Mark Richt knew it was coming.
On his weekly radio segment Monday with flagship station WQAM, the Miami football coach was told about Hurricanes fans who vented on social media after the Canes’ less-than-impressive 24-19 win Saturday at North Carolina.
Sure, they’re 7-0 overall, 5-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and one of only four Power 5 teams to still be undefeated, but they’ve won their past four games by a combined 18 points and have been close to giving it away in the fourth quarter every time.
“Gosh,’’ show host Joe Rose said in an attempt to mimic the upset fans’ attitudes, “it’s the worst undefeated team I’ve ever seen.’’
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Finally, after Rose later brought up “the frustrating part’’ about how the Canes make “all those big plays’’ and “only come away with 24 points,’’ and then asked the coach what frustrated him the most, Richt emoted in his calm, but emphatic way.
“Well, I’m excited about this team to be honest with you. I don’t know what everybody wants to gripe and moan about.”
“They want you to win by 40,’’ Rose said.
“That’s fine,’’ Richt replied. “We’re a team that’s learning how to win. We’re a team that’s coming from a place that, we’re not used to winning. We’re getting to that point.
“The good new is we’re finding a way to win. I know that sounds boring, but that’s the type of team we’ve got right now. We’ve got a team that’s unified, we’ve got a team that’s battling their tail off and we’re finding ways to win.’’
Richt acknowledged that UM “certainly can’t continue to play this way the next couple of weeks offensively and expect to not have another dramatic finish,’’ or even get to the point “where we can’t overcome whatever issues we have.’’
The Hurricanes, who dropped one spot in the AP rankings to No. 9 but rose to No. 6 in the coaches poll, face No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) at 8 p.m. Saturday (ABC) at home in a game that, with outside help from Georgia Tech, could decide the Coastal Division.
“…Let’s think about where we’re at,’’Richt said. “We got a shot at playing a game that’s probably the most meaningful game this deep into the season in a long, long time. We need to seize the moment, as a team, but as a fan base and everybody else.
“…I mean does it matter how we got here? We got here. We’re here. Let’s enjoy it, let’s embrace it, let’s attack it. Let’s enjoy the moment. Because, like I told the team, these are the games you came here for. We have done enough to get to this moment, so let’s turn it loose and have one whale of a ballgame.’’
Richt, who has plenty of perspective after 15 years of coaching at Georgia and last year at his alma-mater Miami, acknowledges the negative, but seems to use the positive to motivate.
▪ On how the Canes make it happen offensively with big plays and takeaways, but don’t sustain many drives: “It’s good we’ve got playmakers. It’s good that we’ve got a scheme that will break guys out and give them an opportunity to make plays one on one. What a lot of defenses are trying to do is pack the box and play a lot of man coverage and we’ve got to have guys that can make plays. And thankfully we do have the skill-set to do that.
“It’s better than not making plays and not scoring touchdowns. I think we’d all rather control the ball a little bit more and have a drive that is 10, 12 plays, but explosive plays, they count too.”
▪ On UM’s shaky run-blocking and inefficiency in the run game (32 rushes for 59 yards, a 1.8-yards-per-carry average against UNC): “We’re not getting a lot of movement. I know twice if we hand the ball off it’s going to spring out big. One might have been a 70-yard house call, so all of a sudden we’re a good running team.
“That’s how it goes sometimes with the running game. You’re banging away and banging away and then all of a sudden, bang, it spits out for a long one. Just like that long touchdown run to finish the game against Syracuse. Every once in a while it takes a minute to find a crease and then all of a sudden you’re going the distance…and your run stats are different.”
▪ On the UM defense giving up big running plays and then being lights-out dominant in the red zone: “People talk about hidden yardage. A lot of times you might not score on a drive but, you might turn the field position so all of a sudden when the defense is lining up, they’re not lining up with 20 yards behind them, they’re lining up with 80 yards behind them. When that happens it allows for an occasional ball to spit out of there and go down field.
“Even the goal-line stand [we] had. How magnificent was that? How [UNC] got there wasn’t real pretty but the fact that it looked like they scored and the replay shows they didn’t get in. Then we find a way to keep them out of the end zone. It’s tremendous. Just really proud of those guys.”
▪ The ACC announced Monday that UM junior defensive tackle RJ McIntosh was named the league’s Defensive Lineman of the Week. McIntosh had 11 tackles and a pass breakup against UNC.