Football commentary: Identity Crisis

How much more confusing can the Miami Hurricanes football season get? After another home loss on Saturday, this time to a weak North Carolina State team, I was left scratching my head yet again.

This team’s bi-polar identity has left Hurricane fans everywhere frustrated beyond recognition. The roller coaster ride of a season will soon be over, but there are many problems that the ‘Canes must overcome if they want to avoid a losing season.

Let’s start with Kirby Freeman. Kirby certainly doesn’t have the arm to be a spectacular quarterback, but I don’t think anybody expects that from him. What we should expect is for him to be a smart and efficient leader. It is difficult to do this when you complete more passes to the other team than you do to your own. Granted, his one completion of the game was an 84-yard touchdown strike to Darnell Jenkins, but he gave the Wolfpack great field position at inopportune times with his three picks.

All of the blame should not be placed on Kirby, though. The play calling of first-year offensive coordinator Patrick Nix continues to be questionable at best. The running game was superb with 314 yards, but that is to be expected against the ACC’s worst run defense. Maybe he is still dreaming of his Georgia Tech days, but the ‘Canes do not have a Calvin Johnson-like receiver to throw to.

What the ‘Canes do have, though, are two dynamite running backs. Why not let Kirby throw some short dump-offs or screen passes to Coop and Javarris and let our playmakers make the plays?

After nine games, though, the major cause of the Hurricanes’ troublesome season has not been their talent, it has been their psyche. Miami is a team that thrives off of their emotions, and if they don’t find a reason to get pumped up for a game, they don’t perform to their level of potential.

With the exception of their trip to Oklahoma, the ‘Canes have stepped up when put under the national spotlight, and have underachieved the rest of the time. Think back to September. We host then-nationally ranked Texas A&M on a Thursday night on ESPN and absolutely dominate.

The ‘Canes had appeared to show the nation that they had regained that unmistakable Miami swagger until the following week when they put together a sloppy and lethargic victory over Duke on a Saturday afternoon. The high level of intensity from the week before was completely missing, and if they weren’t wearing their Miami uniforms, you might have thought it was a different team altogether.

We roll into Tallahassee two weeks ago riding a two-game losing skid and take down the Seminoles with none other than Kirby Freeman leading a perfect two-minute drill to score the game-winning touchdown.

Then on Saturday, with two weeks to prepare for a team with one conference victory, Miami fell back into their sluggish form. Once again, a Saturday afternoon at home doomed the ‘Canes and sucked out their enthusiasm and spirit just as it had against Duke and Georgia Tech.

This theory is by no means an excuse for the Hurricanes’ enigmatic identity this season; it is simply a justification for their inconsistency. I don’t know if you can blame Randy Shannon for a lack of motivation, because he radiates with intensity on the sidelines. I think the responsibility lies solely with the players. Playing for the University of Miami should be motivation enough for them to come out every week and play passionate football, but for whatever reason, this has not been the case this season.

Next week, Miami will end their 70-year history at the Orange Bowl with a Saturday night game against nationally ranked Virginia. Emotions will be high, the nation will be watching, and the ‘Canes will come to play.
One thing is for certain, nothing is outside of the realm of possibility for these Miami Hurricanes.

Zack Loss may be contacted at