Protocol when writing about this wonderful, frustrating and exhausting game; take a deep breath afterwords, win or lose and collect some thoughts. Sleep on it, replay it mentally, rewatch in the morning, make notes and peck away—trying to find a story within the story.

Resiliency in comebacks, or pinpointing the motivation in a few dominant wins this fall—time and reflection were ultimately the keys to making sense of everything as the Miami Hurricanes chipped away year two under Mark Richt.

In the wake of a stunning loss at Pittsburgh the Friday after Thanksgiving; little to marinate on—and like these players and coaches, an immediate regrouping has to get underway. On the surface—yes, it stings like hell. An undefeated season down the drain and a nation’s best 15-game win-streak, over.

Add to that, the fact it was four-win Pittsburgh—playing for nothing more than pride, in what was essentially their bowl game against one of the hottest teams in the nation.

The Canes didn’t overlook the Panthers or necessarily do anything glaringly wrong. Everything was simply off a few degrees. Play-by-play, drive-by-drive—each moment got bigger as the pressure began to mount.

STARTED BLEEDING OUT IN FIRST HALF; NEVER RECOVERED

Forcing a fumble on the opening drive in Pitt territory, but not able to come up with the turnover. The ensuing drive going to hell in a handbag after a spotty offensive line allowed a sack on Malik Rosier, setting up a 3rd-and-16 where the sophomore quarterback lacked the touch to hit Jeff Thomas in stride for a big gain.

When forced to punt; a career-worst day from Zach Feagles; ultimately flipping the field, keeping the Miami offense pinned back against a fired-up defense.

Michael Pinckney nabbed that Turnover Chain early in the second quarter, but the Canes—despite momentum and starting mid-field—responded with a three-and-out. Miami found the end zone a drive later—courtesy of a few quality grabs from Ahmmon Richards and Chris Herndon—but the missed opportunities continued.

Chain Gang: Part Deux when Sheldrick Redwine tattooed Chris Clark so hard, he got the hardware—opposed to Jaquan Johnson, who made the recovery.

A good chance to extend the lead and get some momentum, an incomplete pass and three yard loss on the ground set up 3rd-and-8. A Pitt penalty cut that to three. Rosier to a Braxton Berrios for a would-be conversion and huge gain; the pass sailed behind the streaking receiver.

Cap it off with another special teams disaster; Feagles with the 13-yard punt—followed by an 11-play, 68-yard drive that took 4:23 and ended with a third third-down conversion when quarterback Kenny Pickett barreled in from six yards out.

FORCED TO PLAY ANOTHER’S GAME; REACTIVE VS PROACTIVE

It was a first half reminiscent of last year’s Hurricanes who lost three of four games by a combined 11 points. Missed opportunities or mini-breakdowns stacking up and becoming backbreakers, when all was said and done.

The second half; more of the same. The Canes’ offense punted on it’s first six possessions; the final, with Evan Shirreffs under center, with Richt sending a message to Rosier—pulling him for a series.

The timing could’ve been seen as questionable, though Rosier returned the following drive and looked as comfortable as he had all day—hitting Berrios back-to-back, the latter a 39-yard touchdown strike after the Canes recovered an onside kick.

Still, the moment felt hollow on the heels of Pickett tearing off a 22-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-6; head coach Pat Narduzzi with the dagger, opposed to a field goal and more manageable, 20-7 that Miami would’ve been in position to overcome after the Berrios score. Turn the ball over on downs and the Canes are back in action, trailing 17-7.

Not a hard decision as a four-win squad with a chance to take down No. 2 at home.

The 12-play drive covered 90 yards, pushed the lead to 17 and chewed 6:10 off the clock—Miami getting the ball back with 2:54 remaining. On that drive, another gut-punch that effectively ended the game—and reminder the fine line between success and failure.

THERE FOR THE TAKING; FAILING TO SEIZE THE MOMENT

Two weeks back, Trajan Bandy housed a 65-yard interception late second quarter against Notre Dame, making HardRock feel like the old Orange Bowl for a few minutes.

Pitt facing a 3rd-and-9 and the Canes down 10; Pickett rolls left and forces a pass to main target Quadree Henderson—his throw sliding through Bandy’s hands it what could’ve been a pick-six, or at minimum a batted ball, forcing a punt with over six minute remaining.

A week ago, again—Miami on the other side of it, as a Johnson house call brought the score to 28-28 against Virginia. A drive later; Rosier almost returned the favor, but the Cavaliers’ defense flinched in the moment—and never scored again, while the Canes rattled off 30 more.

BIG TIME PLAYERS LOVE PRIMETIME GAMES. NOON; NOT SO MUCH

All that chatter and forced therapy aside, back to the earlier point regarding getting away from and out of this moment as quickly as possible. Two quick takes.

