Greg Cote

Look past pain of Miami Hurricanes’ loss to Clemson in ACC final and see the progress

A dejected University of Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios (8) walks off the field after the Hurricanes were defeated by the Clemson Tigers 38-3 in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.
A dejected University of Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios (8) walks off the field after the Hurricanes were defeated by the Clemson Tigers 38-3 in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

It was a beautiful sound, the perfect symphony, but the dissonant notes toward the end are all we can hear now. Right?

The Miami Hurricanes were sailing at 10-0. Then, a shocking loss at Pitt. Now, a humbling — no, embarrassing! — 38-3 loss to Clemson on Saturday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This was the gauge-game for whether UM truly was “back.” Second-year coach Mark Richt admitted it, saying before the game, “We’ll find out Saturday for sure. It’ll be a great measuring stick to see where we’re at.”

We found out.

You want to say the Canes got humiliated? They did. You want to feel only the hurt of that? Go ahead. You have the right. The score and stats are on your side.

But here’s the thing:

Where the Canes are at is OK. Where they’re at is encouraging. Where they’re at is progress. Where they’re at is on the road to back, with a clear path.

The Canes got their [bleeps] kicked Saturday. No equivocating that or sugar-coating it. Clemson played like what it was: a No. 1-ranked team and the defending national champion. Miami played like what it was: a No. 7-ranked team trying to be what Clemson is (and not there yet).

Don’t be myopic for this result, though. See beyond it. See what’s ahead.

Miami now prepares for a home-stadium bowl game in the Orange Bowl game, a tableau presenting itself as a wonderful recruiting tool to enhance what already is projected to be a top-five ranked national recruiting class. It should be a love-in, thanks for what has been a special season despite Saturday’s awfulness.

The buzz of this season, personified by the phenomena of the Turnover Chain, has not disappeared.

Miami is either back or headed there, and that’s especially in the context of the Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gators both coming off astonishingly mediocre seasons and in the midst of coaching upheaval.

If you don’t think this is a great time for Richt to recruit, you may be insane.

Saturday was humbling, though, yes, for sure, in UM’s first time playing for the ACC title since joining the league in 2003. It was UM’s biggest football game, bar none, since the 2002 season ended. It was a play-in game for the College Football Playoff semifinals.

There was no need for hyperbole. All you needed was facts. This was the Canes’ biggest football game in 15 years. A win would have meant UM was two wins away from winning the school’s sixth national championship and first since 2001.

And Miami fell flat. Went splat! Quarterback Malik Rosier, missing two of his top receivers in Ahmmon Richards and Chris Herndon, was really bad. The running game didn’t show up. The UM defense should sue the offense. It was a nightmare. Last time these schools met, it was 58-0, Clemson, and Al Golden got fired.

This felt almost as bad — worse, given the bigger stage, the bigger stakes.

Perspective, though, right?

Before this season, would you have taken 10-2 heading into the Orange Bowl?

You would have. And you know it.

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