Moral victories mean nothing for a football program that has as much tradition as the University of Miami’s, but, with that being said, there are positives to take away from the first game of the Manny Diaz era.
A young team made too many mistakes to beat an experienced Florida Gators team who they largely played better than Saturday night. There were some positive signs that issues that have plagued this program for years are on their way to being solved. By no means are they solved completely, but there seems to be progress.
The most prominent issue of arguably the last fifteen, and certainly the last ten, years for Miami has been an inability to get off the mat when they get punched in the mouth. Saturday night, Miami got off the mat over and over again when Florida made big plays. The Hurricanes were caught in a heavyweight slugfest and stayed in the game with a more experienced team until the very last drive of the night. Being able to respond through a whole season will be the true test for the ‘Canes, but even responding during a game are positive steps that this team didn’t take last season.
Another positive sign was Jarren Williams’ play at quarterback. Brad Kaaya is the only quarterback since Brock Berlin that provided good quarterback play for the ‘Canes. Signal-caller is one place Miami has never found consistency in, or gotten production out of, since Larry Coker’s time in charge of the Hurricanes. In his first-ever start, Jarren Williams took hits and made reads that helped the offense move the ball against a Top 30 defense. Yes, Williams made mistakes, but nearly every analyst in the college football world came away impressed with his poise and maturity.
Miami’s defense provided another positive. They didn’t miss a beat last night after switching Defensive Coordinators from Manny Diaz to the duo of Blake Baker and Ephraim Banda. While there were some tackling issues early in the game, they improved and mostly shut down a Florida offense led by an experienced quarterback in Feleipe Franks. Additionally, the young cornerbacks, one of the biggest causes of concern heading into Saturday’s game, locked down Florida’s passing game despite the defensive line struggling to pressure Franks throughout the evening.
While none of these positives change a result that is disappointing, they still show progress to eliminating the “disease” that Manny Diaz feels is within the Miami program. The Hurricanes have a long road back to national championship contention, and each step farther down the road brings them closer to that ultimate goal. The ‘Canes may have found a way to fight a few steps farther down that road Saturday night.