If there was any game to lose this season, this was it. Beating Virginia on the heels of impressive showings against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame—it assisted in Miami’s ascension to No. 2.

Yes, the Canes will drop—but not as far as they would’ve last week at No. 3. Not to mention, having to get up for a Friday nooner at Pitt—versus a prime-time showdown against Clemson next Saturday.

These Canes have shone brightest on the biggest stages this season. Taking on the defending national champs—not to mention the program that caused Miami’s bottoming-out, 58-0 two years ago; motivation won’t be an issue.

Conversely, these Canes have proven slow to start in matinee moments. Georgia Tech, Syracuse, North Carolina and Virginia, right or wrong, not getting the juices flowing.

Lose to the Cavaliers last week, the Canes are sitting at 9-2 today as the Panthers hung their entire season on this game. A sleepwalking Miami squad wasn’t going to win a nooner the Friday after Thanksgiving. A next-level effort was needed. It wasn’t there.

DESPITE UNDERSTANDABLE DISAPPOINTMENT, ALL IS NOT LOST

Bring it against Clemson and these Canes are ACC Champs, sitting at 11-1 with an impressive-enough resume and strength of schedule. Also taking place between now and then; games. Lots of high-stakes games that will define the season.

Alabama at Auburn; with the winner taking on Georgia in the SEC Championship. Wisconsin taking on Michigan and Ohio State back-to-back. Oklahoma at West Virginia and then a rematch against TCU. Clemson at South Carolina. Georgia at Georgia Tech.

The Canes could very well miss the playoffs as a one-loss team, even with a win over the defending national champions in Charlotte—but with so much action these next two Saturdays; Miami has as good a chance as any other one-loss squad at a coveted spot in the final four.

Going a level deeper, there’s a silver lining for those who care to buy into the following. A loss just may be a blessing in disguise for this squad. We won’t know until it all plays out over the next several weeks—but getting punched in the nose and tasting blood; it could serve as a hard reset and refocus moment.

The cloud of a nation-leading 15-game win-streak for a program that hadn’t won double-digit games in a season since 2003; that’s some real-deal shit. Yes, winning is always the preferred and desired result; but that doesn’t mean a well-timed loss can’t have a positive short-term effect.

Losing can be the ultimate motivator, if channeled correctly. Miami’s coaches can make this a teachable moment that gets their kids back in the zone. Shake this off. Everything is still in front of you. If you win and come up short nationally—at least you took care of business, won the conference and are in position for bigger and better.

Nothing worse right now than losing again and never knowing what could’ve been.

Look at recent history. Clemson was a one-loss champion last year. Alabama, the year before. Ohio State, prior to that. Five of the past six national champions had a blemish on their record. Perfection isn’t the only path. Close to perfection and a conference championship can get you there, too—and that’s still on the table for Miami.

The blueprint is there for the taking regarding the players and this coaching staff. Regarding this fan base, a deep breath and different type of reboot.

TEN MAGICAL MOMENTS MUST DWARF ONE MINOR SETBACK

Take a deep breath, pour up a stiff one, wallow in the loss for a bit—and then replay the past three months in your head. The degrees to which this Miami team has overachieved this season—unfathomable in so many ways.

Quarterback questions to open the season. A natural disaster, resulting in displacement and a 21-day layoff. Games postponed and rescheduled.

A mini-miracle comeback against an arch-rival that’s owned this program for eight years—on their turf, no less. Another pinch-me moment a week later on fourth down against a division rival that’s also eaten the Canes’ lunch at times since making the conference switch.

Hang-in-there moments, as well, leading to a pair of nationally-televised primetime showdowns—dominant performances in both—as well as a record-breaking College GameDay event that served as a three-hour infomercial for the University of Miami and the South Florida good life.

Senior Day was also thriller, on a chamber of commerce-type day, with a fuller house than outgoing Canes have seen at home in a long time—Miami undefeated at HardRock this season, too.

As for that chain; the story of college football this season. Miami found it’s link to the past and while there are no analytics to prove it; a five-pound, flashy Cuban link chain proved to be the Canes’ turbo boost this season.

NOLES VERSUS GATORS; MID-DAY KICKOFF ON NICKELODEON

Lastly, the added bonus of watching both Florida and Florida State unraveling in ways that Miami rarely saw—scrapping for a five-win seasons; the Gators missing the post-season and firing Jim McElwain, while Jimbo Fisher saw a preseason No. 3 ranking turn into the ultimate nightmare.

Instead of facing the Canes in the conference title game, Florida State rescheduled hurricane-cancelled UL Monroe for December 2nd, for the sake of bowl eligibility. Lose at Florida this weekend and showdown against the mighty Warhawks is all for naught.

The biggest thing lost today—potentially, when it’s all said and done; Richt’s first perfect regular season.

What was gained? All depends on how this squad responds; bitter, or better going into this program’s biggest game in a decade. Embrace the moment.

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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