The decision to skip a Boston College preview last week was a calculated one.

Outside of predicting a trap game and 27-24 loss to the Eagles months back in our season preview—there really weren’t a lot of pre-game words to waste on the match-up. Miami was either going to bounce back from the loss to Virginia and bye week with renewed energy, or was going to show up flat—laying an egg and making an already-bad situation even worse. Welcome to life after the latter.

As expected, AJ Dillon ran hard and with purpose behind a veteran Eagles’ offensive line—the sophomore back going for 149 yards on 32 carries, with a touchdown—while the Canes failed to do anything on the ground; Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas combining for 70 yards—one less than quarterback Malik Rosier, who did little through the air—150 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The Canes showed a little late second quarter spark with a 10-play, 64-yard drive, capped off by a 10-yard run from Dallas, but Miami was shut out in the second half, ultimately falling 27-14.

Mark Richt stated that back-up N’Kosi Perry was slated to get some reps, but due to the Canes falling behind 7-0 and 14-7, he stayed with Rosier—further underscoring the lack-of-trust he has in his maturity-lacking redshirt freshman. Post-game, Richt came off equally as lifeless as his team; nothing more to say than, “Well, we got beat” when asked what had just taken place at Alumni Stadium.

For those keeping track—which is most—the Canes are now 2-6 in their past eight games against Power 5 teams. Ouch.

Losses to the likes of a Clemson, Wisconsin and LSU are all somewhat forgivable at this phase of the rebuild under Richt. Less understandable; the lack of offense against teams like Pittsburgh, Virginia and now Boston College—Miami held to 14, 13 and 14, respectively in those three match-ups.

TIME FOR AN HONEST ASSESSMENT OF WHAT WAS IN 2017 FOR ‘THE U’

Many are talking about the honeymoon being over for Richt, which has a modicum of truth as the newness has worn off by year three—though the sentiment is equally as off due to the expectations versus reality of last season.

Yes, Richt has a serious problem on his hands in regards to an unimaginative offense—and with four games remaining, must find a better way to work with what he has. That being true, the situation he walked into at the end of 2015 required more than a three-year clean-up, and the ripple effects of that mess are being felt here and now.

The Hurricanes remain without a legitimate option at quarterback and still sport a very shoddy offensive line—but the predictability of Richt’s play-calling and his team’s execution—has reached new lows over the past few weeks. Miami tried to mix things up with Dallas in the Wildcat, which yielded positive results once on Friday night, but was absolutely stuffed when trying to run the exact same play to the short side of the field moments later.

The Canes showed that same formation in the Orange Bowl against Wisconsin, as well—which seems to be the peak of all offensive creativity.

Things have gotten so pedestrian with this offense that it’s become painfully obvious what Miami is set to run as the offense lines up. If fans with average football IQs can spot runs versus passes with the naked eye—what must opposing defenses and coordinators be able to snuff out based on the Hurricanes’ bland schemes? Look no further to the offensive lack-of-outputs the past two losses for definitive proof of a flawed system.

Looking back, last season was a blessing in real time, but has proven to be a curse for Miami in regards to third-year expectations.

Instead of taking that 10-0 start in stride—a streak loaded with late-game comebacks and mini-miracles; it inexplicably raised the bar for this season—despite no new answer at quarterback, a few key losses on the offensive line and a handful of game-breaking offensive players graduating and moving on.

Translation; what did folks truly think they’d see offensively when Perry couldn’t take the job from Rosier in spring, or fall—not to mention this new-look offense without KC McDermott and Trevor Darling on the line, as well as Mark Walton, Braxton Berrios and Chris Herndon gone as key skills position options? Losing the banged-up Ahmmon Richards down the stretch last year was bad enough. Insult to injury came in the form of his career being cut short due to a neck injury earlier this season—the football gods with no desire to play fair with the Hurricanes, who also saw cornerback Malek Young suffer a career-ending injury after the bowl game, as well.

Despite all those personnel losses, a portion of this fan base was still talking about running the table—both after falling to LSU, as well as Virginia—including a win over Clemson, an ACC title and trying to do whatever math was required in regards to reaching the Playoffs.

Year three under Richt—on the heels of a 60-47 run between 2006, the end of the Larry Coker era, and mid-2015, when Al Golden saw a 58-0 loss to Clemson cost him his job—and some around these parts felt Miami was a championship-caliber program?

