Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Don’t take this victory for granted, Miami Hurricanes fans


Resist. Don’t do it. Don’t go there. Do not utter the phrase “it was only Duke” at any time in attempting to equivocate or yeah-but the Miami Hurricanes’ home victory Saturday night.

Because if this didn’t satisfy you — maybe not thrill you, but satisfy you — perhaps it is time for an expectation adjustment that might be closer to reality.

A theory holds that when you are a little bit starving and you are offered hamburger, you don’t turn it down because it isn’t a porterhouse. You eat what you are given, fill up and say thank you.

This was not an entirely impressive win by the Canes here Saturday night — 22-10 over visiting Duke. It was an essential victory, and big for that alone. But it saw the home team booed off the field into halftime and not safely ahead until well into the fourth quarter.

It seemed to leave many fans among the crowd of 44,559 still hungry, thinking it a hamburger win, not sated, not satisfied.

This is because not all UM fans have yet reconciled or adjusted to the fact that this program is no longer a powerhouse and that on the long and meandering road back there a win is a win is a win. They still sell those orange T-shirts that read, “UM Invented Swagger,” but there hasn’t been a lot of actual cause for any sustained swagger in more than 10 years, has there?

So while you are laser-focused on Miami’s Nov.15 home game vs. No.1-ranked Florida State, feel free to take a moment to appreciate the imperfect, lesser wins along the way. Feel free to appreciate, in this case, that an oft-criticized UM defense pretty much dominated.

“I want them to enjoy it,” coach Al Golden said of his players, and this win.

So should Canes fans.

If you are being reasonable or realistic today, UM fans, you take being on the right side of a 22-10 score and a 3-2 season record and you move on, maybe not giddy, but maybe not grousing either.

And throw a flag for arrogance at any fan saying “it was only Duke.”

First, Duke isn’t so “only” anymore. This is not your older brother’s Duke. The basketball school came in 4-0 in football and a win from being ranked.

Neither was this a Hurricanes squad entitled to take this game or opponent casually — not coming in at .500 with its defensive coordinator being chased by an angry mob bearing torches and pitchforks.

I would also remind that, just last season, “only Duke” beat Miami 48-30.

Call it progress, then?

Saturday’s 22-10 margin reflected Miami’s missed opportunities more than its dominance. The Canes led in total yards 421-260, and Duke Johnson was characteristically excellent with 155 rushing yards on 25 carries.

But a home fan couldn’t really exhale until the fourth quarter, when Brad Kaaya’s second touchdown pass of the game missiled 49 yards into the end zone to Joseph Yearby for the final score.

Golden and embattled defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio needed what Saturday night brought, even if it was not festooned with maximum style points or a gaudy score. It brought relief, as much as a victory.

After losses at Louisville and Nebraska book-ending wins against smaller-conference Florida A&M and Arkansas State, this was UM’s first win of the season against a team its own size, and one that leveled Miami’s Atlantic Coast Conference mark at 1-1.

It ended a trying week personally for Golden, who found out during last weekend’s trip to Nebraska that his wife, Kelly, had been hospitalized. (The coach said Saturday she’s OK.)

This also was a performance that will lift some professional heat from the defensive chief D’Onofrio, who might move about town today without wearing asbestos. For a day, he might even tune in local sports talk radio and not hear (as much) venom toward him oozing from the speakers.

The Canes defense was mostly great Saturday, forcing nine Duke punts, collecting two interceptions and a fumble recovery, and limiting the Blue Devils to 2 for 15 on third-down conversions.

The sum of the night won’t make all the dissatisfaction disappear, and that’s fine. The standard here SHOULD remain high. Five national championships set the bar that gave birth to all those “swagger” shirts. (Coincidentally, Larry Coker, the school’s last championship coach in 2001, happened to be working 45 minutes north in Boca Raton on Saturday, his Texas-San Antonio team losing to FAU.)

Beating Duke by a dozen points might not conjure dreams of a sixth national title, but neither should UM fans be spoiled enough to find undo fault in a conference win over an opponent that was 4-0.

This victory won’t mute all of the restless noise from Canes fans, no.

But it should soften it — both the volume of it and the sharp edges.

Well, at least until the next loss, anyway.

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