All week, UM coach Al Golden has been asked on radio shows and during teleconferences — and yes, right after the Hurricanes’ 21-16 upset over the Gators — about his team’s sputtering offense.
And all week, Golden, whose defense, not offense, was the focus of intense criticism last year, has been explaining the virtues of patience.
He admitted to being frustrated by the lack of third-down conversions — 1 of 11 against Florida (with 212 yards of total offense) and 4 of 14 against FAU (with 503 yards). And he has acknowledged the passing game isn’t as crisp as it needs to be, the veteran offensive line didn’t generate a ground game against the Gators and some players “lost their composure” and “lost their technique.”
But the offensive strategy against UF, Golden said, unfolded as coaches realized the game had become a back-and-forth slugfest and the Canes defense could be trusted.
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As Golden witnessed Pat O’Donnell’s booming punts backing up the Gators and the Canes’ defense getting takeaways, he said it was prudent “just to be patient.” He praised UM offensive coordinator James Coley for not resorting to what he said the Canes sometimes did in the past: winging the ball and risking turnovers, which would have come against a fierce secondary.
Don’t take the bait
“I kept telling James just to be patient,” Golden said on Hurricane Hotline. “It’s so important that you have guys like that on your staff, because you could easily say, ‘Hey, we’re not getting an inch, so let’s just throw it.’ But now you’ve taken the cheese, you’ve taken the bait, and the whole thing unravels on you.
“We never let that unravel.”
He compared UM’s conservative strategy to two great tennis players at the baseline.
“There’s nothing wrong with just hitting it back for a while, until you get the angle and the shot you want,” he said. “We just kept hitting it back and said, ‘OK, you’re going to hit the net, or you’re going to hit it long. Prove to us that you can beat us.’ ”
Golden blamed quarterback Stephen Morris’ fourth-quarter interception on himself, telling WQAM play-by-play announcer Joe Zagacki that it was “absolutely my fault because that should have been what we call a CAR play — catch and run” — on third-and-25 from the Miami 37-yard line.
Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, whose father is a former UM linebackers coach, intercepted Morris and returned the ball 24 yards.
“We could have easily just conceded it, or threw it underneath and picked up 10 or 12 yards, punted it for 50 and then had a 62-yard swing,” Golden said. “Just a bad judgment call on my part.”
Golden refused to pin any blame on Morris or veteran receiver Phillip Dorsett, who for the second week were out of sync at times — though the two connected on a perfectly executed 52-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
On one play with just over 10 minutes left in the final quarter, Dorsett cut toward the middle of the field on a safety blitz, his back to Morris as the quarterback threw to another spot.
“They just disconnected a couple times and that’s it,” Golden said Wednesday. “It’s really not a function of any one thing.”
Morris and his teammates worked on third-down offense the past few days, said Golden, who wants to get the tight ends and some of the younger receivers such as Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis more in the mix.
“Stephen’s balance is excellent right now,” Golden said. “He’s throwing the ball really well.”
Former UM running back Clinton Portis interviewed Morris on ACC Live this week, remarking about the offense not “clicking” like last year.
“A lot of times on third-down conversions, we’re failing because we’re not communicating what we need to do,” Morris said. “It just takes one little thing to mess up a play, so we’ve got to focus on the little things and do those a lot better.”