Miami throws up their fours for the fourth quarter; to finish. I throw up mine for different reasons. When I hear/see "four," I can only seem to think negatively. Golden has been Randy Shannon-like bad in his tenure at Miami (at least record-wise), the team has been inconsistent through their first four football games this season, the team never seems to put together four quarters of good football, and lastly, oh boy...MIAMI IS ALWAYS IN FOURTH DOWN!
First Four Games
Through the first four games, Miami is a respectable 3-1. While this record has no bearing on conference play and may look good on the surface, that 3-1 record is tainted...badly. Through the first four games, Miami's defense still has major leaks and breakdowns in coverage and in tackling. Through the first three games, the offense looked good, scoring 45, 44, and 36 points, respectively. In the fourth game against Cincinnati, Miami looked lost on offense throughout the entire game. This offense is way too talented to only score 23 points in a game, especially against a defense like Cincinnati's.
The play calling has been very spotty, leaving Miami in awful down-and-distance situations, and also in very predictable situations. Everyone seems to know the play Miami is about to run and the Canes still do nothing to get out of their habits. While some of the blame goes to the QB Brad Kaaya, James Coley is ultimately responsible for some of these questionable play calls.
Something also taken from the first four games is Miami and their hot-and-cold tendencies. Believe it or not, this team reminds me of Oregon's offense, and not in a good way. Kaaya & co. can go down and score in 2 minutes or less, then come out the next drive and look completely discombobulated. Look, 3-and-outs are going to happen, no game is going to be perfect, but Miami will show up one quarter and not the next. It's certainly frustrates the offense, and is frustrating to watch.
Golden's First Four Seasons
In case it hasn't been seen, Miami has been mediocre during Golden's tenure. In his lone good season in 2013, Miami went 9-4 (5-3 ACC) and finished second in the Coastal. The Canes climbed as high as 7th in the AP Poll before getting pummeled by eventual national champion Florida State. In his first four seasons, Golden has gone 6-6, 7-5, 9-4, then a backbreaking 6-7 in 2014. He has accumulated a 28-22 overall record and a dreadful 16-16 record against conference foes.
This is going to get a bit opinionated, and hopefully the fanbase feels my sentiment. I didn't necessarily give Golden and his staff a pass up until 2013, but the progress was there. Golden took a mess of a program in 2011 and made them a .500 team. He took baby steps with an absolutely awful defense in 2012 and went 7-5. 2013 was supposed to be Miami's year to make some noise nationally, and they did, but very briefly. Miami wasn't a top-10 team by any means, but were they deserving of a top-25 ranking? Absolutely...at least until Duke Johnson was sidelined for the second half of the season due to an ankle injury. So, up until the end of 2013, it was apparent the Canes still needed work, still needed depth, and needed slightly more talent to compete with the nation's best. Then 2014 came...
Last season was dreadful, unbearable, pathetic, the list goes on. Miami finished 6-7 (3-5), and Golden's seat went from sizzling to looking something like this. That team had WAY too much talent to finish the season that poorly. Miami should have finished the year 8-4 or better, but completely nosedived after the home loss to Florida State. The most frustrating loss, in my opinion, was the bowl game to South Carolina. They were awful, but is showed that Miami was too, unfortunately. The talent was clearly there, and it was evident in the NFL Draft, but this team did not perform and were not as prepared as a coach should have had them. Miami is 3-1 thus far in 2015, but things are defiantly trending down for Golden and the Hurricanes.
Always in Fourth Down
Get ready to claw your eyes out. I'll start with the not-so-bad news, Miami has a 50 percent conversion rate on fourth down in the past four seasons, including converting 60.9 percent and 83.3 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The bad news? They were in fourth down in the first place.
In Golden's first season in 2011, Miami converted 42.6% of third downs, good for 43rd in the country. Those are respectable numbers. Each year following, Miami has converted just 39.4 percent, 35 percent and 36.8 percent of third downs, good for 68th, 98th and 95th in the country. To be a successful and winning football team, the offense has to stay on the field. So far in 2015, Miami is 13-53 (24.5%) on third down, 127th (!!!) in the country. FYI, there are only 128 teams in Division 1-A. You aren't going to win too many games in a Power 5 conference putting up numbers like those.
This is something that has plagued Miami recent years, and haven't gotten better. Golden insists that the team constantly works on "money downs" in practice, but that apparent preparation hasn't translated to games. Whether it is Brad Kaaya's decision-making, his audibles, or James Coley's play-calling, who knows? It is most likely a mixture of all three. Miami has to become better and more consistent on third downs in order to be a successful team. Good teams don't often play behind the sticks.
Never Playing Four Quarters
Honestly, out of all the negativity in this article, this one stings the most. Football is a 60-minute game of domination. Teams who typically play the most complete game win. There are a few exceptions and cases here and there, but it is simple, win each quarter.
Miami too often plays with fire, and too often they get burned. Whether it is one side of the football not showing up, or both, the Canes never seem to play a complete football game. It has shown already shown in three of the four games Miami has played this season. They only lead FAU by 3 at halftime, blew a 23-point lead to Nebraska, and were just miserable all game against Cincinnati.
Last season, the same showed against rival Florida State. Miami had FSU on the ropes for the majority of the game. Now even though it hurts to give credit to FSU, they were a good football team, with a great QB, but Miami should have won the football game. Miami was leading 23-10 at halftime, and only scored three points in the second half, eventually losing the game 30-26.
What bothers me is that the team (and coaches) appear to take their foot off of the gas and do not close out games. Letting a team hang around will only give them more confidence to come out the next play/drive. Against FSU, the Canes were aggressive in their play calling offensively and defensively and looked like the ones asserting dominance. In the second half, they look scared to make a mistake. They played a conservative second half and it bit them in the ass.
Nothing is ever perfect during a game or a season, but Miami plays like they are content with "moving forward" and "getting better every week." While this is what you want out of your football team, you don't want to lose a game and have the mindset of forgetting about it. It should piss you off and make you hungrier for your next opportunity. Unfortunately, I don't see that on this team. It shows at times, but again, it's a 60-minute ballgame.
I am a wholehearted believer in a team taking the identity of their football coach. I do not see a killer instinct in the eyes of Al Golden, Mark D'onofrio, and even James Coley, and it rubs off onto the team. Coley seems to have his head on straight at the beginning of each half, but dials it back and has not been good at in-game adjustments in his tenure.
When will this team say enough is enough? When will the program? The team, the school, the fanbase is tired of losing. Mediocrity seems to be the new standard set forth by Miami football. A team can't have just 20 guys hungry for success and wanting to restore the once-great tradition, it takes a team of 100+ men, and it takes a dedicated and excellent coaching staff as well. Do the Canes have that know? Time is certainly running out to see what Miami is truly made of.