Go ahead and take a bow Hurricanes fans.
You’ve earned it in the eyes of coach Mark Richt.
With seventh-ranked Miami (10-1) set to take on No. 1-ranked Clemson Saturday night, UM’s coach was asked Friday about the support he and the team has received this season from its fans, who could be 20,000 to 25,000 strong for the Canes’ first appearance in the ACC title game.
“They have been phenomenal,” Richt said Friday during his pregame press conference at Bank of America Stadium. “There’s two things I can tell when the crowd is doing great.
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“One is when I’m on my headset, I can hear the crowd through my mouthpiece back into my ears. That’s when I know the crowd is really going crazy.
“Another way of knowing it is the fact that we’ve had to actually go to non-verbal [communication] at home. They’re cheering so hard, sometimes they’re cheering for the turnover chain. A couple times they’re cheering for the turnover chain, we’re on offense, we can’t hear what’s going on. We’re like ‘Let's go non-verbal.’ ”
There’s actually a third way, too, Richt said.
“If you watch the TV copy after game, you can hear and feel the spirit of the fan base, that’s exceptional,” Richt said.
“I’m not shocked that they’re coming in droves. I was thinking about them today as we were getting on the plane. You know the sacrifice our fans are making to come to this game, flights obviously, a little more expensive than driving. Some will probably drive. There will be some flying, for sure. There will probably be some people buying some winter gear. I don’t know if everybody down there has anything to handle a cool day or a cool night. Anyway, I’m very proud of our fan base.”
MORE FROM RICHT’S PRESSER
In a lot of ways the Hurricanes are ahead of schedule having reached the ACC title game in Richt’s second season at the helm. And in a lot of ways UM still has a long way to go to get to where the Tigers are having won a national title a year ago, played for one the season before that and gone 42-3 since 2014.
“It takes time and cycles of recruiting, years of recruiting, to get where Clemson is right now,” Richt said when asked if he thought the Hurricanes were ahead of schedule.
“When you look at Clemson on tape, you’re like, ‘Wow, look at these guys.’ You can tell they’ve been doing for it a while, not only recruiting well, but developing well for a while now. For the most part Dabo has kept his staff together, too. I think that’s important. So if you can do that year after year after year at a place like Miami, we can hope to be where we’re at now on a pretty consistent basis. You’re not going to win every year, but you feel like you’re going to be right in there every single year.
“As far as a timetable, all I can tell you is our plan was to become the best we can be and win every game we play. When we line up, we don't say, ‘Man, we think we’ll win that one, but I don’t know if we can win that one. We go into every game believing we can win. This year we’ve won all the close games where last year we didn’t.”
▪ As rough as last week’s performance was for quarterback Malik Rosier in a 24-14 loss at Pittsburgh, Richt said the Hurricanes probably wouldn’t be in the ACC title game if it weren’t for his ability to run with the football – something former quarterback Brad Kaaya couldn’t give the Canes.
“He’s got plenty of arm strength to throw any ball that you could ask a guy to throw,” Richt said. “Then he’s got some wheels. He’s not the most prolific runner in America, but he’s been an effective runner. Without his running ability, I don’t think we're here today, to go along with his ability to think, process and throw.
“We'’e certainly put in some quarterback run game for him throughout the season that has made a big difference for us. I mean, those are the things that helped him win the job. I’m really, really proud of him because I wasn't convinced he was going to be the guy going into camp, I can tell you that.”
▪ Richt and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney appeared surprised by the news of Jimbo Fisher stepping down at rival Florida State Friday to take the Texas A&M job.
Richt, 57, said he did an event with Fisher and Florida’s governor earlier this year and thought for sure “we’d be doing things like that for years to come.”
“I've been through it, so I know job changes can happen,” Richt said. “They happen for different reasons. I’m not going to get in anybody’s business. Certainly I have heard what’s going on, but I haven’t focused on it at all because I’m trying to get ready to get a first down or two, you know.”
Swinney, 48, didn’t believe Friday’s news at first when he was told by reporters.
“Is that like a tweet?” Swinney asked. “I like Jimbo. It’s been a great competitive journey. I’ve known him forever. When I was at Alabama, he was at Auburn. If that’s what he's doing, evidently he feels like that’s the right move for him and his family and the right time to do so.
“Florida State is Florida State. They’ll hire a great coach. I don’t have any doubt about that. I guess we’ll see him next year if that’s what he’s going to do. We play Texas A&M for the next two years. If he is, I can’t get rid of him, still be a thorn in our side.”