When Randy Shannon lost his last game against the University of South Florida at the end of the 2010 season, there was an immediate call to action by former athletic director Kirby Holcutt and UM president Donna Shalala. They acted swiftly in dismissing the former Canes linebacker as head coach of the football team.
Saturday night's loss to the University of Virginia could be Al Golden's watershed moment where it is finally determined that he lost control of his team and that he is not the right man to head this program back to prominence. Only time will tell. Golden will probably not get fired, despite not faring any better than the man that he replaced, but that did not stop the fan base from indicating their concern with Golden on Twitter during the 30-13 loss to Virginia, a school that once hired Golden to run it's defense.
When Golden was hired on December 13, 2010, there was a belief that he was the right man to return Miami to its perch atop the college football world. Since he has been at Miami, they have become bottom feeders and have not won too many regular season games against ranked opponents. The bigger problem is that they are also losing to teams that they are supposed to beat, like Virginia, and that usually spells doom for any coach. The loss at Virginia could have been the straw that broke the camel's back.
Many of you that have been following me know my pedigree and that I attended UM from 1987 through my graduation in 1989. I went to Miami during the Jimmy Johnson era and covered the team as a reporter through the Larry Coker years. I was present at the Orange Bowl when the stadium would shake. Like many of you, I want those days to come back. I know that the old stadium has since been retired and demolished, but the atmosphere last week against Florida State was reminiscent of those days. The question is, what will it take to get those days back on a regular and consistent basis? I do not know if this staff has the mojo to win back the fan base and more importantly, the local recruits that we have been losing to top-tier programs out of the area. Back in the day, it was unheard of to hear about a Miami kid that grew up in South Florida leave the area for Florida State or Alabama. Miami always had the pick of the litter.
Losing multiple regular season games is a relatively new concept to me and something that I did not have to face as either as student or a beat writer. Seeing, first hand, how Miami is losing to inferior teams, is both discouraging and disheartening. Like many of the alumni, I worry about the brand and about the future success of the football program.
Miami now has five losses, four of which have come in the ACC. The Coastal Division was settled earlier in the week when Duke lost to North Carolina, but the Canes could have salvaged some respect with victories over the sub-par Cavaliers, who entered the game at 4-6 and an underachieving Pittsburgh team that will invade Miami Saturday. Instead, Miami appears to be playing out the schedule and waiting to see what lower-tier bowl game it will be invited to. It will have all the fanfare of a pre-season NFL game which is absolutely meaningless. The only positive of a bowl game this season will be the additional practices which can be used to get ready for next season and to invite recruits to attend. However, this will be an early bowl game that most likely will occur before Christmas Day.
I will admit that I have flip-flopped over the Golden decision in recent weeks. I really like Golden, the person. I believe that he cares deeply about his players and I will never forget the way he comforted Malcolm Lewis when he was injured at Georgia Tech two years ago. I also deeply respect the way he stayed with Miami after the Nevin Shapiro situation came to light and how he fought for recruits to buy into the program.
However, I do not like the stubborn side of Al Golden which does not make proper adjustments at halftime and the fact that he stands by his staff members that need to be replaced. I am also tired of the standard quotes after the games where he says things like, "we have to get better" or, "it all starts with me." We have had two solid recruiting classes come in and we are no better off than we were when he got here. Other schools win with true freshman or red-shirt freshman, but at Miami, it is used as an excuse to justify losses. Why place all the blame on the young players when the coaching staff cannot get them prepared to play in a game?
This was supposed to be a night where Miami would collect their seventh win and Duke Johnson would celebrate with his teammates on becoming the Canes all-time leading rusher. Neither of those events occurred and we are stuck with wondering what the temperature of this team is right now and whether or not this coaching staff will be around Coral Gables much longer.
The offensive line was awful tonight. He knew that he was going to play two true freshman in Trevor Darling and Nick Linder. What he did not do was keep an extra tight end in the game to assist in the pass protection. Clive Walford ran routes to get us first downs and had a solid game. What he needed was a second tight end to help on the edge. Stan Dobard played sparingly and he did not have that additional blocker in the game when it became readily apparent that they could not contain the front seven of Virginia, although they rarely rushed more than four the entire night.
One of the glaring errors of the night was when the left side of the offensive line caved in and failed to protect Michael Badgley as he attempted a short field goal just before halftime. Virginia returned the block to the five yard line and got a field goal of their own and created a six-point swing. Did Golden, who also coaches special teams, not have his unit ready to protect their kicker?
The defensive front did not get near the Virginia backfield Saturday night and but for Denzel Perryman, who played his heart out, they did not get helmets on the ball carriers and did not create tackles for loss. There was no adjustment for this at the half. For the second game in a row, the pass rush was non existent and they did not give the opposing quarterback any reason to throw in a hurry. QB Greyson Lambert had all night to throw and faced no pressure. The corner blitz packages that we saw last week against Florida State were non existent.
The biggest loss of the night was something that Golden could not control. That was the injury sustained to wide receiver Herb Waters. Regardless of the outcome of the game, you hate to see a player injured during the course of the game. Waters was taken to a Charlotesville hospital for injuries that he sustained on a helmet to helmet collision with a Cavalier special teams player in the second half. Waters' health and future is what is of paramount importance right now.
UM athletics has released a statement, post-game, that said that Waters has since been released from the hospital and will travel home with the team.