Here is the video of today's press conference via the Hurricanes team website.
That's the one word that gets thrown around more than any other in college football.
Yet, as we've come to realize, it means absolutely nothing.
Al Golden used the word right after the Hurricanes got embarrassed by Louisville a little more than a week ago in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And he meant it.
"I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done," Golden said of returning the Hurricanes to dominance.
Now, less than 10 days later, we're sitting here wondering if he's leaving for his alma mater Penn State. So are his bosses, assistant coaches, players and recruits.
"We don't know anything yet," President Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald in an email.
Golden? Not a peep, which says his commitment and his loyalty is really only to himself and his family.
We all know this of course. We're not naive. We all have priorities. If you were in Al's shoes and your alma mater came calling, offering more money, offering a heroes welcome, you would have to listen at least.
And maybe that's all this is. Maybe Golden won't be leaving anywhere.
After all, Penn State is reportedly interviewing Mike Munchak and James Franklin today. Maybe Al isn't sure he'd be better off back where he met his wife Kelly. Maybe being the next Joe Paterno isn't his thing. Maybe he wants to jump from Miami to the NFL and aspires to be the next Bill Belichick.
Only Al and his people know.
What does Al want us to know? Nothing. His silence speaks for itself. It reminds us people in college football can use the word commitment one day and change their minds the next. All anyone is really going to do is what's best for themselves from one decision to the next. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's real life.
In the end, if Al stays at Miami, it's going to be hard for some to believe just how committed he really is to this program. And the truth is that's really what was maybe Golden's most likable quality wasn't it? The fact he was, in his words, "going to fight [his] ass off until we get it done."
That commitment to standing by Miami's side through the NCAA mess. We loved that. The idea he was going to dig his feet into the ground, recruit his butt off and take Miami back to the top. Many Canes fans -- after a 7-0 start and rise to a No. 7 ranking -- were completely buying in.
Not so much anymore of course. They want his best bud, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, out of here. Get rid of him or you can go with him Al, many say.
If Al leaves, which many outside the program seem to think he will, the next guy will be expected to pick up right where he left off. Since the Canes went 9-4 this year, the next guy has to secure that Top 10 recruiting class, and then win the Coastal Division. No excuses. To not accomplish that would mean failure.
The good news for Hurricanes fans is that if Al leaves there are hungry, interested coaches out there who could accomplish that.
Mario Cristobal would be the first person I would call. Yeah, Cristobal left for a better paying Alabama job after Al gave him one when FIU dumped him.
But can you imagine anyone "fighting his ass off" for Miami -- his alma mater -- harder than Cristobal? He still hasn't tasted that NFL money, still hasn't really proven himself. He would work to get to that point.
And that's really what this Miami job has always been about. It doesn't pay enough to be a place where someone settles in for the long haul. It never has been. In it's most successful days it's always been the springboard to then next big, better paying job.
Some are saying Rob Chudzinski, Greg Schiano and Butch Davis would be great options. Tommy Tuberville might be too. But I'd call Mario first.
The only commitment you would need from Cristobal is what this program has really always been about and needed. That's a commitment to winning and winning big.
ORLANDO -- Not a lot of positive to report after the 36-9 thumping the Hurricanes took at the hands of Louisville Saturday night here in the Russell Athletic Bowl. But a quick few bullet points before we get to the transcript.
> Tight end Clive Walford said he's decided to return for his senior season. He led the Hurricanes with four catches for 82 yards tonight.
> Linebacker and leading tackle Denzel Perryman, a new father, said he hasn't made up his mind yet if he's returning for his senior season.
"I was going to wait until pretty much after this game," he said. "Whatever kind of break we have I'm going to go home, sit down, talk to my family, make the best decision for me."
Perryman said he hasn't heard back from the NFL advisory committee yet. "I sent them my evaluation paper I don't know how many weeks ago," he said. "It should come in either this weekend or next weekend."
He said he's going to wait for it before making his decision. What will be the biggest factor? "I don't know. I haven't thought about it yet," he said.
Here is everything UM coach Al Golden and quarterback Stephen Morris had to say post-game. You'll want to read the stuff specifically about Golden's time table for when he thinks UM will be back competing for national titles and how Louisville threw things at Miami they weren't prepared for.
Opening statement: "Obviously disappointed we got beat in all three phases. There's no excuses. We didn't play well enough, give a lot of credit to Louisville they played really well, executed well. Again, it's my responsibility and disappointed in our execution in all three phases. I just -- as I just shared with the team. Despite that, just really proud of Stephen and this group of seniors and what they've been through and what they've endured in moving us forward from six to seven and from seven to nine wins. We're going to miss them greatly for all that they've contributed and obviously for their leadership through really tough three years. So go ahead."
Q: Did it kind of remind you of the Florida state game that you clearly were just against a football team that was significantly farther along than where you are right now?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, Gary, I appreciate the question but it's so hard to answer that without discrediting the guys in that locker room especially the seniors who have been busting their tail to keep us afloat and move us forward. I think everybody recognizes and I'm going to answer this honestly. Everybody recognizes that we're not where we want to be yet but we're scratching and fighting and clawing to get to where we want to be and keep moving forward. We've done it, you know, against terrible odds. I'm not going to discredit the guys we just played, but we have to get better and we're going to play these guys again in the near future and we got to be better.
Q: Al, what does have to change going into next season defensively?
