Manny Diaz spent plenty of time last week telling his Miami Hurricanes about the “adversity of expectation.”
Expect a blowout, or even just a nondescript victory, and it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s far worse.
After the Canes (1-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) struggled in the first quarter last week against FCS Bethune-Cookman, they likely began to realize what Diaz had warned about before turning on the burners to dominate 63-0.
The second game of the University of Miami’s longest single-season homestand since 1987 kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday from Hard Rock Stadium, and as 29 1/2-point favorites against the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference), the Canes’ collective psyche will be tested again.
“All you have to do is put on any channel of football on any Saturday,’’ UM coach Manny Diaz said this week on Hurricane Hotline. “It is very hard to bring the same team to the stadium two weeks in a row. Look at some of the scores...around the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing an FCS team like we did. There are some people that played an FCS team as big favorites that came away losers. And the reason why is because they weren’t the same team they were the week before..”
The struggling Tennessee Volunteers paid the Sun Belt’s Georgia State $950,000 for the opportunity to play the Vols in Knoxville, then got humiliated 38-30 to start their season. And after going 5-7 in 2018, Maryland started 2019 by beating FCS Howard 79-0, then Syracuse 63-20 before falling to Temple last week by three points.
Then, there’s the ACC’s Georgia Tech, which meets UM on Oct. 19 and has switched from its long-time option offense under former coach Paul Johnson to a spread attack under Geoff Collins — and lost last weekend in overtime at home to The Citadel, the first Yellow Jackets loss to an FCS team since 1983.
This is the first time the Hurricanes and Chippewas are meeting, one week before the Canes begin their ACC schedule at home against Virginia Tech.
“There are a couple type games that you have to learn how to win,’’ Diaz said on Hurricane Hotline. “We’re going to have to learn how to win a close game, obviously, because we lost two close games [to Florida 24-20 and to North Carolina 28-25]. “But these games, where they end up being great separation on the scoreboard, they never start that way.
“We talked to our team before [Bethune-Cookman] about the adversity of expectation. When you get in a game like this and you know you’re a huge favorite and everyone is expecting you to win, all of a sudden there becomes a pressure to play with style points. You know, as if every play should be a first down or every play on defense should be a sack or tackle for loss. ...Then, when negative things happen, you feel the strain of the ‘oh-my-gosh’ and the negative energy.”
Diaz said that after UM scored only once in four first-quarter drives against B-CU, he told his players, ‘Can you feel it? Can you feel that weight of the expectation, like, ‘Why are we not winning by 100 already?’ And that’s how it happens.”
Diaz hopes that won’t be the case this week against the Chippewas, who are led by former Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain, and won their conference opener 45-24 last weekend against Akron. Junior transfer quarterback David Moore got the start over the Zips after usual starter Quinten Dormady was injured the previous week. Moore, who will start against Miami, completed 20 of 31 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns.
“They know how to formation you and get you into certain coverages that make you hurt,’’ McElwain told cm-life.com. “We’ve got our work cut out for us because they do an excellent job down there.’’
McElwain noted he liked the idea of his Chippewas playing at Hard Rock, an NFL stadium.
“The chance to play in a pro stadium for these guys is pretty cool,’’ McElwain said. “I’m excited for them and that’s the biggest message.’’
Diaz said Central Michigan, coached from 2010-2014 by current Canes offensive coordinator Dan Enos, like the Hurricanes, have a new staff and “played their best game” last week and are “finding their sea legs in all three phases.’’
“Obviously,’’ Diaz added, “we know with Jim McElwain they’re going to have a well-designed offense. They’re very multiple, like us. They present a lof of personnel groups, formations, motions, shifts -- a lot to have to adjust to on defense.’’
The Chippewas lost to Wisconsin 61-0 Sept. 7. The Canes ended 2018 with a 35-3 loss to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Like last week, Saturday’s game is slated for the ACC Network, to which most homes in South Florida do not have access.
“Need everyone back at Hard Rock this Saturday!’’ UM punter Jack Spicer tweeted on Thursday. “#GoCanes.’’
True freshman linebacker Sam Brooks, who played his first game at Hard Rock last Saturday, said it give him “the chills’’ to play there.
“I was pretty excited, but still a little bit nervous,’’ Brooks said. “I pulled through it and the crowd just hyped me up. All our fans were there and all the noise... I love the atmosphere in Hard Rock Stadium.’’
UM’s five-game homestand continues through Oct. 19.