After two marquee, dominant, and emotional wins, the Miami Hurricanes faced the perfect scenario for a letdown game against the bowl eligible Virginia Cavaliers. With a noon start and off of the national stage of a prime-time game, the Canes reverted back to their ‘Cardiac Canes’ ways that became a norm during the first 7 games. But this game started off really bad and everything that could go wrong went wrong for the Canes in every phase of the game and UVA simply looked unstoppable.
Defensively, UVA scored 21 points, the most the Canes have given up in any half. They amassed scoring drives of 75, 92 and 81 yards and missed tackle after missed tackle led to all of these drives ending with TDs over 30 yards. The Canes had previously allowed only 1 TD over 30 yards in their second game against the Toledo Rockets. Not to mention, UVA’s QB, Kurt Benkert, looked like a Heisman candidate connecting on his first 18 of 19 passes with the before mentioned TDs prior to halftime.
Offensively, there were highs and lows with missed throws, missed blocking assignments, and uncharacteristic penalties. The run game struggled tremendously with RB Travis Homer only having 5 yards on 6 carries through the half. However, the Canes were able to capitalize on a couple of short fields after recovering an onside kick and a fumbled punt to keep the game close. The lowest point for special teams came at the start of the 3rd quarter when a blocked punt set up a 2 play 21 yard TD drive which put Cavaliers up by 14 points for the second. Coach Richt summed up the half when he stated "we made enough mistakes in all three phases of the game to lose".
But this game felt different, it was different. The message during halftime by the coaches was a simple one “just keep believing in yourself and focusing.” And unlike the previous close games, the mindset for this game felt more like 'WHEN' and not ‘IF’. When was someone going to make a play, when where they going to come back and when were they going to take control of the game. These questions were answered with a ‘pick 6’ by Junior Safety Jaquan Johnson to tie the game 7 seconds after Malik Rosier connected with Lawrence Cager on a 9 yard fade route. The Canes added another 16 unanswered points to end the game with a final score of 44 - 28 to move to 10 - 0. During his post-game interview Coach Richt stated "we had some special team issues, some defensive issues and we had some offensive issues, but the thing we didn't have was a heart issue...and we didn't have an issue with belief when things weren't looking too great".
This growing belief is leading the Canes into unchartered territory for both the coaches and players. During Coach Richt’s illustrious career he has never had a 10-0 (or 9-0) record as a Head Coach. In addition, last week, the Canes clinched their first ACC Costal Division title and have the opportunity to ride this wave of belief into their first ACC Championship. This will be the first time playing for the Conference Championship in 14 years.
This belief is also helping to breaking some decade old streaks that have plagued the Canes as they look to up hold the "Hurricane Standard". It started when the Canes broke the 7 game losing streak to the Florida State Seminoles in October. Last week, the Canes wrapped up their first season of beating FSU, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Virginia Tech Hokies in the same season since 1987. And now, the Canes are 10-0 and have their first 10 win season since 2003. When asked about breaking the 14 year streak, LB and defensive cornerstone Shaq Quarterman responded:
“honestly I did not know that stat, but it’s amazing this train that we are riding right now. We are just trying to keep it going...we are trying to win it all and that’s all we are focusing on. If we break a few records here and there that’s just a bonus.”
On “Black Friday”, the #2 Hurricanes have the opportunity to cap-off an unpredictable season with an undefeated regular season record as they go on the road against the Pittsburgh Panthers. This would be the Canes first undefeated regular season since 2002. As amazing as this season has been, senior DE Trent Harris said “this season is just getting started.” Moving forward, the Hurricanes control their own destiny in the College Football Playoffs and every one of their preseason goals are still obtainable. The next two weeks, the Canes can check off even more items from their list. I’m not sure if it is too early to call the Hurricanes a team of destiny or if the Turnover Chain actually has super powers like UVA’s WR Joe Reed and others like Pitt’s Head Coach, Pat Narduuzzi believe, but at this point, I believe anything is possible for this team.
“The Hurricane Standard Checklist”
✓ Beat Florida State Seminoles
✓ Beat Other Rivals:
✓ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
✓ Virginia Tech Hokies
✓ Win 10+ Games
✓ Win ACC Coastal Division
✓ Undefeated regular season
◻ Win ACC Conference Championship
◻ Win Bowl Game (Hopefully CFP Playoff semifinals or New Year’s Six Bowl)
◻ Win National Championship
◻ Perfect Season
Let me know your thoughts.