They earned this. And they deserved it.
The Miami Hurricanes earned Saturday’s victory against the Florida Gators because it was a backyard-brawl of a game that came ugly and came hard — “Nothing easy out on that field for either team,” as coach Al Golden put it afterward.
They deserved it in a broader sense, this moment and this feeling because of all that this program has been through the past few years. Because of the mess Golden inherited and has handled with such grace. Because of the NCAA anvil that continues a threat to drop on UM and these players for others’ old sins.
All of these emotions roiled inside the Canes’ head coach as the seconds wound down on this 21-16 triumph, this signature victory of his UM tenure now in its third season. He had to let those emotions out. It had been a long time.
So he ran.
It was not a mannerly coach-trot. It was a full-out sprint, orange necktie flying. Golden burst some 50 yards toward the west end-zone to join his celebrating defensive players who had won this game and had just ended the Gators’ last hopes.
A good feeling
He ran and he ran and that anvil fell off him. He might have been flying, carried by satisfaction and relief and joy. He reached his players and his own ecstatic shouts merged with the din.
You’re damned right this coach and this team deserved this feeling.
“We’ve been through so much,” Golden said afterward, trying to find the words for what sent him on that crazy dash as time expired. “It was almost cathartic. Twenty-six months just unleashed there in the last four or five seconds.”
Golden’s Canes had not beaten an opponent ranked as high as Florida (No. 12 in The Associated Press poll coming in), and neither had any UM team since 2009.
Now it is Miami that will come charging into next week’s national Top 25s, possibly in the high teens.
Saturday also marked a victory for Canes fans. The packed crowd of 76,869 set a UM record for the Dolphins’ stadium and included plenty of Florida fans, yes. But there were a lot more fans touching thumbs to form a U than there were slapping palms in a Gator Chomp. The Canes absolutely enjoyed the home-field advantage some doubted it would have Saturday (with help from a UM defense that tended to give UF fans laryngitis)
The framework of this game only underlined the magnitude of the result. These great old rivals were meeting for the 55th time since 1938, and maybe for the last time, with no additional games on the horizon or being discussed.
Miami and Florida had last met in 2008, when the current players were in high school. No matter. It was Canes and Gators. The animus is handed down.
“A high trash-talking game,” Miami quarterback Stephen Morris described it. “It was dirty. A lot of dirty plays out there.”
It was as ugly at times as it was elbowy, which can happen when two great defenses take a game upon themselves.
Florida’s defense limited UM to 212 total yards, its fewest in a game in four years.
And Miami’s defense pounded the Gators into five turnovers, had a fourth-down stop and forced four punts.
We knew Florida’s defense was supposed to be good.
That Miami’s is, too, is the revelation that bodes well for a big season.