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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Issues that plagued the ‘Canes during the regular season came back to haunt them in the Cheez-It bowl.

Central Michigan v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

While 2020 was turbulent and jarring, Miami had the opportunity to have a special season. After another stellar offseason and changes in culture within the program, it seemed that the new Miami was coming to fruition. With players like D’Eriq King, Jaelan Phillips, Quincy Roche, and Jose Borregales all making their debut as Hurricanes, head coach Manny Diaz and UM looked to leave the struggles of 2019 far, far behind.

Ultimately, Miami advanced in many areas—an 8-win season is an improvement from 2019, despite it feeling underwhelming. However, one question remains in the minds of fans: are the Hurricanes actually better?

On offense? Absolutely. Even when D’Eriq King went down with what would be confirmed as an ACL tear in Miami’s bowl game, N’Kosi Perry came off the bench and performed quite well. It was easily his best game since he and the Mark Richt-led ‘Canes beat Virginia Tech in 2018. It shows that offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has a solid system in place, and hopefully, it’s one that multiple quarterbacks can thrive in.

How did the Hurricanes take ‘two steps back’ in the bowl game? Despite all of the progress, one thing that Miami continues to do in big games is shoot themselves in the foot. Mental and preventable errors seem to plague UM, whether it be penalties against Clemson, missed assignments and poor effort against UNC, or drops against Oklahoma State. Of course, there are other factors that led to losses in those games, but Miami has been consistent in aiding their high-profile opponents.

With how high the team peaked in 2020, 8-3 with another bowl loss seems like a letdown, and rightfully so. The offense took a step forward, but Miami’s defense looked unmotivated, porous, and undisciplined at times. Despite great performances against Duke and Florida State, they surrendered a record-breaking 554 rushing yards to UNC and allowed the Cowboys’ quarterback to throw for 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns.

8-3 isn’t a failure, but changes need to be made on the defensive side of the ball in order for Manny Diaz to get his signature win.

Moving forward, the ‘Canes have a lot of questions to answer before the start of the 2021 season. If UM is complacent with defensive coordinator Blake Baker, we’ll most likely see the defense continue to bend, sometimes break, and struggle in big games. Making difficult but necessary staff changes, however, could lead to the Hurricanes finally achieving greatness on both sides of the ball.