The current state of Miami football is as follows: There seems to be an unwritten rule that no one writing or speaking about the team can use the word "Golden" without using the word "fire" immediately preceding it. Anyone who chooses to say words like "positives" or "Coastal" is eviscerated and deemed to be a person who loves failure and mediocrity. I'll start by saying how disappointing the loss to Florida State was. Losing six straight times to the Noles is unacceptable. That being said, I can still talk about the FSU game and at times, give some credit to Miami's coaching staff and players. I can't change minds, but do want to offer a different perspective by looking at this season and this program.
Staying optimistic as a Miami fan hasn't been easy in recent years, but someone has to do it. I agree with the sports cliche that everyone was using Saturday night: "There is no such thing as a moral victory." However, that phrase can't be used as an absolute to avoid recognizing the positives we saw in Tallahassee. Miami overcame a fast start by FSU and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Brad Kaaya played very well, especially considering the pressure he was under as a result of FSU's defensive line dominating the line of scrimmage. The Noles elected to play seven or eight guys in coverage most of the night and Kaaya still managed to find his receivers and throw for 405 yards and three touchdowns. WR Rashawn Scott was a bright spot for the Canes once again, putting up another 100-yard game. His long touchdown in the first half stabilized Miami and kept the game within striking distance at a time when his team needed it the most. WR Stacy Coley played like the guy we've all been waiting to see. He emerged as a star for the Hurricanes, showing his explosiveness and displaying great hands on the touchdown to give Miami the lead in the fourth quarter. With a sack and two TFLs, Al-Quadin Muhammad was as disruptive as we've seen him in a Miami uniform and showed signs he can be the playmaker this defense desperately needs up front. LB Jermaine Grace made plays all night and led the team in tackles.
The downfall of Miami's offense was how poorly the offensive line played against FSU's talented front. Miami's O-line committed numerous penalties and struggled to protect Brad Kaaya, even on plays where they had a numbers advantage blocking. If the Canes are going to bounce back against good defenses like VT, Clemson, and Duke, the unit must play better. Lineup changes there might help as well.
When asked about the coaching staff this week, Miami AD Blake James said the following: "We'll look at everything at the end of the year and make an evaluation." For whatever reason, many fans seem to think that saying "Fire Al Golden" 1000 times a week will help make their wish come true midseason. Miami has seven games remaining and still a lot to play for. I saw so many articles after the loss to FSU that said some version of: "Al Golden fails in what might be his last opportunity for a signature win." 5th ranked Clemson is coming to Sun Life Stadium in eleven days. Does that not count as an opportunity for a big win? Miami's coaches will be evaluated on how the team finishes this season. The goal is clear - Win the Coastal division or prepare for the consequences. Am I happy that the Canes aspirations are for a conference championship instead of a national championship? Of course not, but that's the reality we find ourselves in. The game this Saturday against Virginia Tech will be a clear indication of whether the Canes will collapse again following a loss to FSU. Miami is better than the Hokies and should win this game by two scores or more if the focus is there. This season has reached a fork in the road. The Canes are 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the ACC. To win the Coastal, Miami probably needs to win six of the final seven games. If that doesn't happen, we'll likely see the change in leadership many fans are clamoring for. Let it take care of itself.
Al Golden and his staff coached a solid game on Saturday night. There, I said it. I will certainly admit to you that the bar was set low by prior failures, most recently against Cincinnati, but my point remains the same. Coaching was not the reason this team lost in Tallahassee. Miami headed into the locker room down 20-10 at halftime. In the first half, the Canes struggled on third down and failed to convert 1st and goal into a touchdown, a trend we've seen all year. Miami's defense couldn't stop FSU and Dalvin Cook scored on two long plays. FSU had six drives in the first half - 2 touchdowns, 3 FG attempts, one long drive resulting in a 4th down stop by Miami, and ZERO punts. Under Golden, the Canes haven't played well in the second half against quality opponents, especially on the road. Saturday night was a different story. Miami came back out ready to play and gained confidence throughout the final two quarters. FSU was forced to punt three times on five possessions in the 2nd half thanks to a great effort by Miami's defense, especially from guys like Muhammad, Thomas, and Norton on the defensive line. On offense, Miami's first possession out of the locker room was a 17-play, 80-yard drive that featured four third-down conversions. The short passing game was effective and James Coley and Brad Kaaya showed patience, taking what the defense gave them. Halftime adjustments helped give the Canes a chance to win this game in the closing minutes.
When the game ended, I knew what to expect. Despite what I just described above, many people blamed the loss on coaching. If you hate your team's coaching staff, you can always find a few things to pounce on. People had to be more creative this time, but they still found what they were looking for. I saw people upset that Miami couldn't "shut down" FSU Dalvin Cook. It's apparently not possible to admit that Cook is an elite talent who is one of the best players in the nation. I saw Al Golden and James Coley being blamed for Brad Kaaya's passes being knocked down on the final drive, giving no credit to the FSU linemen who made great plays. I saw the standard lines like "Temple Coach Temple Results" being repeated, which makes no sense because the Owls are 5-0 and just barely outside of the Top 25 currently. I saw people sending around a photo of a Miami linebacker appearing to be in a three-point stance in a screenshot, ignoring the video @TheStateofTheU sent out immediately afterwards that shows the player just lost his balance for a moment pre-snap.
Then came the "controversy" of whether Miami posted the video of Al Golden's post-game press conference online. Fans and media members pounced on it, saw clips of it, and proudly declared that Golden looked "defeated" after the game. Given the level of negativity around this program, Golden is in a no-win situation when he speaks to the media. Fans who want him gone pounce on what verb, noun, or tense he uses and overreact. If he's optimistic and says that his team will bounce back and focus on the Coastal, he's mocked for talking about the next game and it's decided that he doesn't care enough about FSU. If he's dejected after a really difficult loss to a rival, it's decided that he is defeated and doesn't have the demeanor Miami needs. What is the correct way to deal with the loss? There are players in Miami's locker room that need to be motivated for the next seven games on the schedule. It's his job to help them regroup and prepare for Virginia Tech. We'll find out on Saturday what the Canes' players think of their coaches, because everyone clearly understands the pressure to win at this crucial point in the season.
Support This Team
There will be a flurry of jokes on social media about Miami's crowd size for the game against Virginia Tech. I know this message likely won't be received, but it needs to be said. Support Miami's players on Saturday afternoon and come to Sun Life Stadium. If you want the coaches gone, that's fine, but don't take it out on the players. Brad Kaaya deserves your support. Fans who think they are endorsing a mediocre product by attending games are mistaken. The decisions about the coaching staff will be made at the end of the season and will be based on wins and losses, not attendance numbers. I will always be a Miami Hurricanes fan and will be there on Saturday rooting for the Canes to beat Virginia Tech. I hope you'll do the same.