Over the past week, I witnessed a Miami Hurricanes team that came into the season largely viewed as an afterthought in the ACC get turned into a BCS contender by their fan base.
From February through August, this team was labeled as too young to make a name for itself this year. By that logic, this would be a season of growing pains.
However, after a strong showing against Florida and a throttling of Texas A&M, this team was, all of a sudden, expected to coast through their ACC schedule against less talented opponents.
This is why I was nervous about their matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels. To be fair, I was just as excited as everyone else, but there was this nervousness that ceased to subside.
After last week, I could see this team getting back to its dominant ways. But as I said last week, there were definitely holes in both games. Against UF, the Canes put themselves in a position to win before they ultimately ended up choking. Against the Aggies, the team looked like they were on cruise control in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Heels dropped a close one last week, and everyone should have believed that Butch Davis and company would not walk into Miami without bringing everything and the kitchen sink.
Couple this with the fact that Miami has a home rivalry game – against Florida State – looming, and it was cause for concern.
I predicted a close Miami victory. Many predicted the Canes in a blowout.
What we saw was a classic example of a young team losing a game it should have won. Some would call it a case of a young team panicking.
I have been yelling for the coaches to play the young guys. I want them in a position to learn how to win. I have also said that youth is not an excuse for losing (although it is certainly a reason).
In my view, a standard for excellence must be set, and it must start when players are young.
This game is the sort that reminds fans of a team’s inexperience. The team is still promising. Young players should keep playing, and keep being put in a position to win or lose the game.
Unfortunately, just as in the formative years of the early 1980s and the rebuilding years of the late 1990s, these types of losses can be expected.
The fact that the Canes show so much promise makes the loss infinitely harder to take, but with the growing comes the pains.
Last season, it was easy to blame the quarterbacks. The season before, it was easy to blame Larry Coker. Those teams were clearly not good. Losing was almost expected.
Now? Now we expect to win. And because of this, losing hurts. Especially when it is because of the same youth that has us so excited.
When my father and I spoke after the game, as is our custom, he summarized the loss with admirable brevity and accuracy.
“This is like a bad dream.”
Well said Dad.