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Random Canes Ramble: Remembering How Much Fun The 2017 Defense Was

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A perfect defense, in a perfect time, in a perfect city.

Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma take top spots in College Football Playoff rankings Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Over the last 20 years watching Miami Hurricane football, I've seen much more heartbreak than I have joyful victories. I’ve endured countless bowl losses, 7-straight losses to FSU at one point, and Mark D’onofrio as a defensive coordinator. So what I'm saying, I don't have as many fond memories of the Canes since I became a fan, compared to someone who’s been watching UM since the 80’s.

However, there will always be one memory, one incredible season, that I’ve cherished more than anything as my days as a Hurricanes fans. In the fall of 2017, Miami gave me, and a fanbase longing for something, excitement. They didn’t do it though a high-prolific offense, they weren’t scoring 30 points per game, they did with one of the most entertaining, and fun defenses you’ll ever see in college football.

During that season, I experienced something I had never seen before as a football fan, where I was more excited to watch my defense than my offense. Now, was that because I was terrified of where Malik Rosier was going to throw it? Perhaps, sometimes.

I was excited because this defense was rare in the way, that you couldn't leave the room when watching the game, because you may miss something. That year, the Canes were #1 in sacks per game and #4 in takeaways per game.

Nowadays, you see the Hurricanes defense force a turnover, you know the Turnover Chain is coming out. In fact, almost every team in college football has some kind of turnover prize. I remember a time in 2017, when we saw the Turnover Chain for the first time, and it was perfect. It was new, it was exciting, it came out of nowhere. Seeing Malek Young put on the Chain, dripping in swag, you know we were on to something from that point on.

As the year went on, the Chain became bigger, and the roars of the crowd became louder when the Canes forced a turnover. For a program that had been mediocre for the better part of 10+ years, the Turnover Chain came at a perfect time, in a perfect city.

And what made it, Miami had the perfect players on defense to make it all happen, and make it all look cool. The Hurricanes were finally winning again, they had the Chain, the defense was dominating, it was incredible. If they had lost one of those games early on in 2017, like at FSU, or against Georgia Tech, Turnover Chain never would’ve returned in my opinion.

There’s something about a defensive team, for some reason, you feel more connected to them. This is definitely a game that is ruled by scoring points and spread offenses, but there’s just something about having that kind of defense, gives you a blue-collar feel about your team. Does that make sense? No? Ok, let’s move on.

They were led by little known players on defense too, which also made it special. Take Trent Harris for example. You had no idea who he was, and then all of a sudden in his final season, he racks up 8.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs. Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh at defensive tackle, not the most gifted players there, but you couldn’t run at them or block them.

Sheldrick Redwine, a guy who switched from cornerback to safety that season, and ended up being one of the most important players on that defense. He also had perhaps the coolest moment from 2017, after Miami defeated Virginia Tech, Redwine wrote on a white-board and spelled out “ball game.” Perfect.

That Va Tech game man, Hard Rock Stadium was just a sea of black, the Canes were in black jerseys, that night was made for defense. I can still see RJ McIntosh, scooping up a fumble that somehow bounced perfectly into his arms, and for a split second, I actually thought he was going for a touchdown.

Then who could forget, when the leader of that defense and team, Jaquan Johnson, when the Hokies were facing a 4th-down, #4 snagged a one-handed interception.

When Notre Dame came to town the next week, and you realized how loud that stadium was, and 65,000 people are all just waiting for the defense to cause a turnover. When Zach McCloud literally dropped an interception on the first drive, and you thought the stadium may collapse. Then Jaquan made an interception, and then Malek......

Then of course you have, what seems like, a storybook moment when Trajan Bandy intercepts Ian Book and runs it back for a touchdown, with Jonathan Garvin and Amari Carter running right with him. You could’ve put the 2019 LSU Tigers offense with Joe Brady up against Miami’s defense that night, and they wouldn’t have done anything.

A moment that is overlooked however, was senior day at Miami against Virginia the following week. Canes fall down 14-0 early, then 28-14 in the 3rd quarter, then after they tied it at 28 and they’re looking for a stop from their defense, Jaquan Johnson.....pick six.

I understand that these memories aren’t exactly winning national championships, but man, those were some great times. And that was my random ramble of the week.