There's no doubt that this upcoming game is a big one for both teams. For the Canes, it represents a chance to go to 3-0 in conference play, and to add yet another game to the lead they currently have in the ACC Coastal division. For the Wolfpack, it means starting ACC play off strong. It's their first in-conference test, and it's on the road.
These teams only play each other about once every four years, and this is something that Golden addressed right off the bat in his presser:
They have one player that's played Miami, and I don't know if we've had anybody that's played them. I know Tom [O'Brien], so I have an idea of what we're going to face. You're talking about two of the best coordinators in football over the last 20 years. The combination of those two is something that is obviously doing great. They're holding opponents to 25 percent conversion on third down, they're physical, they execute well. It's going to be a challenge for us Saturday.
Not having anyone on the current team who has played the Wolfpack is a bit odd, but when you consider that the last meeting was a 2008 loss by Miami, and all of the turnover the team has had since then, it's not all that surprising. This sort of match up is usually not ideal because of the unfamiliarity. As in baseball, when you have never seen what the other guy can do outside of watching tape, it becomes a bit harder to go out and predict what they will do on the field of play. You can bet, however, that Coach will have them as prepared and ready to go as possible. Speaking of prep, Golden discussed how Tom O'Brien likes his teams to play, and what the Canes will need to do to win this game:
On offense, they present you multiple challenges. Obviously they're offensive line is experienced - I think they have 90 starts between their center and their guards. They use multiple tight ends. We see three running backs. Thornton was a guy who got 145 yards last week and a touchdown; they're excited about him after last week. [Mike] Glennon makes the whole thing go - big and strong, can step up in the pocket, get the ball down the field, make all the throws for you, and great vision. The wideouts are doing a great job. They're excellent in time of possession. They're very balanced - about 150 yards rushing and 250 yards passing, and about 29 points a game. They're doing a great job, and are No. 1 in the conference in time of possession.
We're expecting more pressure than they've shown the past couple of weeks. Very active safeties, both among the best in career tackles. Corners are both long and talented. [David] Amerson is as good as advertised, excellent player - 15 tackles and three interceptions on the year already. Experienced safeties with 37 and 34 starts, and the tackles to go along with it. The thing that jumps out at you on the front seven is the size of their defensive ends right off the bat. When you turn on the tape and see 285-, 290-pound defensive ends, that is going to be a great challenge for us in the running game, but they also get pressure from them. They're big and strong inside, and have three very physical linebackers.
This is typical for Coach O'Brien. Time of possession, protect the football, take the football away, do great on third down and don’t beat yourselves with penalties and those types of things.
Based on what Golden sees, it seems that the Canes' offensive game plan so far this season plays well against what NCSt looks to do on defense. Morris isn't asked to throw many deep balls, so Amerson should more or less be taken out of the picture. If the run game can get going, that should draw in the line backers enough to allow those short, over the middle type passes to work well. When the Canes are on defense, they just need to stay calm and rely on McGee and Finnie to protect the back end. NCSt has a fantastic young running back who debuted against The Citadel by the name of Shadrach Thornton. Granted, both his and QB Glennon's stats may have been a bit inflated due to the competition, but you cannot deny the talent there. These two have to be taken care of as much as possible if Miami hopes to pull this one out.
Golden was also asked about the difference in strength of schedule (Miami has played the 18th toughest schedule, NCSt the 100th best) between the two teams, and what, if any, part it played in the upcoming game:
It's the first ACC game for them. They're all jacked up, they have an opportunity to come down. They've been in a big game, clearly, on the road at UCONN - tight game - and they were in a big game to open the season against Tennessee. We are weary that they've had both of the last two games under control, so we might see some things that we have not seen. But I don't think the strength of schedule will have any bearing once the ball is kicked off at 12 p.m.
I have to agree with him here. It's sort of a silly question to be asked. Strength of schedule is a nice thing to hang your hat on, but when it comes to conference play, especially when its the first one for one of the teams, S.O.S. gets thrown out of the window. Regardless of the fact that most would say the Wolfpack's toughest game was against Tennessee in the opener, they will be at Sun Life ready to play on Saturday.
One thing a lot of people were talking about after the Georgia Tech game was how Golden handled the Malcolm Lewis injury. You have probably seen it by now, Golden sprinting 50 yards to get down and hug Malcolm as he lay on the ground in pain. It struck a chord with a lot of people, and showed just how much he cares about his players. We've all seen it before, a player goes down with a bad injury, and the coach either stays on the sideline or walks out to see what's going on and then walks back to talk strategy. Golden thinks it should be a bit different:
I'm almost embarrassed to talk about it, because at the end of the day, Malcolm [Lewis] is injured and Malcolm has to have surgery. That's the bottom line. The kids work so hard for us year round…I've always, as a coach, believed in rolling up your sleeves and being on the plant floor with them, and not being up in an ivory tower. If a guy gets hurt playing as hard as they play, or preparing, or practicing as hard as they practice, they deserve that [treatment].
This is why Golden is becoming revered in Coral Gables. Not only is he turning this program around one day at a time, but he treats this team, they're families, and the fans like they are a part of his family. I would want my son to play for him without question, even if all I ever saw from him was his reaction to Lewis' injury.
Other Notes: Golden mentioned Herb Waters and Robert Lockhart stepping up in Malcolm's place, so we may see some of the new guys on Saturday. He also made mention of getting the tight ends more involved, but that they needed to be more consistent between the practice field and game day. He addressed concerns that Tracy Howard was in the dog house after he saw virtually no playing time against GT. Golden summed it up by saying the triple option is no place for freshmen.