All of the good will, all of the promise and potential. Gone. Vanished into thin air at the conclusion of a humiliating, 30-24 defeat at the hands of the FIU Panthers. The ghosts of the Orange Bowl should be haunting the dreams of Miami’s current players, because they practically desecrated a sacred place in Miami football history.
It felt like Manny Diaz, his coaching staff, and the Miami football program as a whole had turned a corner following their 52-27 beat down of Louisville. A victory where Jarren Williams broke records while throwing for six touchdowns. The Hurricanes had three straight wins and the possibility of winning out seemed very real. And yet, somehow, Miami came out of the bye looking unmotivated and unprepared, an alarming trend for the Canes and their weeks’ off this year. Against North Carolina and Virginia Tech, Miami started about as badly as possible. The Canes’ have started slow just about all year, but starting those games 17-3 and 28-0, respectively, by the time the 2nd quarter started was on another level of unprepared. Miami battled back in both games, losing on the opponent’s final offensive drives. This week, they barely battled at all after going down 13-0 at the half and 23-3 with 11:03 left in the game.
Miami must have left their fight at the old OB, because there was nothing to be found after the Canes’ offense was caught flat-footed. The defense bent early, allowing huge chunk plays to FIU’s speedy skill players but clamped down in the red zone. For a game where UM trailed 13-0 at the half, it felt like it could’ve been twice that with the way FIU moved the ball and Miami couldn’t put the ball in the endzone. Miami’s first drive ended in an interception. FIU got a field goal after that. A Miami punt was followed with an FIU TD to widen the gap to 10-0.
Then Miami woke up. Or, maybe more appropriately, hit the snooze button. The offense found rhythm on a drive that would get to the FIU 2-yard line, helped along by two 15-yard penalties by the Panthers. On 4th and goal, the best playcall offensive coordinator Dan Enos had was a QB run, where Jarren Williams was stopped well short. It was still 10-0. An FIU punt gave way to another long Miami drive, this one getting to the FIU 18. But on 4th & 1, a pass to Michael Irvin II fell incomplete and Miami’s two drives into the red zone, taking up more than 10 minutes of clock, yielded 0 points.
Those would be Miami’s best chances, as two second half interceptions killed the defense’s resolve. Their missed tackling and poor coverage, both through the air and in Miami’s run fits, led to 17 more points from a Panther’s offense that managed just 7 the week before against FAU. Miami scored 21 in the 4th quarter but it was too little, too late. FIU’s touchdown that made it 30-17 with just over two minutes left, sealed it.
Something needs to change in UM. Miami may not have a new head coach next year. But that doesn’t mean that Manny Diaz won’t need to make some tough decisions to fix this unmotivated, undisciplined, mess of a team. The Hurricanes’ in their current iteration clearly lack the fundamentals to play consistent, winning football. Blake Baker and Dan Enos both ought to be shown the door. The defense has not been good enough away from Diaz’s tutelage and onto Baker’s. Enos consistently fails to put together winning game plans for a Miami offense whose strength is on getting the ball to it’s speedy and dynamic playmakers. After letting Jarren Williams throw the ball around the yard last week, none of that aggressiveness was on display in the redshirt freshman’s three-interception performance. It was his second of the year, with Williams’ tossing all of his six INTs in just two games. Butch Davis knew how to attack this lackluster defense; get the ball to his best, fastest players and watch Miami’s defenders reach for air as they ran by and around them.
Changes need to be made to this team if they ever expect to get back to something resembling relevant. Something is rotten in Coral Gables - and it’s not the corpse of the Orange Bowl.