Hurricanes fans have been, as University of Miami coach Mark Richt noted this past week, in “a tizzy’’ about their football team.
Coming into Saturday’s home game against Duke, the Canes were 5-3 overall and had lost two in a row on the road. So, we went out into tailgating territory at Hard Rock Stadium before kickoff to gauge the mood on homecoming.
It was mostly stunned silence when, 12 seconds into the game, Duke running back broke left from a mass of players to sprint 75 yards for a touchdown on the Blue Devils’ first play from scrimmage. The boos then began after UM quarterback Malik Rosier scrambled for 3 yards, then got really loud when Canes center Tyler Gauthier was flagged for a personal foul on the same play.
They began cheering when backup quarterback N’Kosi Perry replaced Rosier with 7:28 left in the first quarter.
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“You should be booed if you’re not playing well,’’ said Brad Piechoski, 28, “a diehard” UM fan who loves the Canes win or lose and has a UM undergraduate degree in civil engineering and MBA in finance. “We’re there to cheer you on when you’re playing well. My dad is from Philadelphia. Philadelphia fans are horrible. They threw snowballs at Santa Claus on Christmas. … I’m the same way with the Canes. If the Canes are playing bad, boo ‘em. It’s a motivator.
“If they boo, it’s probably because the quarterback isn’t playing well or we’re not having good play calls. We call a draw play up the middle, like, every single other play. And it goes for no gain. It’s very frustrating.”
Longtime season-ticket holder Carlos Collada, 50, of West Palm Beach, is a bit more patient.
“It’s college football,’’ Collada said. “There’s only one Alabama and there’s only one Clemson, then everybody else. Do I think it should be better? Sure, but I don’t want Coach Richt fired. I don’t think he needs to bring in an offensive coordinator.
“Social media is for the youngsters to go crazy. I see it. I’m on the message boards: Fire this guy, fire that guy. That’s not the real world. If you fire these guys, then what do you do? They act like you’re going to get on a jet and get [Alabama coach Nick] Saban.
“Not everybody loves Miami like we love Miami. Most people outside of Miami can’t stand us.”
The stadium parking lot was packed and flowing with a continuous stream of hip hop and Latin music blaring from sound systems. The clouds began forming about an hour before kickoff and unleashed with a downpour midway through the first quarter.
Ben Sylvia, a 37-year-old season-ticket holder from Cape Coral, isn’t surprised by the boos. Before the game, Sylvia said he expected them and doesn’t think there’s a problem with fans booing.
“Fan is short for fanatic,” Sylvia said. “We’re here. We have expectations. We’re one of the greatest organizations in college football ever, so we have expectations.”
Also in the crowd Saturday was Tracey Bandy, the mother of cornerback Trajan Bandy. Tracey, who called herself a Panthers, Marlins, Heat and Dolphins fan, said her son is a natural optimist.
“Trajan stays positive,” she said, noting that her advice to Trajan is to keep his head up. “Sometimes you have to lose to be a true winner. You can learn a lot from it.”
Jorge Varona, 63, a 1977 Miami graduate, wore a light-up turnover chain and held a bottle of Mississippi Mud rum in the parking lot before the game. He proposed his own solution to cope with the Hurricanes’ struggles.
“I’m here, but you know the key to this thing,” Varona said, “Rum. You just have to stay with the Hurricanes. Maybe it’s not this year, but the following year, or the following year.”