSU game followed by the thorough handling of Georgia Tech-both nationally-televised, conference revenge games of sorts-that propelled UM back into the national spotlight. Any potential weaknesses on this team, such as weak special teams play or inconsistent defensive intensity, was masked by the wins.
The "U" was "back"!
The offense instantly showed a new identity, led by a confident QB who did not have to look over his shoulder, as has been the case since Ken Dorsey finished his eligibility. The new offensive coordinator seemed to infuse a breath of fresh air with his wide-open, attacking style. Finally, a coach who can utilize the stable of thoroughbreds normally found at the UM skill positions. Not to mention, these thoroughbreds can actually catch the ball.
The defense, although vulnerable against FSU, seemed to have more of an edge. Players were swarming toward the ball play after play, similar to the great UM defenses of old. And, unlike recent ball-hawking UM defenses, these defenders actually made a tackle more often than not. Holding the vaunted GT triple-option attack under 100 yards rushing, one year after giving up close to 500 yards against this same offense, seemed to signal a return of the typical, suffocating UM defenses of the past.
For one solid week, it was indeed: "Great!", "To be!", "A Miami Hurr A 'Cane!"
Not only were they relevant again, but they were favored to win at Blacksburg. The nation had accepted these new 'Canes as the real thing. And they did it without so much as blinking an eye. It just felt good. It felt right.
But then they played the game. A 31-7 awakening that gave skeptics more than enough ammunition to proclaim the "U" as frauds. The offensive line, which had played well beyond its expectations, had previously unseen holes exposed. Jacory Harris showed his youth, rather than his poise and alligator blood that had been exhibited in the first two games. The defense could not hold a seemingly inept offense from driving the ball down the field with a freshman running back and an average passer. Our TE could not catch the ball.
Most importantly, the 24 point spread gave the bandwagon and fair-weather fans an excuse to do jumping jacks off the top of the wagon.
Now, the bandwagon is a little emptier this week. But I, like most UM fans, am enjoying the extra space.
The University of Miami Hurricane football team is back. Right now. This season. One gift-wrapped, made to order loss to an always sound and physical VT team on the road in less than ideal conditions is not a reason to panic.
Sure, there are other reasons for concern: Dropped balls, missed tackles, missed blocking assignments along the offensive line, and poor special teams play.
But a win against highly ranked Oklahoma Saturday night, followed by favorable schedule in the second half of the season in which the 'Canes should be favored every game, could spark another national love-affair with the program.
For all those who jumped ship last Saturday evening, thanks for stopping by. And do not come back.