Column: Although losing to Alabama was demoralizing, Miami must move on

D'Eriq King throws a pass during Miami's game against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 4.
D'Eriq King throws a pass during Miami's game against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 4. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Aside from expectations, Saturday afternoon felt demoralizing for plenty of the Hurricane faithful.

Miami entered the first week of a new season with a fresh but tall task of upsetting reigning national champion Alabama.

As they marched into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, the No. 14 Hurricanes appeared determined, though their expected results didn’t follow and instead proved to be anything but fruitful.

“College football is famous for overreactions after Week 1,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. “That’s not what this team is all about. You don’t just get your story written one game into the season. We’re just not there yet. The guys in the locker room, if anything, what happened to them today will bring them even closer together.”

While 10 has become a magic number in regards to wins, Saturday’s outcome served as a gentle reminder for this team. Defeating Nick Saban’s top-ranked team, winners of three of the last six College Football Playoff trophies, didn’t have to serve as a starting point on a journey to Miami’s long-term goal.

Yes, Diaz and the Hurricanes’ new coaching staff additions could have mightily used a win over an SEC powerhouse to prove they could hang with the best talent. Such a victory would have proved to be more than momentous after falling to a pair of top 25-ranked SEC teams in back-to-back season openers.

And just two days later, Miami has been forced to adopt a shared mentality: move on.

Saturday’s commonly expected calamity sure stung a team with hopes of snapping a two-game skid which began with a defensive meltdown against ACC-foe North Carolina in mid-December.

This also is certainly not the time in recent history Miami wanted to relive. If Hurricanes fans backtrack to the Week 0 loss to then-ranked No. 8 Florida in 2019, not much was lost, other than a potential top 25 ranking and a thrilling victory over Sunshine State rival Florida.

And two years later, the Hurricanes have far greater expectations to fulfill. Gone are the games where third year head coach Manny Diaz can offer a reverberated case for new growth and experimentation. Either the team fires on all cylinders out of the gate or raises immediate questions on the congruency of each side of the game.

Third-year head coach Manny Diaz has worked tirelessly to produce an ACC Coastal Division winner for the first time since 2017. Following the at-times tiresome months leading up to the rocky start witnessed on Saturday, one would fail argue that nobody in or around the team would not lack a sense of frustration and overall impatience without a home-opening win this Saturday. While Miami has hoped to use a more efficient rushing attack as well as rely more heavily on the defensive backfield, a slow start simply cannot happen in any of 10 wins moving ahead.

“I mean, we just started slow trying to get going,” quarterback D’Eriq King said. “The first quarter was three and out, three and out, three and out. We’ve got to find a way to start faster.”

Conference play still stands three weeks away. Two additional non-conference opponents, Appalachian State and Michigan State, begin the genuine path towards a renewed ACC Championship appearance and a long-awaited appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Many doubted the actuality of Miami slipping into the conversation for the oft-questioned College Football Playoff royalty, and now the opportunity to become more focused on fine-tuning the offense and new faces on the defensive line becoming more honed in on preventing another runaway train at Hard Rock Stadium.

“We weren’t in the locker room talking about losing, but any team has to face adversity, whether it be a situation or a whole game,” defensive end Zach McCloud said. “We were making sure everybody, the young guys included, were able to handle any adversity that came our way.”

Facing some of the most scrutinizing pressure to win across the college football landscape is never easy at Miami. No team wants to leave everything on the turf and still lose control over the season-opening outcome, especially against a team that Miami hasn’t defeated since the 1990 Sugar Bowl.

But if there’s one moment in any recent Hurricanes season to forget about the past, that could not be more evident now.