Welcome back to the Hot Seat Heat Check. This is our weekly feature checking in on where things stand for Head Coach Manny Diaz.
On to this week’s recap....
Week 9: A 2nd consecutive ranked win, this time on the road over the #17 Pittsburgh Panthers
Last week, Miami rallied to a 31-30 win over then-18th ranked NC State. And the Canes took the momentum from that game and kept things going.
After surrendering an early TD to fall behind 7-0, Miami reeled of 21 consecutive points to take a 2 touchdown lead. Miami kept the good vibes going and held a 31-17 lead at the half.
Pitt stormed back to tie the game in the 3rd quarter, but Miami put together their only scoring drive of the 2nd half on the ensuing possession to take a 38-31 lead. Pitt threatened after that, but Miami held them to a FG, cutting the lead to 38-34.
The teams would trade empty possessions through the final part of the game. Pitt’s final offensive possession ended on Kenny Pickett’s 2nd INT of the day, this one thrown to superstar freshman S James Williams. Miami would string together a pair of first downs to get the ball from the 2 yard line out into the middle of the field. And, in doing so, the Canes got the clock into position to kneel the ball 3 times and take home a big, big win, both for this season, and for the state of this article.
This win marked Miami’s 2nd consecutive victory over a ranked opponent. The offense looks better. The QB is ballin’. The youngsters on the roster who were forced into action when the team was 2-4 and simultaneously hit with injuries are playing up to (and in some cases over) their potential/expectations/ratings. The defense, though still not lockdown, has affected opposing offenses enough to give the offense a chance to win.
And, the most important part: Miami looks to be competently coached. There is a clear plan on all sides of the ball, and the plan has worked. Don’t ignore that last part; it really matters. We’re here talking about Manny Diaz’s job security because for the majority of this season, the system Miami was using and the plans Diaz had employed were NOT working, and that’s putting it mildly.
But, credit to him: Miami has stepped up in the last 2 weeks, beaten a pair of ranked teams, and put themselves in a position where “we still have a chance to win the Coastal” isn’t just some far fetched hope, but a real, tangible possibility....depending on how things break in the future.
Week 9 Heat Check: A set of Scented Candles
For better or worse (depending on your personal thought on the topic), the last 2 weeks had done A LOT to turn down the fire on Diaz and his job security. You all know that the Michigan State game was the end of the road for me with Diaz, but even with that thought, I tweeted the following after the win at Pitt:
I think this win 100% means Diaz is back as HC next season.— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) October 30, 2021
Now, this comes with the obvious caveats against losing the rest of the games or having a 66-3 loss to Duke or something incredibly ridiculous. But, absent something like that, and if Miami continues to be competent and competitive, I absolutely believe that based upon what we’ve seen the last fortnight, Diaz has saved his job...for the time being.
The counterpoint to that, however, is the fact that it absolutely should not have taken until weeks 8 and 9 of the season, respectively, for Miami to finally look like a competent outfit. And before you come at me with “Miami is like 2 plays from being 6-2/7-1”, let me remind you that Miami is that same number of plays from being 2-6 as well. So let’s not have revisionist history to make the early part of the season better than it was. We were all there. We all saw what happened. We don’t have to lie to kick it.
Can a pack of candles turn into a bonfire? Sure. But it will take a lot like spraying aerosol on it, or putting those candles under the curtains, or losing to Duke by 2 TDs, or something similar to turn that relatively mundane heat into an emergency situation.
So, for now, I think Diaz has done what needed done to save his job 100% going into next year.
Here’s hoping he, and the Canes, can keep this kind of performance going.