With the Miami Hurricanes in the midst of a football season spiraling out of control, after a loss so embarrassing it defies explanation, head coach Manny Diaz said this on Saturday:
“For lack of a better word, this is a rebuild.”
So that’s it? So that is supposed to excuse this?
Nope, sorry. You can’t retrofit what’s happening as the understandable result of youth. Not when you were picked second in your ACC division in the preseason. Not when you just beat the ranked Virginia team that had been selected on top.
This isn’t a rebuilding UM team that just lost 28-21 at home in overtime to a 1-5 Georgia Tech team the Canes had been favored to beat by 18 points.
This is just a deeply flawed, wildly inconsistent Miami team that is now 3-4 for the first time since 1997, and an irrelevant 1-3 in the ACC Coastal.
Winning season? Bowl game? Nothing is assured at this point for a team that keeps managing to dig new rock-bottoms for itself — a team whose second half of the regular season turns tougher now following a five-game homestand.
A team in a “rebuild.”
No, this is a team that can’t make a bleepin’ field goal, with two kickers missing chip shots of 34, 27 and 25 yards Saturday.
“You miss easy field goals,” noted Diaz, “and you see [the Georgia Tech] sideline, and you see our demoralized sideline.”
The University of Miami had 17,003 students when last I checked. Can the football team please find one person on campus capable of kicking field goals more capably than a blindfolded mule?
This is a Canes team with an offense that was shut out in the second half Saturday, in part because top wide receiver Jeff Thomas was suspended for violating a team rule.
“It definitely hurt us out there,” said veteran linebacker Shaq Quarterman of Thomas’ absence.
N’Kosi Perry started at QB again, got banged up and was replaced for one series by starter Jarren Williams, whose shoulder still isn’t right. UM needs a better, more accurate Perry. Or a healthy Williams.
This is a team whose usually reliable defense missed tackles all day and got whipped when it mattered most Saturday, letting the Yellow Jackets score in overtime on three plays from the Canes’ 25.
Diaz and Canes players were volunteering after the game how unified the team and locker room remains, although simmering frustration was evident.
Defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, fighting tears as he left the field, threatened to punch Miami Herald photographer Al Diaz as Diaz was taking his picture. Defensive end Trevon Hill was testy with reporters. Diaz himself referred to a ”demoralized” sideline, and said afterward of his team: “Where are we at mentally now? How do we view ourselves now?”
Clearly, this was the worst loss of the season, one that had Canes fans flooding Twitter with anger, wanting to fire everybody immediately.
A small plane flew over the stadium earlier Saturday pulling a banner that read, “We support Manny Diaz and our Hurricanes.”
Suffice to say the sentiment was more popular before this game than afterward.
Diaz is a rookie head coach who’ll get this right, but right now, his indoctrination in some ways has been every bit as trying as that of fellow rookie coach Brian Flores with the winless Dolphins across town.
There is something missing from this Hurricane team’s DNA. Back in the day we called it “killer instinct.” Excluding the rout of Bethune-Cookman (which hardly counts), UM has struggled against lesser teams as a double-digit betting favorite, barely escaping Central Michigan 17-12, losing to Virginia Tech 42-35 — then Saturday.
“If you let teams hang around and you don’t punish them when you have the chance,” said Quarterman, “this happens.”
Diaz tends to explain losses by relegating his team to the level of weaker foes.
“We not in a situation where we’re gonna roll up somebody by 20 points,” he said.
He referred to “some of these coin-flip games.”
He said that after losing — and this bears repeating — at home, to a 1-5 Georgia Tech team, as an 18-point favorite.
Miami’s various flaws showed in each of Tech’s first three touchdowns.
The first happened because UM failed to pick up a blitz, Perry got sacked in the end zone and fumbled to gift a defensive score.
The next happened because Miami’s special teams was caught napping on a fake-punt 41-yard pass that found cornerback D.J. Ivey egregiously not doing his job. (Ivey’s name was trending on Twitter because so many Canes fans were mocking his effort.)
The third came on a late Tech 35-yard TD pass — Ivey the victim again — that capped a drive drive Diaz said showed shoddy tackling and a “lack of competitiveness” by his defense.
I’ll give Diaz credit for this much. He accepted a gargantuan challenge after this game. Against odds, he was accentuating the positive. Who knows, maybe a strong finish from here will even prove him right!
“You see the promise of the future but also some of the ugliness of the present,” he allowed, before stating: “There’s too much right going on to panic.”
On that last point Saturday, among UM fans, there might be spirited debate.