There is flat out no excuse. Those excuses went out the window after the first quarter against North Carolina.
As the Miami Hurricanes flipped sides following the first quarter, they had already trailed 21-3. The Tar Heels had already run for 117 yards, averaging 13 yards per carry, and scored a hat trick of rushing touchdowns.
By halftime, it didn’t get much better for the Hurricanes. The Tar Heels finished the first half with 230 rushing yards, while the Hurricanes gained just 169 yards of total offense. The Tar Heels had six rushing plays of over 10 yards and rushing touchdowns of 25 and 65 yards.
The Tar Heels finished the night with two rushers over 200 yards. Michael Carter led the charge with 308 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Back-up running back Javonte Williams ran for 236 and two touchdowns.
In their worst performance in a long time, the Hurricanes defense looked more like a junior varsity high school team than a Power 5 team. They were battered, beaten, and bruised all game, and in a game to place Miami in a potential New Year’s Six Bowl spot, the Hurricanes found themselves at the end of a 62-26 drubbing.
Miami will finish their regular season 8-2. They’ll have wins over rival Florida State and then-ranked Louisville but their two losses will paint an almost tainted image.
In losses to Clemson and North Carolina, Miami was outscored 104 to 43. The two teams gained a total of 1,328 yards, including 812 on the ground.
There isn’t enough sugar to replace the bitter taste those two games left in the game. When you’re bested by ranked opponents that you should be competing with, there’s no excuse. There is no “we’ll get ‘em next time” and there is no way to paint a clearer picture.
Any time your defense allows 554 rushing yards to one team, there is no way the defense can remain the way they are. While Carter and Williams are two of the best running backs in the nation, Miami has long prided itself on the strong defense.
Manny Diaz is a defensive-minded coach and before beginning as the Hurricanes head coach, their defense was consistently one of the nation’s best. They created turnovers, lived in opposing team’s backfields, and produced NFL talent.
Now, the Hurricanes are the total opposite. Blake Baker’s defense is allowing 4.77 rushing yards per carry and 180 total yards per game. That isn’t to say the Hurricanes defense isn’t talented (they’re only allowing 26 points per game and still create pressure like the best of them) but the expectations need to come against the better teams.
That isn’t to say Blake Baker is a bad defensive coordinator. He has his moments and in those moments, his team really shines. Those moments aren’t consistent, however, and the changes could push Miami to newer heights.
The Hurricanes open next season with Alabama, they’ll play North Carolina again and will play Appalachian State, who has a strong offense. These games define the Hurricanes, not the games against lackluster offenses like Duke or Pittsburgh.
If the Hurricanes want to win a National Championship, which should be the goal, then the Hurricanes need changes on that side of the ball. Their offense is where they want it (they’re averaging 34 points and 432 yards per game), now the defense needs to get to that point.
Manny Diaz needs to be cutthroat, not nice. He needs to completely change the defensive side of the ball or there will be repeat performances. North Carolina is only getting better and quarterback Sam Howell is set to return for an extra season.
As long as Miami runs it back, their ceiling is quite clear. They’ll probably compete in the ACC Coastal, mostly win against the teams they should be beating and finish with two or three losses.
With a new defensive coordinator and an outside perspective on how to change the problems, the situation can become different. Miami has all the talent and they’ll continue to bring in better talent.
Between 2012 and 2020, the Hurricanes consistently finished with a class in the top 30. Their 2020 class, though early, has shown further promise. Donald Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton are looking like solid running backs, Avantae Williams (who did not play in 2020) is a highly-touted recruit and plenty of other players will continue to develop.
In 2021, the Hurricanes will bring in an even better class that currently sits 12th according to 247Sports. Five-star defensive lineman Leonard Taylor (Miami Palmetto) and safety James Williams (American Heritage Plantation) will both see immediate playing time, as should four-star wide receiver Romello Brinson (Miami Northwestern).
The Hurricanes don’t need to blow it up completely. Under Diaz, they’ve clearly rebounded from the 6-7 season just a year ago and players have bought into what Diaz has preached. However, something has to give on the defensive side of the ball because their performance against North Carolina is pitiful and flat out inexcusable for a team of Miami’s quality.