After five weeks of promising performances, Miami’s loss to Florida State was particularly gut-wrenching. Some fans are now disappointed with the Canes this season; however, there are still signficicant reasons to remain optimistic.
In Richt We Trust
Richt had a near-perfect beginning to the season: a 4-0 start, the first top 10 ranking for Miami since 2013, plans for upgraded facilities and new retro uniforms. The swagger seemed to be back for the Canes in the 305.
However, the Hurricanes have just hit their first speed bump. Miami has now lost to rival Florida State in seven consecutive contests.
Richt had a similar start when he began coaching at Georgia, losing to rival Auburn in his first season. He ultimately ended up forging a prosperous tenure featuring two SEC championships, six SEC Eastern Division titles and nine bowl games. Richt also had experience facing ACC competition and boasted a 19-3 record against it at the helm of the Bulldogs.
Canes fans should keep supporting the team with their “In Richt We Trust” and “Richt-Kaaya 2016” campaign shirts because history shows that there is future success to come under Richt.
Down, but not out
The Hurricanes are currently 1-1 in conference play and just one game off the top spot of the ACC Coastal Division. Having already faced arguably their toughest test of the season, the Canes have a balanced schedule that is ideal for boosting their ranking and paving the way for an ACC championship.
“It starts with North Carolina,” junior wide receiver Braxton Berrios said. “We are right in the driver seat of the Coastal if we beat North Carolina. As long as we do not lose, we will be in the ACC Championship game.”
This week, Miami hosts an up-tempo North Carolina Tar Heels team that was previously ranked No. 17 and currently sits just outside the AP Top 25 after losing to Virginia Tech. This same North Carolina team beat Florida State just two weeks ago.
“We just got to keep working,” redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson said. “Can’t look at what’s going right or what’s going wrong, we just got to keep working. Right now we have the Coastal ahead of us, the rest of the ACC, so we just got to keep working.”
Then Miami plays No. 17 Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia, North Carolina State and Duke. All those matchups are must-win contests in order for the Canes to reach the ACC Championship game and possibly attain their first bowl victory since 2006.
“There is a chip on our shoulders every game,” Jackson said. “We didn’t end up in the ACC Championship game last year, we didn’t win the Coastal. We just have to go out there and take one game at a time.”
Offense wins games, but defense wins championships
When Miami has won this season, its victories have come in emphatic fashion. No win has been by a margin of less than two touchdowns. While the team’s offense is 16th in the nation in points scored per game (41.4), the Canes defense has been playing at an elite level.
The Hurricanes defense is fifth in the nation, holding opposing teams to just 12.8 points per game. It also ranks seventh in total yards allowed per game.
The success for the defense has been led by the front seven. Jackson has been all over the field with 21 total tackles, five of which have been for loss, and two sacks. Junior defensive lineman Chad Thomas has a team leading 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, while also contributing 20 total tackles. Freshmen linebackers Michael Pinckney and Shaquille Quarterman are ranked second and third in tackles, respectively.
The experienced secondary for the Canes features senior defensive backs Corn Elder and Jamal Carter Sr., as well as redshirt senior defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins. They have limited opponents to 158.2 passing yards per game, a number good enough for 11th in the nation.
While Miami has put up at least 35 points in every victory this season, the defense has not allowed more than 21 points in any contest. Many times, points on the scoreboard have come from the Canes defense forcing turnovers.
“What we’re doing in practice, everything we’ve been doing all summer, just bring it every game,” Jackson said. “It is no different. We are still trying to go out there and get a W.”
If the Hurricanes are able to close out their season with just one loss that came by one point to the Seminoles, who have been ranked as high as No. 2 this season, Miami will be a force to be reckoned with come championship week and bowl season.