Can you remember where you were or what you were doing on September 9, 2000? Most of us can’t even remember what we had for lunch yesterday; let alone what our lives were like two-and-a-half years ago.
Well, let’s look at what’s happened in that two and a half year span. Back then, Osama Bin-Laden was thought to be a spicy Indian dish, the Spice Girls were in, Jennifer Lopez and Puff Daddy were an item, our president was named Clinton, and, oh yeah, the University of Miami football team came up five points short (34-29), at Washington on an overcast Saturday afternoon.
Since then however, Mr. Bin-Laden has become public enemy No.1, the Spice Girls have fallen off the radar, Puffy became a court defendant and emerged as P. Diddy, and J-Lo (formerly Jennifer Lopez) has pinballed from P. Diddy to a background dancer to Ben Affleck. And we have a new president…at least South Florida election officials hope so.
So where does the University of Miami football program fit into this equation? The Hurricanes reeled off 34 consecutive wins, three conference titles and a national championship during that span, completing college football’s most impressive run over the last half century. They have been one of the few sure things; at least until Jan. 3, when they suffered a double overtime loss at the hands of Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.
So where do they go from here?
The task at hand for next year’s Hurricanes is a daunting one, said likely starting quarterback Brock Berlin.
“We have a great challenge ahead of us,” Berlin said.
The challenge Berlin refers to involves replacing key veterans from a national championship caliber team while not missing a step, all while partaking in one of the nation’s toughest schedules.
Even when faced with these obstacles, the Hurricanes still feel confident.
“We’re still a very good team,” offensive lineman Brad Kunz said. “We plan on rallying around each other and not missing a step.”
However, before the Hurricanes can begin to spin off another ridiculous winning streak, they must recommit themselves to accepting nothing short of perfection.
“The most important thing is to sit down as a team and talk,” Berlin said. “We have to develop a new attitude, set new goals for ourselves and not quit until we reach them.”
There is no question that the ‘Canes face an uphill battle, but compared to last off-season, the team actually has fewer holes to fill. Coming into the 2002 campaign, the Hurricanes were forced to replace 12 starters, including the entire offensive and defensive backfields. In comparison, only nine starters will not return from a team that came within inches of repeating as national champions.
Still, critics point to tough road trips to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Pittsburgh, as well as home dates against Tennessee and Florida as too much for the defending Big East champions to overcome.
But these Hurricanes remain focused.
“We won’t settle for second place again,” offensive lineman Chris Myers said. “No one’s going to give it to us. We got to take it.”
Nonetheless, players remain determined and poised for another run. Returning players hit the ground running when they returned to daily off-season lifting and conditioning drills to prepare for upcoming spring practice. Eager to get back to work, the players want to erase the Fiesta Bowl loss from their memories.
“I have had a bad taste in my mouth since the loss,” Myers said.
On the other hand, some players see the loss as a blessing in disguise for the program.
“In a way we might have needed to lose,” Kunz said. “The lessons we learn from it are going to help us in the long run.”
“We learned a lot through our last loss at Washington and those lessons carried us through the streak. We might have needed to learn some fresh lessons.”
The players are ready to do whatever is necessary to return to their winning ways and bring home a sixth national championship to Coral Gables. Myers might have summed up the entire outlook and attitude of the team when he said, “we won’t settle for second place again.” Or maybe Berlin said it better when he noted, “it’s a new team for a new streak.”
One thing is for sure, if the Hurricanes were able to run off 34 consecutive wins and a national championship after the Washington defeat, which they only had two weeks to reflect on, then the rest of college football better look out after they have an entire eight months to ponder their latest loss.
-Joel Rodriguez is a sophomore and a candidate to take over the starting center job next season. Joel is also a journalism major.