When UM lost to Florida State by 28 points back on Oct. 9, several former Hurricanes came out and criticized the lack of effort and passion they saw from their former team. Coach Randy Shannon said he didn't see enough internal leadership and policing from his players.
Last Saturday's 33-10 rout of North Carolina was almost the antithesis of the FSU loss. Players weren't just bouncing around, arguing with each other on the sidelines and creating big plays, they were drawing 15-yard penalties for excessive celebration. It was almost as if some old Hurricane spirits had taken over the bodies of the current Canes and made them enthusiastic and fun to watch again (Hey, it's almost Halloween, give me a pass).
Turns out, what really happened was that a visit from former Hurricane Antrel Rolle helped a rather large awakening take place in Coral Gables. Rolle met with the entire team and then privately with the defensive backs to deliver a strong message.
What was it? "Just to play for each other, have each other's back, have coach Shannon's back and our coaching staff's back most of all," cornerback Brandon Harris said Tuesday. "The main thing we talked about was how we've been taking a back seat and letting our coaches take the heat when as a team we have to get some things together and get some things going. You sort of hear a lot about what old guys used to do. But just to hear it come out of his mouth, it was impressive...
"He spoke his honest opinion on some issues. It was true, it was undeniable. As a team, finally hearing that from an outside influence, but also somebody still close to the family, it kind of hit close to home. Usually when you hear things you're able to wash it off. But hearing it from a guy of his caliber, who has been here, who has been a part of the program, it really stuck with us. In the back of our minds we were kind of like 'Man, we can't let these guys down.' They've established this program to where it is and we have to keep it going. He said a lot of good things to us. A lot of guys took it and ran with it the rest of the week."
Rolle has worked out in Coral Gables over the last few summers since he left for for the NFL in 2005 (8th pick overall by Arizona) and is widely admired by players in UM's secondary. Senior Ryan Hill said chose to come to UM because he thought he could develop into a player like Rolle, who was a vocal leader during his time at UM.
"I've been talking to Antrel for awhile," Hill said. "I know his mindset. He has that killer instinct, that dog, typical Miami player. For him to come back and talk to us, I felt like guys bought into it. One of the things he mentioned was that he didn't think we were having fun... he put the dog back in us."
That dog showed up right around the second quarter when the Hurricanes started bopping their heads and dancing during a North Carolina injury timeout. According to Hill, it even spread into a new team chant led by Spence.
"Sean does a good job getting the defense ready," Hill said. "We have his little chant now: 'Up and down, round and round.' "If it takes us having fun the rest of our games, I'm sure you guys will see a sequel to that."
Although the fun went a little too far for officials last Saturday (when Harris drew a 15-yard penalty for playing the role of a horse getting whipped by teammate Sean Spence after his interception), it doesn't appear as if Shannon is going to curtail the emotion or enthusiasm. After the game, Harris said he expected to be punished by Shannon for his antics. But it turns out, he wasn't. Shannon gave him a pass.
"Coach said he just wants me to remember next time not get penalized," Harris said. "But the fun, the dancing? He's all for that as long as we keep winning."
> I'll have more notes and blogs for you in the coming days. But here are the video interviews from this morning and afternoon. For more interviews including Randy Shannon's press conference, check out our audio section.