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Miami Hurricanes: Building a Winning Culture

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Finishing Harder Than We Started”     

Miami v Florida State Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

Anyone that has been in a bad relationship knows that it is easy to bring your baggage into a new relationship. No matter how good this new love is, at times you may expect them to behave like your ex would in similar situations, and that takes time and effort to overcome. It has been 1 year, 11 months, and 22 days (but who's counting) since the Miami Hurricanes ended their horrific relationship with Al Golden and staff. This period was marked by blown leads, zero halftime adjustments, an inability to close games, no signature wins, and a consistent tendency to accept defeat when things were difficult.

Miami v Florida State Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

The Hurricanes’ very own Prince Charming, Mark Richt and company, returned home to save the day in December of 2015. His goal was to rebuild a desolate program that was a mere shell of itself with hopes of making Coral Gables truly "Paradise” again. The Canes Family knew we were getting a coach with a 75% win percentage and multiple SEC titles (when the SEC was the pinnacle of college football), but underneath all the excitement for this new love, some skepticism laid dormant from the decade of hurt. This uncertainty was bolstered and the "here we go again (HWGA)" mentality set in after the 2016 loss to FSU that started another losing streak, 4 games this time, in Richt's’ first year.

Since that time, the Canes have done nothing but win. Dating back to last season, the Canes have rattled off 10 straight wins in every way imaginable for the second longest active FBS win streak. Admittedly, the ghost of “Golden Era” past has haunted me like most fans for the majority of 2017 and I bought into the media storylines for the last 4 games as I waited for the Canes to show signs of old.

Miami 52 vs Toledo 30

Against Toledo, the storyline was that the Canes would be sluggish following a 21-day break as a result of Hurricane Irma. The Rockets had a fast pace passing attack that would stifle a lethargic Canes team. After going into the half down 16-10, I thought “HWGA”. After making adjustments, the Canes exploded for 42 points and finished strong.

Miami 31 at Duke 6

At Duke, the narrative was “upset alert!” The Canes were visiting Durham, NC for the first time since "The Return", to face a strong undefeated Blue Devil team averaging 40.5 pts/gm on a short week. The Canes made a statement from the opening kick and dominated the game holding them to 2 FGs.

Miami 24 at FSU 20

At FSU, the story all week was about "the streak" and that the Canes may not be mentally strong enough to overcome FSU. After losing the lead with 1:24 left I thought “HWGA”. How many game winning drives have ended with a sack or a batted ball in past years? But, "NOT TODAY!” The Canes found a way to win on a spectacular throw and effort on the part of Malik Rosier and Darrell Langham that will go down in folklore.

Miami 25 vs Georgia Tech 24

Last week against Georgia Tech, we all heard it again. The Canes are emotionally hungover from the FSU game and this is the perfect trap game with the Triple Option. With 1:09 left in the game down by 2 and in field goal range, the Canes are penalized 15 yards for a chop block and are now out of FG range and that's right folks…“HWGA”. But then, the Rosier to Langham connection strikes again, this time for 28 yards on 4th and 10. Two plays later, Michael Badgley knocks in the game winning field goal. Despite being in the elements when so much could go wrong, the Canes never wavered and are sitting at 5-0.

The most encouraging aspect of this current streak, and especially the last two games, is the fight, the confidence and the ability to finish games. This tough nosed mentality was created in the off season during summer workouts, like Mat Drills, when Coach Richt stated that the purpose of the drill was to "finish harder than we started and that's going to be the trademark of how we play football". The culture of the Miami Hurricanes is changing right before our eyes and here is the proof. The Georgia Tech game was the first time since 2013 that they have won a game after trailing by double digits. The Canes lost the previous 18 games when they trailed. In addition, they have won three games this season after trailing at half while the rest of ACC combined only has three such victories. Not to mention they are currently 1 of 8 undefeated teams left in college football halfway through the season.

Nobody knows what the next 6 games will hold, but one thing we can count on is that the Canes will never stop fighting. For all those still holding on to the ghost of Golden past, myself included, I believe it is time to let go of the baggage. But, I know it’s hard with the new ‘hype of the week’ being Syracuse coming off the huge upset of #2 Clemson and another last second victory for the injury riddled Canes who must be running on E.

What are your thoughts?