Where do they go from here?

So the game is finally over, and it’s time to lick the wounds. The 51-13 final score was definitely a thumpin’, something I certainly didn’t expect. But what’s past is past, and now it’s time to evaluate.

What happened to Miami on Saturday? It’s quite simple; they lost to easily the third-best team in the country, maybe the second-best. They played poorly, but hung in there for two-and-a-half quarters. If not for a silly fumble and a questionable personal foul, the game would have been much closer. The ‘Canes certainly weren’t up to the level of Oklahoma, but it wasn’t as bad as 51-13 sounds.

No matter the case, though, it was 51-13. Many observers of the ‘Canes (including myself) drank the Kool-Aid, thinking that with Randy Shannon at the helm, the ‘Canes would instantly turn around, and the woes that have plagued the team would immediately vanish. A foolish opinion indeed. While he is a hugely influential part of the team, Shannon doesn’t throw the ball downfield. Shannon doesn’t pass protect. Shannon can only call plays; it’s the players who are responsible for their execution, and those execution problems still exist.

What matters now for Miami isn’t how bad they lost on Saturday, but what they will do going forward. A change in quarterback has been announced, and Kyle Wright has not-so-triumphantly returned to his spot under center. While he certainly didn’t blow the doors down Saturday, he did play sharper against a tough OU defense than Kirby Freeman, and if they want to win, it’s probably the best direction for the team.

How the team decides their new direction will dictate whether or not this season is remembered as a success or a failure.

As is often forgotten in Coral Gables, one loss does not end your season. Sure, it’s all but impossible for UM to win a national championship this year, but who was honestly thinking that was a possibility? This is a team with major holes in it, not meant for national prominence yet. With new recruits coming in, that time will come, but not now.

Miami has played exactly zero Atlantic Coast Conference games this year, and still have a chance at coming away with a conference title. It looks like another down year for the ACC, as the thought-to-be leader, Virginia Tech, got beat worse than Miami did against a top-five team (48-7 LSU). Anyone can win the ACC this year and get to a BCS bowl.

So where exactly will Miami be going in the future? With a (hopefully) easy one against FIU this weekend, the ‘Canes should be able to settle in and get into a groove against an opponent much easier than the one they faced last weekend. There’s only one really difficult game (against a struggling Texas A&M) for Miami between now and mid-October, when the ‘Canes host Georgia Tech.

This next month will show what Miami is made of: Will they hold together in the face of adversity? Or will they, as in years past, take one loss as the end of their season? That decision, and not one lop-sided game in the nation’s Midwest, will tell whether the ‘Canes are truly a competitive team in 2007.

Matthew Bunch may be contacted at m.bunch@umiami.edu