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Miami Hurricanes Football: Anatomy of a Comeback

It’s been awhile since the Canes could say they were comfortable in the 4th quarter. But, just how long?

Georgia Tech v Miami
Miami lines up against Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium last weekend.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It’s been a strange season to say the least for the Miami Hurricanes.

And that’s not just because the Canes are undefeated. Miami is winning in ways, with a style, we haven’t seen in a long while.

Coming back. In the fourth quarter.

The past two weeks, Malik Rosier has led the Canes down the length of the field on the final possession in the fourth quarter with masterful and dramatic drives. Miami went 9 plays for 75 yards before the game-winning TD to Darrell Langham against FSU, while the next week, they put together a 15 play, 85 yard drive to set up Michael Badgley’s game-winning field goal versus Georgia Tech.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember the last time Miami made crucial plays at the end of the game to come out with the victory.

It’s not like the Canes were doing this last year under head coach Mark Richt. Miami was 0-3 in one possession games in 2016, with losses coming to UNC, FSU, and Notre Dame. In each of these games, the Canes had the ball at the end of the game with the chance to win or tie, but, some way or another, came up short in each instance.

And, as we know, the majority of the (not so) Golden-era was filled with 2nd half disappointments or straight up blow outs. This is a team, a program, a fanbase that holds up 4 fingers at the start of every 4th quarter to signify dominance in the game’s most important stanza. So, that got me thinking: when was the actual last time the Canes have put together a game-winning drive in the 4th quarter?

Not counting the Duke game in 2015 because it was a crazy kick return with laterals, not an offensive drive, curiously enough, the last time Miami rallied late for a game-winning drive was actually during Al Golden’s tenure. Even weirder, it also took place the last time Miami was undefeated and in the top 10 this far into the season. AND, for the cherry on top, they occurred in back-to-back fashion in October, just like the circumstances of this season.

You’d have to go back 4 seasons ago, to October of 2013. The Al Golden-led Canes were 5-0 and Stephen Morris was at the reigns of the UM offense. Miami proceeded to win back-to-back games with touchdowns in the final minute against UNC and then Wake Forest to move to 7-0 and into the top 10 nationally.

Miami v South Florida
Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson.
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

On October 16, 2013, the Canes were down 23-13 in the fourth quarter to North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A Dallas Crawford TD run narrowed the gap, and, after a defensive stop, Miami got the ball back with about 4 minutes left. Starting from his own 10, Morris led an expert drive 13 plays and 90 yards down the field, culminating in another Crawford TD run with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win, 27-23.

The following weekend on October 23, 2013, Miami was at home and losing to Wake Forest. After Wake took the lead with a little over 4 minutes to go on a Tanner Price TD pass, the Canes mainly rode Duke Johnson down the field on a 10 play, 73 yard drive and were aided on a pass interference penalty against Wake. Johnson had 7 rushes for 42 yards on the drive and punctuated the win with a 1 yard touchdown run with 53 seconds to go. Miami 24 Wake Forest 21.

Now, bringing it back to today, there are plenty of reasons why I believe this Miami team is stronger than the 2013 team that struggled to a 9-4 finish. One would be Mark Richt and two would be a not-Mark D’Onofrio defense. But seriously, if you want some tangible evidence?

Back in 2013, UNC was 1-4 coming into the Miami game, while Wake was 4-3. Not the best of competition and the writing was on the wall a bit for a collapse that season.

This season? It doesn’t really get any better than a comeback on the road at Tallahassee. The Noles may be missing Deondre Francois, but make no mistake: this was the preseason #3 team with top 5 recruiting classes stacked one on top of the other. Add in a 4th quarter fury over previously 3-1 Georgia Tech, and the 2017 comebacks, taken together, were of much higher quality and more indicative of a mentally tough team than the victories over vastly inferior squads back in 2013.

Miami is going to have to grind out wins this season. It’s just the simple facts. They have had injuries all across the board and this is not a deeply talented team. There will likely be more games like the past 2 weeks in the near future, but when this team gets to those points, deep in the 4th quarter, team leaders like Braxton Berrios and Shaq Quarterman can look their teammates in the eyes and confidently say, “We’ve been here before. We got this”.

And that’s something they haven’t been able to truly say in a long, long time.