As much as Al Golden would like to bunker down and ignore the heat coming from the outside after back-to-back losses, it's hard to ignore the criticism being directed at two people in particular these days: quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.
Golden went to bat for both Tuesday and so did a few players who aren't happy with all of the blame being placed on D'Onofrio's scheme and play-calling or all the boos and chants for backup Ryan Williams that were made Saturday night.
"I'm taking the responsibility for Saturday, not Stephen Morris," Golden said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
"I'm directly responsible for special teams - that's three turnovers and they happened in succession which compounded each time. Stephen, if he was allotted to have 68 plays, would have had his best game of the year. He had 53 plays, scored 24 points against a team giving up 16 points. He had [more than] 300 yards passing, doubles what they've been giving up. He was 16 of 27 with five drops. He could have been 21 of 27. He averaged 20 yards a completion. He didn't have any turnovers. I just think it's unfair, especially given what he's been playing with, dealing with and playing with [a sprained ankle] for eight weeks now.
"Again, boo me, be frustrated with me. But Stephen Morris? He's done everything, including stand and fight here the last two years. He's our quarterback and he's our leader, and he has my support."
Although Morris and teammates Asante Cleveland and Maurice Hagens said they didn't hear the boos when UM's offense was on the field, cornerback Tracy Howard said he and UM's defense definitely heard them and it bothered them. Howard, who was teammates with Williams at Miramar and won a state championship with him, said the boos for Morris were disrespectful.
"That's disrespectful. That's a sign of unloyal fans," Howard said. "Every player is not going to be perfect. Everybody is going to have their ups and downs -- especially the quarterback. The fans want the team to be good. If the fans want us to produce and be good they can't boo the quarterback. They don't know how he will take it, if it will lower his confidence.
"But the thing with Stephen is he's strong. That don't get to him. He's internally driven. We heard it, but we just blocked it out. I don't know why they did that to Stephen. He's a good quarterback. That's disrespectful."
Howard also had words for those blaming his defensive coordinator for Miami's struggles the last few weeks.
""The fans outside, they see the players messing up so they are automatically going to blame it on the defensive coordinator," he said. "Because sometimes in football as a fan, they don't really know football. So when they see guys being cut loose they think `Oh, it's the defensive coordinator's fault.' Really it's the execution from the players. I think we have to do a better job of having his back in the games. Outside people, they don't really know what's going on, don't know football to be honest."
"I feel like coach D'Onofrio calls great games. It's up to the players to execute."
Howard said D'Onofrio is "a great teacher."
"He knows the game in and out," Howard said. "He's taught me a lot about football since I got here. I think he does a great job telling us what to do and where to be at. And not just him, all the coaches. They relay it to us the best way possible.
"I get mad because I feel like if anything he calls great games. To be honest the fans should be more loyal. When we were 7-0 they were all happy. Now they want him out on his back. But that's the way football goes. I understand it. I'm not mad or anything. But I feel like they're being too hard.
"They're saying all type of crazy things about him. They're acting like we're a .500 team or something. We're not a .500 team. I feel like he calls great games. If they really understood football they might understand that."
Golden said flatly any decisions made on defense, offense or special teams -- from scheme on down -- basically go through him.
"I wasn't listening when people loved him either," Golden said of the critics. "It's always about change. You asked what has changed on defense. It was the discipline in making tough decisions not to change, to stay with it and do all the little things. Do we need to play better on defense than we did last week? There's no question. Absolutely, no question. Did we put them -did we put them in the worst position you have to be in as a defensive coordinator [with the turnovers]? Absolutely we did that.
"If people are upset with a coach or position - because we got them all this week. We heard we've got to catch the ball better. We got every email you can get. At the end of the day it's my responsibility. There's nothing that goes on in this building that I do not approve or sign off on, co-sign. At the end of the day I know that we have to fix a lot of things. I'm as disappointed as anybody in that loss, equally disappointed in the way it transpired. It's important we continue the continuity, and just move forward, keep pushing forward. It hasn't been easy. As a staff and organization let's push forward. And we do have handcuffs off with recruiting. My first recruiting class was six weeks. The next two years were hell [with the NCAA investigation]. It's time to move forward. We got to stop talking about all this other stuff and start focusing on Duke."