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Miami, App State, and the Ghost of Al Golden

Today’s game is about more than this year’s team. It’s a statement game.

Golden Head Slap

Much has been made of today’s Miami at Appalachian State game. There has been TONS of trash talk from the App State side of things, Las Vegas has Miami as only a 3.5 point favorite, and many national media members don’t have Miami on upset alert, they’ve outright picked the Canes to lose this game. And, for me, there’s only one reason for any of this:

Al Golden.

I spoke about this when I did a video podcast last week, but this game — on the road, against a talented but overmatched underdog, with the nation watching — is a game that Miami would have surely lost under Al Golden. Don’t believe me? Let me please direct your attention to last year’s Cincinnati Thursday night game (what an atrocity that was), or any of the losses at Virginia in recent memory, just for starters.

You know the story of today’s game by now: Miami is the first P5 team to ever travel to Boone, NC to face App State. This game, a late schedule replacement for a cancellation, has App State pumped — this is the biggest game in their program’s history (yes, even more than the FCS National Championships they’ve won) — and everybody who’s not a Miami fan is on the underdog bandwagon. I get it. People want to see David beat Goliath. That’s what we’re up against.

But, today, Miami is also up against our recent history. This proud program has fallen on tough times recently. I’ve long maintained that Miami has been, is, and will always be relevant. Look at the hype App State is putting on this game. This matters BECAUSE MIAMI is coming to town.

What Miami hasn’t been recently is good at football. Mediocrity is fine for some, but not for The U. And, that mediocrity, and the outside perception of this team, is the 2nd opponent that Miami looks to beat today.

Today’s game is going to be an exorcism, removing the demons that have plagued this program for more than a decade. Today’s game is a chance to show that Miami, while not BACK (that means winning National Championships, IMO), isn’t the ragtag outfit that many people believe us to be.

Miami is 5-12 in their last 17 road games. While wins are NOT a QB stat, teams led by Brad Kaaya are 3-9 on the road. No matter how you slice it, that’s not good performance. That is what people bring up when discussing this game. Not this year’s team, the past. And that’s the Ghost of Al Golden.

Nevermind the fact that Miami’s defense is 1st in the country with 10 sacks, and tied for first with 28 tackles for loss, and 1st in the country allowing 0.91 yards per carry, and 4th in total defense allowing 205.5 yards per game. Forget the fact that Miami has had 5 instances of running backs going for 100 yards and 1+ TD already this year, and the Canes have 2 of the 6 RBs in the country to have run for 100 yards and 1+ TD in both games this season. Forget that Miami has blocked 2 punts, returned another for a touchdown, and is averaging 7.82 yards per play on offense. None of that matters, because the last time people Nationally saw Miami, the Canes were losing to a bad Washington State team in the Sun Bowl, or some other mediocre team in some game that Miami should have won easily.

Appalachian State is a solid team. They played Tennessee tight in the season opener. But, they’re a team without the talent that Miami has, and that disparity of talent is going to be a factor today. App State is only converting 19% of 3rd downs. That’s not how you get Capone, guys. Marcus Cox, App State’s Star RB, has more than 4000 career rushing yards, and is a tough player, to be sure. But, he’s the one guy who can really hurt Miami. And you better believe that Miami will be keyed up to stop him.

Today’s game is about more than just beating a decent opponent. Today’s game is about exorcising the demons of the recent past that have haunted this program and stolen our swagger.

Every time anybody brings up Miami, it’s a short wait until the “yeah, but, last time...” or “last year” or “when Al Golden was the coach...” comes up.

That ends today. While Al Golden is gone, the damage done, the PTSD from 5 years of thinking Miami would win only to be let down time and again by underwhelming scheme and performance, lingers in the minds of Canes fans and foes alike. The Ghost of Al Golden lingers on this team, around this program, and it will continue to until Miami gives reason to put that in the past.

Today is a new day. The Canes are a reinvigorated team. And the road forward for both this season and away from the mediocrity of the recent past begins at Noon.

Look out, App State. There’s a storm the likes of which you’ve never seen coming to Boone.

Category 5 watch all day.

Go Canes