A four-game losing streak is in the rearview mirror, the Miami Hurricanes are bowl eligible and both steps forward came to fruition in the house of a long-time rival that’s had UM’s number over the years. Based on the way things have been playing out as of late, need to stop and celebrate the small victories along the way.

Prior to this weekend’s victory in Blacksburg, the Canes hadn’t won a ballgame since battling back from a 20-point deficit against Florida State early October—getting blown out of the ACC Coastal race via losses to Virginia, Boston College, Duke and Georgia Tech.

A loss at Virginia Tech would’ve marked the first time since 1977 that Miami dropped five-in-a-row. Instead, the Canes out-willed an even more broken Hokies’ squad that had dropped four out of their past six—on the heels of an early-season road loss at Old Dominion.

Something was going to give Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium—a game that at one point looked to shape the division race, now reduced to nothing more than bowl eligibility and survival; as well as winning for the sake of some good old fashioned pride.

While both teams limped into this match-up offensively, Miami definitely had the upper hand defensively as Virginia Tech was coming off a drubbing at the hands of eventual division winner Pittsburgh; the Panthers rolling, 52-22—putting up 654 yards on a once-proud (albeit, young this season) Hokies’ defense, 492 of which came on the ground.

PERRY (FINALLY) SHOWING MID-SEASON FORM, LATE-SEASON

N’Kosi Perry got the start at quarterback for Miami—coming off an improved performance in last weekend’s loss at Georgia Tech. Reports all week out of Coral Gables mentioned Perry “watching a lot more film” and studying the playbook a lot more;—”Not just in the facility, but on my own”, Perry shared with the Miami Herald days back.

“Practice has been great, I’ve been a lot more energetic, a lot more positive and I feel like it’s rubbing off on everybody,” the redshirt freshman continued.

The revelation was certainly seen as a much-needed improvement based on the toxic, spirit-less practices that followed after losses to the Cavaliers and Eagles—running backs coach and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown referring to some guys on offensive as a “cancer” for their lack of a buy-in.

Despite the turnaround at Greentree, Miami hardly looked the part on the opening drive, as Virginia Tech moved 76 yards in two minutes for a touchdown. Ryan Willis hit back-to-back-to-back passes; a 14-yarder to Damon Hazelton on 3rd-and-8, followed by a 45-yard hook-up with Tre Turner, which set up the 15-yard touchdown strike to Dalton Keane.

Opponents scoring on their first possession; a big issue in the recent losing streak. Boston College stopped Miami’s opening drive and then marching 88 yards on a balanced, 10-play drive that took 3:38 off the clock. A week later, Duke tore off a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage—before the rain came down and made for a quirky first half.

The Canes jumped on the Yellow Jackets on the opening possession, but Georgia Tech answered with seven of their own—and the capitalized on the short field after DeeJay Dallas fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Three plays later, the Canes were down 14-7 and never got closer than three.

Miami settled for three when looking to answer Virginia Tech’s quick score—though suffered an immediate setback when true freshman Brevin Jordan went down awkward on an ankle after a five-yard reception on first down. A go-to target for Perry all season, the loss of Jordan was crushing.

Equally as painful; the onslaught of drops that continue to plague this season—Dee Wiggins the culprit on 1st-and-10, after Perry got the ball to Travis Homer for an 11-yard pick-up on 3rd-and-8.

It was another one of those plays that doesn’t show up on the stats sheet, but Wiggins’ whiff on a would-be 62-yard touchdown strike—precisely the type of play fans have been clamoring for the coaching staff to call, and the true freshman drops it.

Not to be outdone, the oft-reliable Homer had a gaffe of his own on the first drive of the second quarter—Miami leading 17-14 and looking to add more.

Instead, the junior running back let a perfect ball slip through his hands on a second down wheel route that would’ve resulted in a 70-yard touchdown. Facing 3rd-and-5, a little wind out of the Canes’ sails—Wiggins dropped a perfectly placed pass in the middle of two defenders, five yards past the sticks. A play later, Miami punted—averting disaster thanks to the defense forcing a 46-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide.

With another chance to stick in an early second half dagger, the Canes did just that—Perry with two key runs, before Cam’Ron Davis tore off a 42-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-2; Miami’s offense line taking care of business and making some room for the true freshman.

