Another circus catch and another miracle finish for the Miami Hurricanes; backs again to the wall in a program-defining second season under head coach Mark Richt.

Missed opportunities and a slow start were the name of the game early against Georgia Tech, while late-second quarter momentum was lost after halftime when an onside kick attempt ended in disaster. A one-point deficit became eight a mere seven seconds into the third quarter, on a heads-up play, where execution simply didn’t match the ballsy call.

The Yellow Jackets never saw the trick play coming, but a short kick and hands-team brain-fart regarding the recovery had a worst-case-scenario playing out in front of a spirited crowd supporting the undefeated Hurricanes.

Even worse, a sinking feeling that the miscue could’ve been the ultimate dagger. Paul Johnson and his Ramblin’ Wreck play ball control, keep drives alive and limit opponents’ possessions—grinding their way to victory, while lulling defenses asleep with a monotonous, repetitive run and a few long passes mixed in, when least expected.

Eight points down early third, Miami was far from out of it—but a lack of touches and sustained drives by Georgia Tech; things can get away quickly. Such was the case a few years back in Atlanta when the Canes fell, 28-17 where the Yellow Jackets held the ball for over 45 minutes—the Miami offense, stifled and out of rhythm on the sideline most of the night.

This time around, a collective effort by all involved—made possible by a calm and cool coaching staff that kept the kids on point and continued putting the Canes in position to win. Welcome to the revamped recipe in the Magic City Canes’ special sauce.

MIAMI DEFENSE & OFFENSE—BOTH GAME-CHANGERS

The final 29:53 of the second half after the botched onside kick—Miami held Georgia Tech to three points; a field goal on the ensuing drive, stretching the lead to 11 with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter. From that point on, the Canes’ defense held the Yellow Jackets’ offense to 18 plays and 28 total yards.

Scrapping from behind, fully realizing that every Georgia Tech possession could lead to a back-breaking score—yet Miami never flinched. Even when a game-tying 2-point conversion failed on the heels of a brilliant 27-yard, heads-up haul-in by running back Travis Homer—his first career start for the injured Mark Walton; the Canes never flinched or looked rattled.

When the skies opened up early in the fourth quarter, the home team and UM crowd came alive. Bring on the rain and bring the pain; Miami was willing itself to victory, whereas in the past it’d have wilted under the circumstances and pressure.

Malik Rosier stayed true to form with a slow start and some errant passes, but again remained unwavering and unfazed—finishing 23-of-37 on the day for 297 yards and the late touchdown pass to Homer, while the running back tore of 170 yards on the ground and rushed for a score, as well.

Darrell Langham finished with five receptions for 100 yards—reeling in a 28-yard batted ball on a do-or-die fourth down. The underused junior entered the season with four career catches and in a span of eight days, reeled in two grabs that will go down in Miami folklore; the Georgia Tech grab as big—if not bigger—than a game-winning touchdown in Tallahassee last Saturday evening.

All-everything workhorse Braxton Berrios was held to six reception for 44 yards after playing the role of superstar last week at Florida State—but provided late-game sparks with four receptions on the game-winning drive when Georgia Tech proved unable to adjust and stop the Canes on the bubble screen.

If there was any offensive knock on the day; underusing tight end Chris Herndon most of the afternoon, as well as relying on freshman Jeff Thomas in some end zone situations where taller receivers like Langham or Lawrence Cager would’ve proved more effective than the under-six-foot Thomas.

When used correctly, the speedy Thomas hauled in a 70-yard reception early in the third when the Canes were down 11—though he was caught at the three-yard line, and Miami lost a yard over the next three plays, settling for a field goal and giving Georgia Tech back some much-needed momentum.

UNWAVERING, UNDENIABLE AND UNDEFEATED, FOR NOW

In the end, the Richt’s squad simply wasn’t going to be denied—which leads to a bigger story for undefeated and the now seventh-ranked Hurricanes; at what point will the national media and college football pundits stop with the tired, is-Miami-back narrative?

Week in or week out, on the eve of a big showdown or in the wake of a meaningful win—so much pointless focus on “back”, opposed to the fact the Canes have become a spirited, resilient, special squad taking on the personality and confidence of their rejuvenated, veteran coach.

All this “back” noise from the ill-informed talking heads—back to what? There is no going back, only forward. Miami’s history past is the past. Live in the now, enjoy the ride and apprecaite these new-look Hurricanes—and their old school flair—for who they’re growing into in these defining moments.

It’s been 15 seasons since that Fiesta Bowl setback, three sub-par head coaches and a lot of falling apart in legitimate step-up moments. Over that span, the game of college football has grown and changed immensely. There will never be another situation like the world saw back in 2001 as there’s too much parity in today’s game—not to mention a new breed of player and student athlete with a different motivation and attitude.

Questioning if Miami is “back”—it puts too much focus on a dated process and unattainable benchmarks regarding overall talent and NFL Draft pick records—opposed to the program re-finding it’s voice in the present day.

While the media and outsiders hyper-focus on the low-hanging-fruit storyline, they’re missing something truly special that’s taking place; Miami’s metamorphosis into a Richt 2.0-led squad.

RICHT 2.0 — AS COOL AS A MODERN DAY SONNY CROCKETT

Less than two years ago, Richt’s lengthy tenure at Georgia came to an understandable end—a business decision leaving both sides to go their separate ways and see what life looked like for both parties in the wake of the somewhat amicable break-up. The Bulldogs knocked on the door a few times, but never got over the hump or reached the national championship game in 15 tries.

Still, a 145-51 run over that span, two conference titles, five division crowns and two-time SEC Coach of the Year honors more than validated Richt’s time in black and red.

Faced with taking some time off or hanging it up for good, a small window opened up and was set to pass as quickly as a South Florida afternoon rain storm. Richt could return to his alma mater for one more go-around as a head coach—but had to act quickly, knowing the opportunity wouldn’t be there a year later.

For those who followed Richt over the years in Athens and are paying attention to life in Coral Gables the past 18 months—the change in demeanor is truly the Canes’ ultimate key to success.

In the wake of Miami’s win over Florida State, Richt called it the most fun he’s had in coaching in over three decades, while the Southern charm on display with Georgia has been traded in for some South Beach laid-back cool and a no-worries demeanor that is keeping the Hurricanes loose in would-be, high-pressure situations.

Where this season goes, time will tell. To date, it’s been nothing but serendipitous—making lemons out of lemonade regarding rescheduled games courtesy of natural disasters, regrouping, dealing with injuries and focusing on the tasks at hand.

Something special is underway this season for Miami. Would love to see the national narrative shift towards a new-look Richt—a resilient team taking on his personality and image—opposed to a set-the-Canes-up-to fail, are-they-back-yet storyline.

Moments like this are rare. Get on board, soak it up and enjoy the ride like those long-time supporters who know better.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties and launched allCanesBlog.com soon thereafter. After being poached away by BleacherReport as a featured columnist, Bello launched ItsAUThing.com to scratch that orange and green itch. In his day-to-day Bello works with icon Bill Murray and humor website theCHIVE on the William Murray golf apparel line—but all free time is spent reminding the masses that it’s a Canes thing and they wouldn’t understand.

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