7 in a row. 7 straight times the Hurricanes fell to FSU.
Last Saturday was different, though. Canes Nation rejoiced as UM finally got the monkey off their backs and defeated FSU in dramatic fashion at Doak Campbell Stadium to put an end to the streak and bring some bragging rights back to Coral Gables.
Miami had been very close to winning this game the past couple years, but never seemed to have that killer instinct, that heart of the champion, that Florida State always seemed to muster.
Well, consider the roles reversed. Malik Rosier led an expert drive and Darrell Langham came down with the biggest catch of his life to send the Noles to the grave. Miami has climbed the proverbial “FSU Mountain”, and the team at long last will get a peak of the possibilities on the other side.
But, what does that look like? Where do we go from here?
A National Title? An ACC Championship? A Coastal Division crown? Hell, how about a win over just Georgia Tech tomorrow?
There are no easy answers for just how far this Miami team can go. But, for starters, it’s no secret that losses to FSU in recent history have torpedoed many Miami seasons.
Take a look at these numbers: Miami went on a 3 game losing streak in both 2016 and 2014 after losses to the Noles. In 2015, the 58-0 Clemson loss that led to Al Golden firing and represented a complete bottoming out of the Miami program occurred 2 games after UM lost to FSU that year. The Hurricanes also lost 3 of 5 to end the season in 2013 following... you guessed it, a loss to FSU.
In years past, this Miami team would have folded like a cheap tent if faced with a pressure situation like the one in Tallahassee last weekend. Maybe it is the renewed culture brought by Mark Richt to the program, but something about this team is different. And now, sitting at 4-0, they have a new weapon at their disposal that they haven’t had in a very long time. A weapon that will surely combat the FSU hangovers of years past.
Confidence. The confidence that they can beat a supremely talented team, as proven last weekend. The confidence the players have in the coaches, that what Richt’s staff is preaching really works and that they can trust their training everyday. But more than ever, confidence in themselves and each other, that the other guy is going to do his job, so you can focus on yours.
Who in a million years would have pegged Darrell Langham to catch the game winning touchdown at FSU? Nobody outside the program had confidence in that. Nobody. But Malik Rosier did when he went up to him with 11 seconds remaining in the game, draped by FSU’s best cover corner. And Mark Richt did when he sent him out on that field.
That’s not to say this team doesn’t have issues, because it does. It’s unrealistic to expect Miami to breeze through their schedule and go 12-0 unchallenged, especially with Mark Walton done for the season. There will be moments, days, games where this team just isn’t at its best and the Canes will have to gut out victories.
I don’t think you’ve seen the defense really hit it’s stride yet. You’re seeing some improvements in the secondary, but Miami’s front seven, which returned all seven starters, has not put together a complete game so far.
Manny Diaz’s unit was supposed to be one of the best in the nation in 2017 with so much returning talent but, aside from some gaudy TFL numbers, that just hasn’t come to fruition. While the Canes are elite at getting stops behind the line of scrimmage, their aggressiveness is taken advantage of by many teams in the run game. You see defensive ends flying too far upfield and not setting the edge. You’re witnessing linebackers vacate their gaps in pursuit of the big play, leaving giant holes in the defense exposed.
So, again I ask, what is the next step for Miami after FSU?
It’s not a National Title, an ACC Championship, a Coastal Division crown, or a win over Georgia Tech.
It’s none of those. It’s a less tangible goal.
It’s getting back to being disciplined up front and having the great fundamentals to play assignment football.
It’s going through adversity in a game, but showing you still have the composure to finish an opponent.
It’s continuing to play with that confidence, that you KNOW you’re better than the man across from you and you’re willing to knock their head off to prove it.
If the Hurricanes can take care of that — I mean really, truly buy-in and make it a core belief — well the rest, as they say, will seem to take of itself.