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How Will Miami Bounce Back After The First Loss of the Cristobal Era?

It’s Not About How Hard You Get Hit, It’s About How Hard You Get Hit and Keep Moving Forward. Recent Canes Seasons Have Been Epitomized By Responding Poorly After Losses.

Miami v Texas A&M Photo by Jack Gorman/Getty Images

To say the least, the Canes’ 17-9 loss at Kyle Field against the Texas A&M Aggies was frustrating. If only they changed the offensive calls, if only they didn’t miss that play, if only they showed more urgency... the list of woulda, coulda, shoulda can go on. The possibility of a win was there for the taking and yes, it is annoying, especially with the high expectations for the Canes this season.

However, it is lazy and premature to say the Canes have reverted back to the issues that have plagued them for the past 20 years – or even the past five years. Miami came within one score of an SEC-opponent in TAMU that was playing with a chip on their shoulder after an embarrassing loss at the hands of Appalachian State. The Canes also have a new regime for the first time since 2018 and as famous philosopher, LeBron James, once said, “Rome wasn’t built in one day.” Many fans are already circling the November 19 trip to Death Valley to face ACC foe, Clemson.

However, in the meantime, so much will be told about this team in the coming days and weeks as Miami starts up their ACC schedule after one more Group of Five non-conference game against Middle Tennessee State. All the Hurricanes can do is move forward, but how they do that will be the key for the 2022 season. Will they have a hangover or will they play with a vengeance?

The season will be made or broken on the ACC slate, as a whole and not just at Clemson. Maintaining focus from start to finish will be integral to Miami’s success. It will also set the tone for seasons to come as they seek to grow off of the recruiting momentum from HC Mario Cristobal’s first offseason at the U.

In past seasons, Miami has failed to keep that focus, which led to the overhaul of the staff at the U. Let’s take a trip down not-so-fond-memory lane to see how the Canes have responded after losses in the past few season…

Miami was ranked 14th coming into the 2021 season and lost the season opener 44-13 to Alabama. The Canes then edged out a 25-23 victory to Appalachian State the following week and then lost three straight against Power Five opponents and were not ranked the remainder of the season.

In the 2020 COVID year, Miami actually looked alright in their bounce back games after losing to Clemson 42-17. They won the games they should have but then lost 62-26 to UNC in a game that should be shown as footage of ‘what not to do.’ Responding to the UNC game, they actually played tough in their 37-34 Bowl game loss against Oklahoma State but it was the Cheez-It Bowl when the Cowboys were sitting key players like Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace.

In 2019, Miami lost another frustrating game against an SEC opponent, the Florida Gators 24-20. That game featured a lot of “if Miami did this they woulda won”, so was similar to the Aggies game. Miami did not come back strong the following week in a loss to UNC and true freshman, Sam Howell. 2019 went from bad-to-worse as the Canes showed zero mental fortitude when they lost to FIU in the infamous Marlins Park game, and then fell to Duke before getting shutout by Louisiana Tech 14-0 in their Bowl game.

2018 featured another SEC matchup where Miami lost 33-17 to LSU and then relatively unknown, Joe Burrow. Miami turned it at back on track by winning five straight games, however no team was better than .500. When they faced their first team with a winning record, the wheels fell completely off as they went on a four game losing skid.

2017 did not feature much responding to losses as the Canes started 10-0 and were number two in the nation heading into Pittsburgh on Black Friday. They lost 24-14 and then took the pedal off the metal in Charlotte for the ACC Championship, where they lost 38-3. The season was not completely lost as they made a New Year’s Six Bowl but played uninspired against Wisconsin in a 34-24 loss.

In these prior years, it was not a question of talent on the field. Instead, a lack of healthy mental pressure has been deemed a scapegoat for the shortcomings. With the new regime, a lot has been said about the increased discipline of this team and a change in atmosphere at practices. It has been seen in small samples in the early portions of the season as Cristobal has appeared to implement a no-nonsense mentality.

The tackling on display seemed to be more sound on Saturday, in spite of the Devon Achane touchdown. And there are indeed things that need to be cleaned up, mostly on the offensive side of the ball, such as dropped passes and poor red zone offense, as well as special teams. That being said, the offensive personnel brought in by OC Josh Gattis is also completely new.

The result in College Station was not the result we wanted on Saturday. But it is the result we got and all that can happen is keep the focus moving forward on improvements.

After MTSU, the Canes start their ACC slate with UNC, Virginia Tech, Duke, and Virginia before facing a revamped FSU. They then face Georgia Tech before traveling to Clemson and finish the season against Pitt. How Miami responds to a tough loss will make or break the season. If the wheels fall off, then it may be appropriate to compare this Canes team to the last two decades. But a frustrating one-score loss – the first of Cristobal’s tenure – in front of 107,000 fans at College Station is not reason to sound the alarms.