That type of delusion is as big as any problem the Canes are dealing personnel-wise.

CHAMPIONS AREN’T BUILT OVERNIGHT; CONTENDERS TAKE TIME

Dabo Swinney sits atop the college football world, second only to Nick Saban and the machine that’s been built in Tuscaloosa. Over the past few years, Clemson has done little wrong—winning the ACC three consecutive times, reaching the Playoffs every years since its inception, getting to two championship games and bringing home one national title.

This past weekend, the Tigers rolled into Tallahassee and dropped a beating on the Seminoles much like the one Golden received years back—Florida State getting shellacked, 59-10—making an already bad season that much worse.

Lost in all the present-day Swinney adoration; the fact it took him seven season to turn his program into a true power and annual contender.

Back in 2013—year five for Swinney with the Tigers—No. 3 Clemson welcomed No. 5 Florida State for a primetime, nationally-televised home showdown that was supposed to put the Tigers on the map, until it didn’t. The Seminoles rolled 51-14 in a game that proved to be a springboard to national title—just not the team that expected the boost. A year later, Florida State again got Clemson—in overtime—but by 2015, the shift was underway and Swinney had a true challenger for the throne, which kicked off a run that hasn’t yet stopped.

Where Miami is quarterback-less year three under Richt, Clemson’s abundance at the position is so next-level, it just sent last year’s 12-2 starter and ACC Championship game MVP packing. Kelly Bryant was the heir apparent to Deshaun Watson after the 2016 national championship, but the future is now and Swinney chose true freshman and 5-star product Trevor Lawrence over the senior—hitting Kelly with the news after four games, allowing him to redshirt and transfer to play elsewhere next season.

Where the Canes saw a few defensive juniors bailing out on their senior years at the end of last year—only to wind up later round picks that have since been cut from their respective NFL squads—the Tigers returned sure-fire first round talent to their d- line; guys with a team-first mentality and an “unfinished business” attitude, wanting to make a run at a national title this fall.

Yet another important culture-shift one sees on championship-caliber teams—unselfishness, with an eye on the bigger picture.

Fans can shake a fist at the sky and curse the ground Richt walks on until they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t change reality—the Miami Hurricanes do not have a quarterback in 2018. They can also hype Perry and talk about how he’d “at least be a better option than Rosier”—but again, that opinion is rooted in nothing more than what’s been seen a few Saturday’s this fall—not what this coaching staff has been observing on- and off-the-field since he arrived on campus a year and a half ago.

That comment isn’t in anyway to hype the sub-par Rosier; it’s simply to drive home that there is more to the Perry situation than what’s being seen at face value. These “maturity issues” run much deeper than social media video where wads of cash were flashed—which is important to note in the grand scheme of what’s going on.

Coaches are well aware they’re hired to win football games—resulting in playing the most-equipped personnel they believe will help them succeed. Any notion that Richt has some secret agenda or favors Rosier; it’s preposterous. From day one, Richt made it clear he was no fan of No. 12—letting Rosier know his mechanics and poor on-field habits were bad—and despite those flaws still existing in the redshirt senior’s game, this staff has deemed him as more fit to lead the program down the stretch than Perry.

LOSSES CLOUDING VISION OF WHAT RICHT IS, WAS AND CAN BE

Having lost two in a row and now six of the past 11—things are getting to that dangerous place with this frustrated fan base where history is being rewritten; specifically in regards to Richt’s overall accomplishments and what he’s done on the sidelines for the past almost-three decades.

Originally knocked for an “inability to win the big one”—not delivering a national title to Georgia and only going 145-51 over 15 seasons—winning the SEC East six times and the conference twice; the narrative is slowly shifting, for some, towards Richt never really being all that good in the first place.

Forget about two national championships at Florida State as an offensive coordinator, while coaching up two Heisman-winning quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke—or greats like David Greene, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray under Richt’s tutelage at Georgia—somehow there’s a notion that the man no longer understands the game and can’t identify quarterback talent.

Lest this hot-button topic derail or get misconstrued; none of the above is implying Richt is one of the best to ever coach the sport. It’s simply to reiterate that he came to Miami with a solid resume, he’s an alum that knows the city’s culture, deeply cares about this university and wants to do right by it—to the point where he wrote a $1M check, knowing the importance and need of an indoor practice facility.

Early retirement was floated around when things for a hot minute went south at Georgia—and then a dream opportunity arose at “The U”, which changed his course and he dove back in head first, wanting to right the ship.