Sheldrick Redwine recovered a fumble on the ensuing Hokies drive; jarred loose by a big hit by Romeo Finley—though the Canes went three-and-out.

After Miami’s defense came heavy with a Shaq Quarterman and Zach McCloud sack on third down, the stage was set for a finally-healthy Jeff Thomas to tear off the type of electrifying 51-yard return that had his speed and elusiveness on fully display.

Where Thomas’ special teams play ultimately shut the door on any Hokies’ comeback—the ultimately statement play took place in the early minutes of the second quarter when Quarterman read Willis’ eyes and intercepted a pass on VT’s 23-yard line, returning it to the three-yard line—setting up Perry to toss a perfect fade to Darrell Langham in the back corner of the end zone.

Down 7-3 before the interception, the Hokies had already amassed 95 yards on what was the second play of their third possession. That all to familiar losing feeling could’ve crept back in had the Miami defense bent and Virginia Tech pushed the lead to, 14-3. Instead, the enough-is-enough moment served as a perfect reminder of what these Canes are capable of when coming to play their game.

TAKING THINGS IN STRIDE; A MUST AT THIS PHASE

All that to say, there’s not too much to make out of a 38-14 victory against a Virginia Tech squad that at 4-6 needs to beat Virginia in the scheduled regular season finale—as well as Marshall; a game added this week to replace a hurricane-cancelled showdown against East Carolina from mid-September.

As bad as things have been for the Hurricanes over this past month, the Hokies hot-mess ways date back to that late-September loss at Old Dominion—where starting quarterback Josh Jackson was lost for the season. From there, the Hokies were pummeled at home by Notre Dame (45-23), worked by Georgia Tech (49-28), outlasted by Boston College (31-21) and smoked at Pitt.

All Miami did; break a losing-streak against a team that’s been a punching bag for many this down season.

The Canes still get a tip of the hat, though as the Hokies had taken eight of the past 11 showdowns against UM at Lane Stadium. Even that 2001 national championship-bound squad eked out a 26-24 win the season finale—knocking down a two-point conversion late to put the game to bed, despite the Hokies only being an 8-4 squad that year.

Perspective and realistic expectations are two things that have truly gotten lost over the course of this frustrating football season—with hindsight still not proving 20/20 to some.

One expected—and frustrating—revelation in a good game from Perry at Virginia Tech; the notion that No. 5 has been ready for the moment and revisionist history as to how the four game losing streak played out.

Articles have since popped up stating that Perry should’ve been the guy all along—which he should’ve, based on redshirting last season and having a year to get his business together—but not for the reasons being listed by his biggest supporters. The author of the linked-to article above gushed about Perry’s late second quarter drive from the Miami 29-yard line—the Canes trailing 14-10—writing, “To say the redshirt-freshman was masterful would be an understatement, but he was so much more.”

“Masterful” was sophomore Ken Dorsey going 6-of-7 for 68 yards and a game-winning touchdown in 2000, after Miami had blown a 17-0 lead and trailed 24-20 with 1:37 remaining against a top-ranked, defending national championship Florida State squad that boasted a five-game winning streak over the Hurricanes.

Let’s save the gushing and over-the-top comments for a big game moment when they’re truly deserved—opposed to wasting them for some pointless case-building in a sub-par, rebuilding season.

The author also implied that if Perry didn’t manufacture that late first half scoring drive, “then possibly the Hurricanes don’t have the momentum to come back in the second half”—despite the defense holding the struggling Hokies offense scoreless since the 10:06 mark in the second quarter. Not to mention the powerful running of Davis, who notched two second half touchdowns, the electrifying return by Thomas and two forced fumbles.

Somehow the big game moment and credit for the victory are being laid at the feet of a slow-to mature quarterback’s late second quarter scoring drive—turning a four point deficit into a three point lead—instead of a spirited team effort and some much-needed execution against a broken-down opponent.

OPPORTUNITY HAS BEEN PERRY’S FOR A YEAR, NOW

Yes, Miami is in much better hands with Perry, opposed to Malik Rosier—who overachieved and had a magical run last year, but was exposed down the stretch and never regained early 2017 season form. Part of that was due to No. 12 avoiding being put under the microscope early, helping the Canes with a pair of come-from-behind wins against Florida State and Georgia Tech—as losses would’ve cranked up the heat sooner.

