Invariably when we reach August and preseason prognosticators put out there polls, Miami is always a buzz team. Rank the Canes too high, and everyone is upset. Rank the Canes too low and Miami fans will be up in arms. What does Miami truly need to do to regain the national respect that has been missing for the better part of 15 years? The answer is simple, stop losing the games that they are supposed to win.
Manny Diaz has done everything logistically in his power during this offseason to give us a lot of optimism going into 2020. Quarterback room was greatly improved with the arrival of D’Eriq King. Dan Enos’ wet play sheet was sent packing, and in steps Rhett Lashlee and an uptempo innovative system that has been severely missing for at least a decade. The defense gets an upgrade in speed at LB due to the graduation of Shaq and Pinckney, and the recruiting class brings some dogs to the team.
Now the question is, how can Miami learn to be Miami again?
2019 was a disaster for a multitude of reasons, but none bigger than losing games to far inferior opponents. Losing the opener to Florida was excruciating and frustrating all at the same time, but Florida was favored to win the game, and while the result stunk, losing to the Gators was not the end of the world. The second loss is a different story altogether. North Carolina was starting a true freshman in his second game ever, and Miami was coming off a bye week. Allowing that UNC team to jump up early, and then convert a 4th and 17 to ultimately win the game showed just how far mentally Miami still has to go. Virginia Tech, much like Florida, was an acceptable loss only because the Hokies are a pretty talented team. The game, again, showed that the Canes thought they could just show up and win at home, which wasn’t the case. The remaining four losses were just brutal. Georgia Tech, FIU, Duke and La Tech are teams Miami should routinely beat by 20 plus points. The problem is over the last decade Miami has constantly lost to teams along thpse lines on a yearly basis.
Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duke and a mediocre Wisconsin team were able to knock off preseason number eight Miami. What do all of those games have in common? Simple, Miami played down to their opponent and ended up suffering brutal losses to inferior competition.
The season was magical for a lot of reasons, but the ending was tragic. 10-0, ranked 2nd in the playoff poll, and Miami had a turkey day hangover against a brutally bad Pitt team. Canes would blow an undefeated season, and crash land with three consecutive losses, though the only bad one was to Pitt.
Mark Richt’s first season at Miami was a relative success to finish 9-4. A heartbreaking loss to FSU was bad for a lot of reasons, but not a loss to be considered a bad loss. Losing at home the next week to North Carolina was unacceptable as was a loss on the road to a horrid Notre Dame team. Miami should’ve been a 10-2 or 11-1 team in 2016 if not for the bad defeats.
Al Golden never should’ve had the job at this point, but 2015 was a lost year regardless. Losing to Cincinnati and Washington St were the only egregious defeats, but the way the Canes laid down against Clemson and UNC were disheartening. Miami used to rise up against ranked teams and play their best, but for a long time now Miami has been the team that everyone rushes the field against.
Manny Diaz has a culture to fix in Coral Gables, and nothing is more paramount than eradicating the losing culture that is hanging over the Canes. The first thing I would do if I were coach is to get kids off of social media during the season. It is working for other colleges! Nothing more irritating than seeing the Canes lose to an inferior opponent and kids rushing to social media to either post their stats, or tell people “don’t be a fan later”. Miss me with that after a loss.
Number two would be eliminating the post game plaques and participation nonsense. Jarren Williams posting a player of the game plaque after losing to UNC seemed like a participation trophy that should’ve been kept in the box. Game balls should be given out after wins, and wins only.
Number three would be practicing harder during bye weeks and “down” opponents. Miami simply is not good enough to walk on the field and win just by being Miami. It is time to push these kids like Jimmy, or Howard, or Butch or Dennis would have. Miami needs to start treating every game like they are playing Notre Dame or Clemson. There needs to be a culture of hard work and winning. Once Miami starts winning again, it will be like a snowball and the Canes will be back on top.
Losing sucks, but losing to scrubs is even worse. For the Canes to ever climb back on top, losing to mediocre competition has to stop. This is the number one challenge that Coach Diaz has to fix in 2020. Hopefully he is up to the challenge.