Diaz: ‘We need a good old competition to find out who our best guys are.’
The Hurricanes need to toughen up when the going gets rough.
That, basically, is what defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Wednesday during his first media access following the 33-17 victory by now-No. 11 LSU over now-No. 22 Miami.
The 50-yard LSU touchdown sprint by tailback Nick Brossette was the play that broke UM’s spirit and began a 30-point barrage by the Tigers — to which the Hurricanes failed to immediately fight back and show some grit, indicated Diaz.
“The game wasn’t an issue of tactics,’’ Diaz said. “We made a mistake on a long run and we didn’t respond to it.”
“The whole football team. We dropped our gloves in the second quarter. Offense, defense, special teams. And that, to me, was the most disappointing part... We didn’t look like we were very mentally tough. In these games, there’s going to be give and take. You’re not going to lose a game because you give up a touchdown in the first half to make it 10-3, but we did, because after that point, we did not respond.
“Above everything from the game, that was the most disappointing part.”
Last season, according to cfbstats.com, the Canes gave up only run of more than 50 yards. This season, it happened on the fifth rush.
The Brossette run came at 9:21 in the second quarter and gave LSU the seven-point lead. Among its backups, UM had linebackers Mike Smith and Bradley Jennings and safety Robert Knowles on the field for the play.
Diaz was asked if he needs to tighten the rotation now and have starters play more.
“It might be the opposite,’’ the coach responded. “Because, how many guys do we have that have proven they can play at a high level? If anything, we need to reduce the feeling of entitlement and guys that are convinced … We needed good, old competition to find out who our best guys are now that the games are here and we’re not reading about ourselves — and find out who’s really serious about this.
“For us to accomplish anything, we’ve got to show some resilience. And not the resilience to not surrender.
“Yes, we made it a little bit of a game in the second half, but to respond right then, respond right then and punch right back when you get punched in the mouth, we didn’t have that.”
Concluded Diaz: “Everybody’s hurt. And we’re still hurt. Even [Wednesday’s] practice, there’s still some rawness out here. Guys invested a lot in that game and they’re not happy at the way that it went. But maybe that’s the thing that’s going to get this chip back on our shoulder and …
“Look, there’s no talking and no one from the outside will care. But on the inside, us that care, we’ve got to come back from this thing and we’ve got to get ourselves to when we play, it looks like the way we want us to play.”
Middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman said it has become “very important’’ for the players to speak up.
“This school came from people that did the same thing before us,’’ Quarterman said. “It can’t be the coaches. A coach-led team cannot win a championship. It has to be a player-led team. It has to be people on the team willing to step out front and be the one to say enough is enough. We have a lot of those guys on the team.”
Is Quarterman one of them?
“Of course,’’ he said. “Even at the game at halftime, we came down and dug ourselves a pretty deep hole. I said, ‘They can’t get another touchdown. They can’t get another point.’ To that, we came back out and I said, ‘I don’t care what the scoreboard says. We’re going to outhit them in the second half.’’’
UM held LSU to six second-half points, but ultimately it proved too late.
▪ Hurricanes sophomore punter Zach Feagles punted five times Sunday, the first three of which appeared to be shanks of 20, 34 and 22 yards. His long was 54, which brought his average to 36.4. But special teams coordinator Todd Hartley said Wednesday that Feagles is “our guy.’’
“Don’t you think that if we thought somebody was better than him we’d play him over Feagles? He comes out here and he punts his butt off every single day. Feagles is going to be fine, trust me.”
Hartley and coach Mark Richt said an LSU player went unblocked on the first play and came right through a gap toward Feagles. Because of that, they said, Feagles got spooked and rushed that kick as well as at least a couple afterward. “He actually did an unbelievable job of not getting the punt blocked,’’ Hartley said.
The backup punter is redshirt junior Jack Spicer, who recorded the first two punts of his UM career in the ACC title game against Clemson, averaging 42.5 yards with a long of 51 yards.
▪ Starting receiver Ahmmon Richards, who did not return to the LSU game after he landed on his knee on his only catch in the first quarter, was not at practice Wednesday during media viewing...Senior defensive end Demetrius Jackson, who also “banged his knee a little bit’’ against LSU, Richt said, was on a conditioning bike during media viewing.