Disappointment, frustration, lack of focus. All components of a 45-14 Miami win over Bethune-Cookman that was as far from dominant as a 31-point victory could be.
After three quarters, the Hurricanes (2-2) led by just 10 points, far from the blowout most would expect when a lower-division opponent is paid $400,000 to play such a game.
“Go watch the ticker tonight and see how many guys are heartbroken because they lost to a team that they were supposed to beat,” Miami head coach Al Golden said, responding to his team’s lackluster performance against an FCS school. “Each game is hard to win.”
The Hurricane defense struggled once again to contain a spread-option running attack, allowing the Wildcats (2-2) 132 yards on their first two possessions. Miami forced a goal line fumble on safety JoJo Nicolas’ hit on running back Rodney Scott during the opening drive, but confusion and missed tackles in the secondary allowed the visitors to strike first on a one-yard touchdown pass.
“It’s fixable things, and it’s not going to be perfect,” said senior linebacker Sean Spence, noting the persistence of missed defensive assignments this season. “There’s going to be mistakes, guys are going to miss tackles, you’ll have penalties here and there because nobody’s perfect. We just want to keep declining those things.”
While the Canes were outgained in total offense – 422 to 335 yards – and trailed the Wildcats significantly in time of possession, Miami’s offensive efficiency was strong despite the defense’s inability to stop the spread-option run attack for the second straight week.
The Hurricanes averaged 7.6 yards per play and ran 40 less plays, alongside another 100-yard rushing effort from sophomore running back Lamar Miller – his fourth in a row.
As Miller’s streak remains intact, another found its merciful end. For the first time in his past seven starts, senior quarterback Jacory Harris did not throw an interception, finishing the day with two touchdowns and 175 passing yards, completing 70 percent of his throws.
“As long as we get that ‘W’, that’s all I care about,” Harris said. “Stats really don’t matter, but it’s a good thing that we’re doing this in the offense and the scheme is good, we’re executing the way we’re supposed to and staying within the system.”
Catching both of Harris’ touchdowns was 6-foot-5-inch junior Tommy Streeter, his only two catches of the day. His first catch – a 56-yard post route, the longest offensive play of the game – came in the second quarter, with the Canes trailing Bethune-Cookman by seven points.
“I just want to focus on that one play,” Streeter said. “We have a model of being a six-second competitor for that individual play, and that’s where my focus goes. But sometimes when I think about the play that’s being called, if it’s similar to a high school play, I’ll play it in my head and then put myself in a University of Miami uniform, and play it again.”
Streeter hails from Miami Northwestern, a key part of the 2008 recruiting class ranked the best in the country by some outlets. However, he has yet to find consistent play on this team due to early injuries, logjams in front of him at the position, and his own struggles with dropped balls.
But for Harris, his teammate since high school, this newfound production from Streeter is no surprise.
“[Streeter’s] a hard-working guy, he shows it in practice and it lets you go out on the field and trust him,” Harris said. “Just like coach says, you have to bring your talent to the field, bring what you do in practice to the field and everything will work out. He’s always been a very talented guy, has had the physical ability to perform, just had to have the opportunity.”
The Hurricanes’ most challenging opponent thus far has been expectations, thrust upon them both by fans and their own promises of change. Now for Golden, having finished a September of fleeting brilliance against Ohio State and a potentially devastating NCAA investigation still underway, what lies ahead remains largely as it has for the past month – unknown.
“That’s all done now,” Golden said. “We went through hell and back the last five weeks, and that’s all done.”