By: Evan Brunelle
At the beginning of this college football season, many predicted Miami to have a productive, successful season under the leadership of first-year head coach Manny Diaz.
Even after a 24-20 loss to Florida (currently ranked 8th in the AP poll) in the season opener, many Canes fans were still hopeful. Jarren Williams performed well in his first career start, despite being under a lot of pressure from the talented Florida defensive line.
However, after surprising one possession losses to ACC Coastal foes North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech, questions and concerns flooded South Florida. A call for a coaching change was even made.
Heavy criticism of special teams, offensive play calling, poor tackling, and an underperforming offensive line was rampant in local media.
In the meantime, a quarterback controversy that was once believed to be in the past was reopened, as Williams was pulled from the Virginia Tech game, and N’Kosi Perry entered.
After a 3-4 start to the season, the Hurricanes have scratched, clawed, and earned two impressive wins on the road against rivals in consecutive weeks, beating Pittsburgh and Florida State. The latter cost Florida State head coach Willie Taggart his job, as he was fired Sunday following the loss.
The Canes now stand at 5-4, over .500 for the first time this season. They will host Louisville this Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. What does last weekend’s win mean for Miami in the future?
For starters, the defense has played incredible in the past two games, giving up a combined 22 points and getting pressure on the quarterback.
The bright spot so far this season has been defensive end Greg Rousseau, who had four sacks this past week. Rousseau now has 12 sacks on the season, which is tied for the most with Ohio State star Chase Young, who will likely be a top-three option in the 2020 NFL draft.
It is worth noting that Rousseau, who missed most of last year with an ankle injury, has only started six games this year and is a redshirt freshman. Should his play continue, along with great efforts from the linebacking core and secondary, Miami’s defense could be bolstered for seasons to come.
Secondly, we saw something out of the Dan Enos‘ offense Saturday that we have not seen much all year: the long ball.
Enos, who is in his first year as offensive coordinator after leaving Alabama following last season, has been under criticism for his play calling. However, on Saturday, Miami’s offense let loose.
Williams uncorked two beautiful touchdown passes to Jeff Thomas and Dee Wiggins. Williams also hit Mike Harley, K.J. Osborn, and Brevin Jordan a multitude of times for chunk yardage.
While the running game was still strong behind the legs of Deejay Dallas, it was promising to see Williams play so well. His performance should finally put an end to the QB controversy that has been ongoing for the past two seasons in Coral Gables.
Finally, and most importantly for the future of the Miami Hurricanes, is the attitude shown in the convincing win. Miami played disciplined. They played tough. They played with a chip on their shoulder that we had yet to see this year.
With Diaz promising to change the culture and “eradicate the disease” within the program, frustration mounted for fans through the first eight games. However, on Saturday, the Hurricanes proved that they’re getting there.
It was not as quick as many wanted, but we are seeing the start of the revival of The U. It will take time, but Saturday was a huge step in the right direction.
The Hurricanes have three remaining games on their schedule, which include a home game versus Louisville this Saturday, a road contest at Duke next weekend, and the season finale against FIU at Marlins Park.
While the Canes only need one more win to achieve bowl eligibility, look for Miami to use their current momentum to finish the season strong, possibly even as high as 8-4.
Cover photo via: AP
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