All of that absolutely has to buy the man some time and patience from this win-big-immediately; especially knowing the broken-cultured program he inherited.

Seeing folks turning on the man with such vitriol with four games to go in year three? It’s wrong—and those who have taken that stance are in need of a hard reset and better understanding of what it takes to build a championship-level program. No, Richt didn’t win the big one at Georgia—but he built a hell of a program and a perennial SEC contender, leaving the cupboard full for Kirby Smart—which was the complete opposite of what he walked into in Coral Gables.

Back on point—Richt, having developed and recruited so many quarterback greats over the year—it’s why he called out Rosier day one, it’s why he’s not sold on Perry and is also the reason he’s putting so much faith in Jarren Williams, his first hand-picked quarterback recruit at UM. Richt knows all too well just how make-or-break a solid quarterback is at this level, and until Miami has one, the mediocrity will continue.

For any still refusing to accept this, look no further than Pullman and what’s taking place this season for Washington State.

ACCIDENTALLY WELL-VERSED IN ALL THINGS WAZZU: 101

Having a close friend who is a WSU alum, I’ve learned more about the Cougars’ program the past few years than I ever thought was possible. He’ll dial in with me to support Miami on a weekly basis, while I return the favor and watch Washington State games with him. It’s become tradition over the past few seasons.

The brilliance of Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense has been on most folks’ radars since the decade he spent making some noise at Texas Tech. In six seasons at Washington State, his best runs were 9-4 in 2017 and 2015, while going 8-5 in 2016—establishing the Cougars as a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 program; the general improvement starting year four when Luke Falk showed up and Leach found himself a decent, reliable quarterback.

Falk was a four-year starter, taking his lumps as a freshman as Wazzu went 3-9 in 2014—though gaining some steam as he accrued experience.

Things peaked for the senior-led Cougars in 2017 after upsetting Southern Cal, while also taking down division rivals Oregon and Stanford—though Falk’s lack of mobility or moxie reared its ugly head at times and poor play cost Wazzu as a result; Cal rolling, 37-3 last October—as well as a 58-37 loss at Arizona, where Falk was benched for back-up Tyler Hilinski—who sparked a late rally, but it wasn’t enough.

Arch-rival Washington rolled big in the Apple Cup, while Michigan State dominated in the Holiday Bowl—Falk turning it over three times against the Huskies, while Hilinski didn’t fare much better against the Spartans; Falk sidelined for the post-season match-up due to injury in what would’ve been his final collegiate game.

A month later, the starting job Hilinski’s to lose entering the 2018 season—the would-be junior lost his battle with mental illness and tragically took his own life. Devastating to the Washington State community on a human level—but also a huge personnel setback as Leach no longer had a viable quarterback option for the season.

(Editor’s Note: There is so much more that could be said on the Hilinski tragedy, but this isn’t the time, place, or forum as the Cougars-related portion of this piece is simply to discuss the impact a quarterback has on offense, or program. For more on the tragic loss of a special kid from a loving, now-broken,family, please read this in-depth read from Sports Illustrated from a few months back.)

INTO LEACH’S LAP—A MUSTACHED SAVIOR FROM THE SHOW-ME STATE

Enter grad transfer Gardener Minshew; a Missouri native who played his college career at East Carolina and was set to transfer to Alabama before Leach hijacked that plan. Minshew was content to play a back-up role in Tuscaloosa, in order to learn from Saban and to see how a top-flight program was run—as the journeyman quarterback’s ultimate goal is to become a coach.

Instead, as a result of the detour, Minshew is leading the nation in passing yards—3,183—and has the ninth-best quarterback rating after eight games this season.

Without Minshew in Pullman, the Cougars are realistically a 4-4 team right now—which was pretty much the expectation as they were picked fifth in the six-team Pac-12 North to start the season. With him, they’re now the No. 10 in the nation and leading the division with a 7-1 record that should really be 8-0. The lone blemish—a 39-36 loss at Southern Cal, called out for poor officiating and favoritism—low-lighted by a late, missed targeting call on Minshew ultimately changing the outcome of a game they were on track to win.

In what looked like a throwaway season for the Cougars, things have since turned magical as a difference-making quarterback fell into their lap; a sharp kid with coaching aspirations who put in the work to learn the intricate Air Raid—going as far as to spend time working with veteran coach Hal Mumme, the man who created the offensive style Leach prefers.

