41-35 the past five seasons and 13-12 the past two years is barely .500 ball. Translation? You may as well flip a coin when deciding the outcome of a Hurricanes game these days.
Mike Tyson had a quote in his heyday; “Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth. Watching UM football the past few years, coaches went in with an agenda, the Canes were quickly tagged in the grill and from there, the duration of the contest was spend in damage control-mode.
There’s an Xs and Os approach we could discuss when game planning what Miami will do at Boston College this weekend. All it takes is some common sense.
Get the ball moving on the ground with Mike James and the other backs. Make sure the offensive line protects quarterback Stephen Morris, who should get a few running plays, just to keep the defense honest, while playing mistake-free football.
Defense can’t give up big plays. D-line can’t be manhandled by veteran BC O-line. Special teams must remain sound. Playmakers need to get a few touches and hopefully can break one.
Blah, blah, blah.
Coaches have studied the film and they know this Boston College team, having ended the season with the Eagles last November, the Canes falling, 24-17 behind four interceptions courtesy of departed quarterback Jacory Harris.
Harris is gone and while his counterpart Chase Rettig returns, the Eagles quarterback will be without last year’s top targets as tight end Chris Pantale and wide receiver Bobby Swigert are sidelined with injury. (Swigert led BC with 44 receptions for 470 yards in 2011.)
The duo combined for eight receptions, 137 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s throw down – meaning Retting only completed five passes for 59 yards to guys not named Pantale or Swigert.
Running back Rolandan Finch was the Eagles’ leading rusher carrying 22 times for 96 yards and he too will be out this weekend, as will defensive back Albert Louis-Jean and back-up tight end Mike Naples. Conversely, Miami rolls in extremely healthy, missing only linebacker Raphael Kirby and defensive tackle Curtis Porter.
Boston College wrapped the 2011 season a paltry 4-8, despite beating Miami late. This wasn’t a good football team even with the aforementioned players suiting up this weekend and without them, the Eagles are even less. They’ll come to play as it’s the season opener and everyone gets up to play Miami, but even with so much youth and inexperience, this is a game the Canes should win.
The only x-factor is Chestnut Hill and Alumni Stadium, which has given Miami fits over the years.
Everyone remembers needing a miracle in 2001, up 12-7 with Boston College driving before defensive lineman Matt Walters intercepted a pass (off the knee of Mike Rumph), was stripped by teammate Ed Reed, who made a house call and gave the Canes an 18-7 win, en route to a fifth national title with arguably the greatest college team … ever.
Still, that wasn’t the only nailbiter when Miami trekked north to Boston for a showdown.
In 1999 the Canes were down 28-0 before storming back to win, 31-28. Two years prior, a 45-44 UM win in overtime.
Butch Davis first brought his Canes to Chestnut Hill in 1995 and Miami escaped, 17-14 and in 1991 a Dennis Erickson-era UM squad was in a game almost as scary as the one which came ten years later.
Up 19-14 in the final minute, Boston College was driving and facing a 3rd-and-10 from the UM 26-yard line, player of the game, linebacker Micheal Barrow and defensive end Kevin Patrick, combined to sack Eagles quarterback Glenn Foley.
A fourth down ‘Hail Flutie’ attempt went long and Miami rolled on to an undefeated season and fourth national title.
Miami occasionally had their way at Boston College and both cases were games earlier in the season, opposed to the standard November meet-up. The Canes opened the 1993 season with a 23-7 road win and in 2003, a mid-September night game ended, 33-14 in UM’s favor.
Put it under a microscope, dissect it and a logical argument could be made that Miami should win this game by double-digits, despite a new quarterback and some young, green talent. The Canes also have the better athletes, though that’s been of little consolation over the past few years as losses to “lesser” teams have piled up.
Al Golden enters year two as the helm for the Canes. He survived a rocky first year, complete with scandal, suspensions and distractions, leading Miami to a 6-6 record, that could just as easily have been 9-3 or 4-8 with a few lucky, or unlucky, bounces.
Golden recruited well this past year, pulling in a top ten class in February, with many of those thirty-plus players expected to see action this weekend.
More importantly, though, a rededication in the weight room and with strength and conditioning overall. As surprised as Golden was by the NCAA investigation, he cites the poor shape of his players the biggest shock of 2011, in utter disbelief that University of Miami football players could be as poorly conditioned as they were.
There is usually a jump between year one and year two for coaches taking over a new program, but many are doubting Miami because of the lost upperclassmen and influx of newbies. Anyone doing that is truly dismissing the impact of the weight room this off-season and the impact a better-conditioned Hurricanes bunch can have in Golden’s system in his second season.
Talk is cheap, but Miami does seem fired up entering this season. Players seem to realize the ‘how’ and ‘why’ last year fell apart and the rededication to conditioning has been felt across the board. Older players are taking care of business, while freshman have hit the ground running – be it early enrollees who started the process in January or kids who trickled in this summer.
This will be an up and down season in Coral Gables, but everything seems aligned for week one – especially on the motivation front.
A rematch against the last foe you faced and fell to. A lot of time grinding in the South Florida heat, pent up and ready to hit someone for real. Tremendous competition on the practice field, fighting for the coveted black jerseys and competing with teammates doing the same. As well as the fact that for once the other guys are banged up, depleted and without their playmakers – a far cry from last year’s opener at Maryland.
Miami should make a solid statement week one, though it could be short-lived with a road trip to Kansas State next week. Or it could prove to be just what the doctor ordered, giving UM something to build on – which was never the case last year, seemingly trading wins and losses each week and never giving coaches the ability to use some psychology and truly motivate.
Regardless, Boston College should go down fairly easily and the preparations turn towards arguably the toughest road trip of the 2012 in Manhattan, Kansas against the Wildcats.