Whether they end up in El Paso again for the Sun Bowl, Nashville for the Music City Bowl or some other bowl far away from the spotlight, coach Al Golden said Sunday ending his fourth season with a pair of wins is the best way the University of Miami “can show some progress” and bounce back from Saturday’s ugly 30-13 loss at Virginia.
Certainly, outside of doing that, it would be hard for UM fans to tell the difference between the job Golden had done in his four years here compared to his predecessor.
Randy Shannon was 28-22, 16-16 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 0-2 in bowl games when he was fired shortly after a 23-20 loss to the University of South Florida two days after Thanksgiving in 2010.
Heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale at home against Pittsburgh (5-6, 3-4 ACC) — two days after Thanksgiving — the Hurricanes (6-5, 3-4) have gone 28-20 overall, 16-15 in the ACC and 0-1 in bowl games under Golden. Golden is 8-9 over his past 17 games following a 7-0 start to the 2013 season.
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“As you know, I can’t worry about the outside,” Golden said Sunday when asked how he would be able to convince recruits real progress at UM is being made under his leadership. “It’s really important for us to coach the kids we have, try to make them the best players and team we can.
“Continue to make sure our staff executes, works together, has good morale and do everything we can to move the program forward. We have to get ready for Pittsburgh and win a game and go to a bowl game and win a bowl game for the first time in a while. If we do that, we can show some progress.”
One of UM’s top recruits, Miami Killian All-American safety Jaquan Johnson, told the Miami Herald on Sunday UM’s loss to Virginia wouldn’t affect his commitment.
“I’m in the [state] playoffs, so that’s what’s on my mind right now,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure what’s going on in other people’s minds. But a team’s overall record doesn’t affect my thinking. I’m just going there to play. Miami is where I’m going to be.”
Golden had good news to share Sunday regarding receiver Herb Waters, who was strapped to a gurney and carted off the field at Virginia following a helmet-to-helmet collision on a kickoff return.
“He has a strained neck,” Golden said. “He’s in great spirits right now. It was a scary moment. Whenever somebody goes down like that you really don’t know what’s actually going on. We all said a prayer for Herb, and we’re glad he’s going to be healthy.”
Golden said the team was informed during the game Waters was moving his extremities. After being taken to the campus hospital at Virginia, Waters was cleared by doctors following a battery of tests. He then flew back with the team. Golden said UM will be careful with Waters in practice this week but didn’t rule him out from playing against Pitt.
PLAYERS ON GOLDEN
Tight end Clive Walford and linebacker Denzel Perryman both defended Golden following Saturday’s loss.
Walford went as far as to tell his teammates “forget about [Senior Day]. Let’s [beat Pitt] for Coach Golden.”
“Clive pretty much just said it all,” Perryman said. “It’s time for us to take the blame and get the load off Coach Golden. Like Clive said, he always gets up here in front of you all and puts the losses on the coaches. But at the end of the day it’s on us. We’re out there making the plays.”
Perryman said he takes the criticism of Golden “real personal because a lot of people are looking at it from the outside in. They really don’t know what’s going on. Outsiders, they think they know football. That really gets to me.”
Golden said Sunday “there’s no question” it was a challenge to find some level of motivation after UM’s loss to Florida State eliminated the Canes from the Coastal Division race. But Golden said “it is not an excuse.”
▪ Safety Deon Bush, who didn’t make the trip to Virginia because of a hamstring injury, will be re-evaluated within the next 48 hours Golden said. “It’s really going to be the tell-tale for Deon,” Golden said.
▪ Running back Gus Edwards, who sat out against Florida State because of an ankle injury, played on special teams Saturday at Virginia. But his ankle is still not where it needs to be, Golden said, so they didn’t give him more responsibilities.
▪ Pittsburgh, coming off a 30-7 win Saturday against Syracuse, has the nation’s fourth-leading rusher in sophomore James Conner (261 attempts, 1,600 yards, 22 TDs) and ranks 17th in the country rushing. The Panthers have lost six of their past eight.