For those looking to make this about Richt’s skills-set versus Leach’s; that’s not the point here—it’s about Minshew’s efforts, his coach-ability and drive to succeed, versus what Miami has seen out of Perry—or Cade Weldon—over the past year. While both underclassmen have been suspended and called out for their lack of maturity with their first chances to shine as redshirt freshmen, Minshew went the opposite route as a grad transfer—down to his last shot and going all-in to be a difference-maker.

An excerpt from The Spokesman Review this past July, explaining how the new Wazzu gunslinger spent time working with Mumme—Leach’s former mentor:

Between 20-30 times this spring, he woke up at 4 a.m. to attend 5 a.m. practices and film sessions at Jackson State – about a 30-minute drive from Brandon – just to spend time with the first Jedi of the Air Raid.

“He came into the office some and we’d draw stuff on the board for him and stuff like that,” Mumme said. “But he came to almost every workout. I think he was out of town one weekend, but all the rest of them he was at. He really loves this offense.”

The article also contained an excerpt from Northwest Mississippi CC head coach Jack Wright, who coached Minshew as a freshman before the transfer to East Carolina took place:

At Washington State, he’s the third man to show up to a three-man QB competition. He’s vastly more experienced than his competitors, but the Cougars didn’t announce his arrival until May, so he’s already a few-thousand practice reps and a couple-hundred position meetings behind both Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon, who’ve been around since 2016. That’s plenty of real estate to make up in just a month.

It’s unfamiliar. It’s new. It’s uncomfortable. It’s right up Minshew’s alley.

“When he went to East Carolina, and I told people the same thing, I think they brought him in as a third or fourth guy,” Wright said. “Well you look up the fourth week of the year and who’s starting? He just kept beating the door down.”

“I would not bet against him.”

Wright’s quotes were from summer—six weeks before Minshew beat out Tinsley and Gordon, earning the season-opening start and kicking off what’s proving to be a magical run—one that could set up a monster season-ending showdown if the Cougars and their shiny new toy quarterback can survive Cal, Colorado and Arizona before a rematch against Washington, in Pullman.

As far as the 2018 college football season is remembered; the Minshew footnote is a big one—especially if the Cougars can continue rolling. Quarterback grad transfers rarely have this type of impact. Russell Wilson obviously did, leaving North Carolina State for one season in Wisconsin—while Everett Gholson helped take the sting off Florida State losing Jameis Winston, putting together a respectable 10-3 campaign in 2015; the Noles still in good shape, two years removed from a national championship. Without Gholson, FSU would’ve been stuck with junior Sean Maguire and (arguably) wouldn’t have seen the same level of success.

Players and moments like this are remembered, as it’s an aberration—the right guy, right time, right place and right situation. Even if Richt looked for a grad transfer-type option to buy Williams another season before throwing him to the fire; that doesn’t mean a Minshew-like scenario exists.

WHAT IS AND WHAT WILL BE

The detour away from the Canes and into an obscure Pac-12 storyline; a much-needed reminder regarding what Miami does and doesn’t have at quarterback—as well as what the right guy can do to impact a culture, a season and an offense.

That 10-0 run to start last season for the Canes—a situation where Rosier played above his level, led a few comebacks and success continued to breed success.

Lose at Florida State, fall short against Georgia Tech, don’t close the door on Syracuse or end a late North Carolina game-winning drive with a turnover—the Canes were probably looking at an 8-3 regular season; not 10-1 with a Coastal Division title. Those are just the cold, hard facts as year three of the Richt era continues to unfold.

For Miami, it’s survival-mode the next four games—Richt and staff working with what they have, while the defense will continue being asked to spark this team. Somewhere within that, the Hurricanes will have to get Williams some much-needed reps—as the true freshman can play in three more games and still redshirt—while hoping Rosier, and potentially Perry, can do enough to not hand more games away on a platter.

The competition is hardly next-level; Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh currently a combined 17-13. The standard notion that if Miami plays it’s game, all showdowns are winnable—though it’s hard to determine what the Hurricanes’ game even looks like after this two-game skid.

Season goals are shaken as a Coastal Division title repeat is a huge stretch with two conferences losses—meaning Miami will have to muster up motivation elsewhere; getting this thing back on track and closing strong for pride-sake, as well as simply helping the program take a small step forward going into 2019.

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