When Al Golden addressed the media at his postgame press conference at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, with his first victory as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes in hand, a reporter made the grave error of asking the drenched man in a tie whether the “glass was half full” after the victory.
“We just beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-6. There ain’t no half full glass here,” Golden said.
While it was a fair question concerning the errors still present during the game and an allusion to the hate frenzy that has surrounded this team since mid-August, Golden wasted no time pulling any deeper meaning from the Canes’ sound victory over the No. 17 Buckeyes. He just wanted the reporter to know how good it felt.
“Those kids played tough; they played with passion,” Golden said. “I’m not being disrespectful, it’s just going to be a war when you play [Ohio State]. They don’t lose a lot and the only time they have lost is when the other team has scored 24 points or more. And in the past five years they’ve lost what … seven games?”
For the first time since Golden took over, fans and athletes alike had something positive to think about.
Miami’s defense, which faltered at times against Maryland, was born anew with three of the five reinstated Hurricanes making major contributions, most notably senior linebacker Sean Spence.
Special teams did what special teams ought to do- they never put their own offense or defense in a difficult position and made it as difficult as possible for their opponent.
And yes, Lamar Miller had one hell of a game.
The sophomore running back finished the night with 184 yards rushing on 26 carries, 116 of which came in the first quarter.
“Our coaches have been talking through the whole week that no running back got over one hundred yards on [their defense],” Miller said. “The offensive line did a great job opening up holes and doing the right assignments. I was just patient, reading the offensive linemen and going off of them.”
While running back Mike James was the only running back to record a touchdown, which he scored in the waning seconds of the game, the speed and vision of Miller were too much for Ohio State. Over the past 10 years, a Buckeye defense has allowed only seven different 100-yard rushers.
“That man there is amazing,” senior quarterback Jacory Harris said of Miller. “Sometimes I get in trouble for not carrying out my fake, but it’s hard when you see a gaping hole and you want to see what this guy can do. So sometimes I’ll hand the ball off and then turn around and look at him. It’s just amazing.”
But of course, no Hurricane football storyline over the past four seasons is complete without Harris. In his first start of the season after serving a one-game suspension, Harris initially showed signs of a changed man – good check downs, throwing to open men, and letting Miller carry the load for him. And after completing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Allen Hurns in the first quarter, both from three yards out, the offseason stories of a more cerebral, less mistake-prone quarterback seemed to come true.
Then, in line with the ebbs-and-flows of his career, Harris threw two interceptions. Though both receivers were in single coverage and the interceptions were simply the result of underthrown passes, those mistakes may have cost much more had the Canes’ defense not thwarted any and all Ohio State attacks.
But just as the occasional mistake seems to be part of his fabric as a football player, so is resiliency. With the game still in the balance, the veteran quarterback converted two crucial third downs with his feet and another through the air, splitting double coverage and finding wide out Tommy Streeter along the sideline.
“We didn’t have to tell [Harris] much because he’s a very positive person, but I told him to keep his poise and we were behind him 100 percent,” Hurns said. “He’s always calm, always.”
From the players on the field to the Hurricane Walk before the game, many things felt new about this team after a month that could have destroyed the foundation Golden had been putting in place. But through all that has changed for this program, Golden saw in his players a little bit of history.
“All I’ve ever known about Miami football is that’s how they play,” Golden said. “Just being relentless, and I hope now they see that’s how you win games.”
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