It was all heavy on the Miami Hurricanes. The expectations, so great. The hype, so high. The demand of fans, with so much pent-up hope. The burden of history, of five national championships.
All of this bore down on No. 8-ranked UM Sunday night in this nationally televised, neutral-site season opener vs. No. 25 LSU in Arlington, Texas.
And the Canes got crushed under the weight of it all.
It was 33-17, LSU. It didn’t seem that close.
Now, all at once, the air comes out. The buzz mutes. Everything sags. One game in, and it feels like the entire season has become an uphill climb.
All of that is true.
But wait. Because this is true, too:
One game in is the key phrase in all of this. It is too soon to concede anything. Miami still has every chance to equal or better last year’s 10-3 record, to reach the ACC Championship Game again, to go major-bowling.
What we can say, based on Sunday, is that UM’s No. 8 preseason Associated Press ranking was generous, especially considering the Canes ended last season ranked 13th. Miami will fall now into the high teens (I’d guess) and have to make the long climb to prove this is a top-10 team. Because it looked far from that Sunday night.
LSU, barely ranked but flexing a very, very good defense, looked the better team from the jump.
The Tigers have probably the best defense Miami will face this entire regular season. But it was a more than that jarring Canes fans like a slap..
It was that this season-opening embarrassment -- no, those two late touchdowns did not make that word less so -- stacked atop the three consecutive losses that took last year’s 10-0 record and No. 2 ranking and turned it sour. And it was more than that.
It was that Canes quarterback Malik Rosier didn’t look very good, let alone special, just as he hadn’t in the tailspin that ended last season. Sunday night he completed 15 of 35 passes for 259 yards , one TD and two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Lots of late throwing padded those stats. Inaccuracy continues to bedevil Rosier, a fifth-year senior, and all that’s behind him at QB is inexperience. UM needs a better Rosier than we’ve seen the past four games or its the Weedeater Bowl.
UM started the night 0-for-7 on third down conversions. Beside the two turnovers, the Canes committed 11 penalties for 85 yards.
“Self-inflicted wounds,” coach Mark Richt described the night.
Here was another of those wounds by UM’s own hand: A few minutes into the game and starting cornerback Trajan Bandy gets ejected for “targeting.” It was a helmet-to-helmet hit, and unnecessarily at the end of a play, the opponent already going down.
The Hurricanes defense overall was not great (gouged for a 50-yard scoring run) but not terrible. That Rosier pick-6 and bad punting put UM in a hole much of the night. But where was a the Turnover Chain? It was a no-show. UM had 30 defensive takeaways when at 10-0 last season -- the blingy chain a national sensation. But the turnovers have gone dry. None Sunday night, one in the four-game losing streak dating to late last season.
Miami needs the Turnover Chain to be a star again, until which time Rosier demonstrates he and his offense can carry this team. That offense needs to involve running back Travis Homer more than it did Sunday, by the way. And involve receiver Ahmmon Richards a lot more.
UM figures to be 4-1 when it hosts Florida State on Oct. 6. Win that and the gut-punch feeling Canes felt felt late Sunday night will feel closer to the ebullient buzz those same fans carried into this season.
I believe the Canes got their worst game of the season out of the way early.
I also believe that, after four losses in a row, the University of Miami needs to remind us why we all thought The U was back, and to do it now.