Football, Sports

Miami self-imposes bowl ban after becoming eligible

Miami has had enough of the close losses, enough of the heartbreak. Their four-hour bus ride back from Tampa was to be filled with happiness, not regret, even if it meant having their kicker do it for them.
But their joy was cut short just a day later.
After coming out on the wrong side of close games the entire season, the visiting Hurricanes (6-5, 3-4) finally got it together at the end, beating South Florida 6-3 on Jake Wieclaw’s 36-yard field goal as time expired. An offense just short of anemic for the first 55 minutes of the game came to life on a 15-play drive, as quarterback Jacory Harris and company got it together in the waning moments to give Wieclaw a chance.
“I’m thankful that I was able to come up big for the team,” Wieclaw said. “We go over pressure situations every week in practice, so it’s something I’m used to. It’s nothing new.”
Head coach Al Golden stopped the clock with two seconds remaining, his offense stalled at the opposition’s 25 yard-line, only to have back-to-back timeouts called by Bulls coach Skip Holtz – an attempt to freeze Wieclaw, who admitted to not having kicked a game-winning field goal since middle school.
But during both stoppages, the entire Miami roster grouped around Wieclaw, jumping, yelling, and screaming at the kicker. The timeout performance came from a practice drill called “pressure kicks,” where the team forms a similar position around Wieclaw trying to distract him during his attempt.
Apparently, the practice paid off.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Harris said. “I was just ready to rush the field.”
The win made the Canes postseason-eligible, but the university announced Sunday that the team had self-imposed a bowl ban, barring the football team from playing past this Friday.
Across the hall from the locker room, victorious head coach Al Golden and his players addressed the media. Tangible results also came from the win. Miami avoided a losing season in Golden’s first and the seniors’ last year.
“My season continues for another 30 days,” senior center Tyler Horn said after the win. “It’s good for me because I’m a senior and I can go out with a really big win. A bowl’s a bowl. I got 30 days left with these guys, and some of them are my best friends. The fact that I can play football with them a little longer makes me feel good.”
That good feeling is now gone. Players were unavailable for comment Sunday, but Golden and Shawn Eichorst, the first-year athletic director, discussed the ramifications of the bowl ban for both the school and athletes alike.
“I’m clearly disappointed,” Golden said. “I believe it’s the right decision and I’m 100 percent behind the decision, but clearly we’re disappointed. The team’s disappointed, but they’re going to be resilient. We know that we’re one step closer to putting these issues behind us, so sad as we are, it gives us an opportunity to move forward.”
No doubt will self-sanctioning further Miami’s attempts to please the NCAA and possibly soften the penalties that will inevitably fall on the team.
But as the players danced around on the field, there were no detractors surrounding them, no one in their corner of the endzone stands eager to criticize their performance. There was no thought of the future or what punishment awaited them in the offseason, which will now begin on Friday night. For that moment, fleeting though it was, things were alright.
Now, amidst the uncertainty that awaits, the Canes will end their season one game sooner than expected.

November 20, 2011

Reporters

Austen Gregerson

Staff Columnist


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