In Rosier’s defense, Miami did take a few offensive line hits after last season, while losing some clutch playmakers who did what greats do; help the average look better than they really are.

Mark Walton
, Chris Herndon, Ahmmon Richards and Braxton Berrios were all instrumental in the Hurricanes’ 10-0 star last year, while this year’s youth movement—31 freshman on this current squad—took some time to come around. Same for the end-of-season losses of K.C. McDermott and Trevor Darling on a young offensive line that dealt with its fair share of growing pains; starting with the opening season loss to LSU.

The Perry-versus-Rosier argument has been rooted in (over)emotion all season; those in the Perry camp usually abandoning all logic—with some sites going as far as to drum up conspiracy theories as to why Rosier was starting; one stating that Mark Richt and staff hacked Perry’s IG feed and leaked the wads-of-cash footage to justify pulling him against Virginia. Others simply chip away at Richt’s legacy and resume, working to diminish his accomplishments at Georgia—reducing him to an underachiever who “never won the big one”.

As for the Rosier camp … news flash; there isn’t one. The logically-minded folks who accepted his role as starter did so realizing Richt went this route because Perry wasn’t doing what was asked of him in regards to taking over the starting role as University of Miami quarterback.

From day one, Richt stated that Rosier would never play for him, due to his mechanics and on-field decision making. A safe bet if the one-time quarterback, former quarterbacks coach and long-time offensive coordinator had a true option he believed in under center—Rosier never would’ve been the choice.

There are two camps and a division in this fan base—and it’s rooted in those who simply wanted Richt to hand over the starting quarterback job to his redshirt freshman, despite the maturity-related issues the long-time head coach oft spoke of—versus those who understood what the man was trying to do as a father, coach, teacher and mentor; seeing that Richt was forcing maturity and pushing Perry to both earn and take the starting job from No. 12.

What life-lesson is taught if that lack of maturity and foolishness is rewarded? It would merely be a short-term solution to a long-term issue as gifting the job to Perry, before he showed the necessary maturity to take over, wouldn’t groom him to be the leader this program needs here and now.

Anyone who spends time in the kitchen and understands the art of cooking realizes there is a process that cannot be rushed. Whether it’s the actual prep work, or the slow, tedious process of tending a garden to grow those necessary ingredients—there are no shortcuts. It takes time and is a painstaking technique.

Hard as it may be for many to accept, Perry simply wasn’t ready to lead this team a month ago—despite that comeback against Florida State and a few big throws after the defense gave him a couple of short fields and held the Seminoles scoreless 26:52 of the second half.

SHIFTS IN PERSPECTIVE; WHAT IS VERSUS WHAT’S DESIRED

A week after that come-from-behind victory against a FSU squad Virginia Tech walloped, 24-3—Perry looked all the part of a deer in headlights at Virginia, tossing two interceptions in six attempts and coming off completely discombobulated. The notion he could’ve shaken that off against a Cavaliers’ defense that had his number—it might hold water, until his immature reaction played out on social media days later during the bye.

The venting, the flashing of wads of cash as the kid vying for the starting quarterback role at a university that just got out of the NCAA’s crosshairs for booster money and a lack of institutional control—it reeked of all the maturity-related quips Richt had shared with the media for months.

Yes, it was a bye week and coaches encourage kids to go home to spend time with friends and family and to recharge—but how mind-blowing would it have been if Perry decided to stay on campus that weekend, diving into the playbook and studying film mid-October with the type of vigor he’s shown mid-November? Anyone want to bet who would’ve started against Boston College a week later had that been the case?

Rosier getting the nod in what was supposed to be a bounce-back road game—it was a direct correlation to the maturity the redshirt senior has show, opposed to his counterparts. As it stands going into the final week of the season, Rosier is the only quarterback on Miami’s roster to not get suspended this season—Perry missing the opener, Cade Weldon sitting out four games mid-season and true freshman Jarren Williams not traveling with the team to Blacksburg as he faced a one-game suspension, when finally set to see some playing time.

Maturity has been a constant narrative for Richt and is a topic he’s still getting pressed on as the Hurricanes prep for their final game of the season.

“I think these guys are great kids. I think they’re just learning how to be leaders. They’re learning how to be a quarterback at the collegiate level,” Richt said.

