What should have been a landmark celebratory victory for the University of Miami football team and coach Al Golden over Georgia Tech on Saturday was marred by one dark moment that troubled both the coach and the entire team.
That was when freshman Malcolm Lewis, a starting wide receiver, caught a pass in the first quarter, and when tackled, had his ankle horrendously twisted. Golden explained the result of that injury Sunday: “This season is done for Malcolm,” he said.
Golden had a clear view when the injury happened and instantly rushed onto the field, cradling Lewis’ neck and talking to him as medics and training staff worked on him.
“I saw from where I was, around midfield, it just didn’t look right,” Golden said. “It didn’t look good so I ran out there. I knew he was scared. We’ve all had injuries at one point, and you start thinking ‘is my season over?’ That’s what you think when you can’t see the result of the injury. Certainly, in this case, he could see the result of the injury. That was tough.”
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So, for several minutes, Golden stayed on the field, kneeling next to Lewis, trying to comfort him.
“We were just trying to be there for him and make sure he knows we’re there for him and that we’ll get through it,” Golden said. When he used the word “we” Golden meant not only himself, but the entire team and coaching staff, which gathered on the sideline in prayer as Lewis was being attended to.
Of Lewis’ injury, originally said to be a dislocation, Golden said, “It’s different from dislocating a finger. There’s probably a fracture involved when it’s a dislocation like that. Ultimately, there will have to be some sort of procedure done and then we’ll get him back on track.”
Golden said UM would apply for a medical hardship waiver for Lewis. “I really yield to [NCAA] compliance but I believe this falls within the parameters of that. It’s safe to say we’ll apply.”
If granted, Lewis would have four more years of eligibility at UM after this season.
The injury certainly took away from UM’s 42-36 come-from-behind overtime victory over Georgia Tech, but it didn’t prevent the pride Golden felt about his team’s determination and dedication in rallying from a 17-point deficit.
“I told them to enjoy it,” Golden said. “But we have to be careful. We talk about treating victory and defeat -- those two imposters are the same. Triumph and tragedy.
“The bigger challenge and the challenge for the Miami Hurricanes is to take this in stride up until 7 o’clock Sunday. That gives us about 24 hours and then let’s move forward. Let’s put a curfew, if you will, on enjoying this. Then let’s get back to work and let’s see if we can get better.”
The triumph left the Canes at 3-1 overall and 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division. North Carolina State (3-1, 0-0) comes to Miami for a noon game on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.
“We have another excellent test,” said Golden, always looking forward. “We just have to keep improving. I hope the challenge for the team is trusting the process and getting back to work.”
Another injury Saturday occurred to starting punter Dalton Botts. His status is uncertain.
“It’s a sprained ankle right now,” Golden said. “We don’t think it’s a high ankle where it’s going to be multiple weeks or anything. It’s probably going to be Thursday or Friday before we know where we’re going to be. Hopefully, by Thursday we’ll be able to get him to kick a little bit.”
Summing up Saturday’s victory, a game in which Miami entered as a 14-point underdog, Golden said, “There was no question it was a great effort by virtue of coming back and hanging together down the stretch. I think it says a lot about the direction we’re going.”
Certainly running back Mike James knew what direction he was going — downfield and into the end zone. James scored four touchdowns, including a 25-yard run for the game-winning score.
“Mike James is an incredible leader for us, really the heart and soul of our team,” Golden said. “It’s hard to say anybody played any better than Mike James on Saturday, and I’m really happy for the kid.”
• Golden was asked why freshman cornerback Tracy Howard was used sparingly. He said, “We really don’t want to play a lot of freshman in the back four in a game like that. That’s such a hard defense to play as a freshman.”