“It’s not like it was in high school and that’s true of all freshmen. They’re all going through it. It’s not easy. They’re so used to being the best ever since they were little boys … Then you get to college and you get surrounded by guys that were the best, and now it’s a little different animal when it comes to competition …. Some of these suspension issues are more guys just not being grown up enough to take care of their responsibilities like they should.”

QUARTERBACK JOB THERE FOR THE TAKING; NO UNDERCLASSMAN TOOK IT

Fact is, the role of starting quarterback at Miami wasn’t supposed to be determined in early October—based on the competition and Perry’s pedigree, this is something that should’ve been solved within weeks of the Hurricanes’ Orange Bowl loss to the Badgers back in January.

The purpose of that redshirt season; to learn the playbook in and out and to live in the film room—all the things Perry has been doing since his eureka moment after the Georgia Tech loss. No. 5 is only now finally is saying and doing what he should’ve been doing a year ago this time when Rosier’s dream season began unraveling. Exposed against Pittsburgh, smacked around by Clemson and out-lasted against Wisconsin—the writing was more than on the wall that this was Perry’s team for the taking, yet when spring practice came around, he couldn’t overtake the pedestrian Rosier—when in reality, it shouldn’t have been a contest and Perry should’ve dominated.

This was also the blip in the timeline where Perry got himself suspended for the season-opener; spring football—when he should’ve been planting his flag and plotting his takeover.

At this point, all of this is neither here, nor there—it’s simply an attempt to set the record straight as there’s been too much time wasted watching opposite sides of this fan base argue quarterbacks like they do political leaders. Blaming Richt for Perry’s slow progression or lack-of-maturity; it’s wasted energy, as that camp case-builds to get the third-year head coach fired—an act currently as feasible as the Canes winning the Coastal.

At best, these Canes could’ve found their way towards another division title in 2018—only to get manhandled and demoralized by Clemson; not because Miami is void of talent and doesn’t belong on the same field, but a youthful quarterback behind a struggling offensive line isn’t a recipe for success late in the season when talking about conference title games or reaching the Playoffs.

TRUE CONTENDERS; SLOW-COOKED, NOT MICROWAVED

Back to all that chatter about realistic expectations and accepting what is, versus what one wants it to be—the Canes aren’t yet a contender and need more time to get there. One more time, for the record—60-47 from that final season under Larry Coker, until Al Golden got shown the door after Clemson rolled his Canes at home, 58-0 in October 2015.

Just like Perry’s progress wasn’t going to get fast-tracked—neither was Miami’s climb back to the top. All one can do right now is plant seeds, till the soil, water the garden and be patient as it grows. For those who struggle with the whole patience thing—might want to pick up a new Saturday hobby over the near couple of years, because it’s going to take some time to blossom and bear fruit.

For those who have the ability to shift their perspective and find good in what is; start with this—a young quarterback is finally finding his way, and Miami broke a nasty losing streak, earning some much-needed bowl eligibility—as fewer squads need those 15 extra practices right now than these Canes.

In the end, how much different would 8-5 be from last year’s 10-3 run? Miami took down arch-rivals both seasons—Florida State and Virginia Tech—while not yet being good enough to go toe-to-toe with a Playoff-caliber in-conference nemesis like Clemson. So be it. Dabo Swinney needed seven years to make his Tigers a next-level squad, so buckle-in for the ride.

Next hurdle; finding a way to beat Coastal Division champion Pittsburgh—at home for senior day, with no scholarship tight ends available to play. Exact revenge for what took place at Heinz Field a year ago on the Friday after Thanksgiving—and close 7-5, which (sadly) feels a lot better than 6-6. From there, go bowling, rolling prepared, beat someone soundly and close out a three-game win-streak—more momentous than the three-game losing streak that punctuated last season—and keep building.

This fan base has a choice and can pick a side; the fast food-minded lamenters who can’t get over what was, or what they think should’ve been—or those who have slow-cooked or smoked, putting in the prep work, realizing that there’s a process—and that even perceived “setbacks” are growth opportunities that can pay off in the long run.

The decision is up to the individual. Choose wisely, as personal happiness and sanity depends on it.

Please support our sponsor allCanes, the #1 Canes Shop for selection, price, value, service and the only place you will find the exclusive line of allCanes Original Tees including “It’s a Canes Thing…You Wouldn’t Understand” and “The U Invented Swagger” tees. Click here to check out all the latest gear and deals from the legendary allCanes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>