COACH GOLDEN: "Again, we didn't give the defense a chance early in the game. I thought they were playing really well. They did a great job against the run. They were out there for too many plays and we didn't convert. I think we were 0 for seven at the half. Matt, there's a lot of things that have to change. We have to do better job coaching, we have to continue to build our program and just move forward and -- but, again, I think the defense was what was holding us in there in the first half and they were out there for too many plays."
Q: Coach, did you see any of this in preparation, in bowl practice? Was there any sign the game would be like this?
COACH GOLDEN: No, obviously it's our first go round for the freshman, sophomores, and juniors. It's the first time going through this experience. Again, Stephen and Jimmy and Allen, they provided really good leadership for us. But, again, it's the first time. You got to go through it. We didn't want to play the way we played. We wanted to play better. There are going to be a lot of things from this week and from going into a site and learning how to handle the media and the crowd and all of those things that we have not had the opportunity to do. Again, I think our guys are going to find value in that and learn from that.
Q Coach, can you please tell us a little bit more about the significance of the senior class and how it's been in this program after you guys have been through?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, I don't think it's -- to go out on a limb and say they saved us. They could have cut and run. They kept us afloat, you know, and they saved us. I don't know how else to look at it. You know, that's about as hard as you get what they had to endure for three seasons. You know, again, it's not to our standard, let alone anybody else's expectations, but I'm not going to let that eclipse what these young men have done for the university of Miami and this program and the class they exhibited and to take somebody else's problem on and claim it as their own and have the resolve and the mental toughness to fight through. I'm proud of them.
Q Stephen, this question is for you, obviously today four sacks, most pressure you felt all season back there. Can you talk about the performance and this being your last game as a Hurricane?
MR. MORRIS: "Obviously it wasn't the performance I wanted to have being my last game but give credit to Louisville. They had a great defensive plan going. They were in the right spots at the right time. They came up with making the play. It's definitely something I want to work on, something it's been an issue for running on third downs we needed to do a better job on that. Over all my performance as a quarterback was not one of my greatest performances but you just learn from it."
Q Coach, you've been here three years, defensively there's been some issues with schematics. Are you going to reevaluate the whole staff and everything in the future now that the season is over or perhaps look to make any changes?
COACH GOLDEN: I'm going to evaluate the whole program, just like I do every year. It's not going to be any different. Again, there's things right now but in terms of moving the program forward, we're going to keep moving it forward. We're going to be resolute in that and we're not going to flinch with that. Again, at the end of the day, we're going to continue to recruit, continue to develop, but in terms of the young kids in our program and everything, I don't want to trade the young kids. I want to keep going. I want to keep moving forward. I just think overall, I think it's really important that every coach, every unit, every player, everybody is evaluated and I'll start that probably tomorrow.
Q Stephen, this might not have been the way you wanted to end your career here but has it fully hit you you've played your last game at the university of Miami and what is it you'll take away most of your time at the university?
MR. MORRIS: I think it will probably hit me tomorrow when I wake up and won't have a schedule from coach Golden and won't have a tech saying where I need to be. It's been a pleasure here, man. It's been a true blessing. I'm blessed to say that all these coaches have truly left such a great mark on my life. It's changed me to a better man. I'm proud to say. Football is a game of wins and losses. Unfortunately we didn't win how we wanted to win. Sometimes we lost the way we loss. I'm always going to be proud to say I'm a Cane.
Q How much did they change over the month in terms of blitz packages?
COACH GOLDEN: It was different.
Q Significantly different?
COACH GOLDEN: Yeah, no it was definitely different and then obviously you know when they got out to a lead and we never brought my pressure on the other side, which kept compounding the problem, Gary. So I don't think there's any question about it. Then you get to a point in the game where you're pressing and your trying to make some plays that you don't need to make. I don't think there's any question we didn't protect as well as we needed to protect. It's my responsibility.
Q Coach, this is for you and Stephen. I know it's not good right now, but the week in general, I mean, talk about how was the bowl experience for you/
MR. MORRIS: The bowl experience was very fun. Russell Athletic did a great job hosting the events for us. On top of that the week's practice was great. Even when we were in Miami we had tough physical practices which was great. Guys were excited to be here and when we got to the bowl site throughout the whole week everyone was focused and everyone invested a lot into this game. It's disappointing the way the game turned out to be but it's been a great experience.
COACH GOLDEN: I would say on above of the University of Miami we're grateful, the Russell Athletic Bowl and Orlando for just -- they did a tremendous job for our young people and especially given the fact that our guys hadn't experienced that since 2010. We're grateful.
Q Al, I think Teddy had over 400 yards passing in this game. What was he doing that just allowed him to be so effective tonight?
COACH GOLDEN: Number one, I think he made a lot of plays where he broke a tackle, you know, made a completion. He made some really, really excellent plays, just individual plays where it looked like we had him for a sack. It looked like we got him for a sack, he breaks the tackle and throws. There was a number of those, number of those plays, but obviously he's an excellent quarterback, he threw the ball well, but, again, you can't -- there's no excuses right now. He played well, he execute well. Their team executed well. We have to do a better job.
Q You spoke about a lot of the momentum you felt this month and obviously with everything that's gone on this season, what type of message does this game send the recruits?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, I don't know if it sends a message. I just think we're still building. We need help. Obviously the size of this class is an indication you know that we're bringing a big group in and there's a lot of room to help us. I don't think there's any question that those kids understand that. They understand that they can help us and there's room to help us and we're not in a situation right now where we want to be and those kids see themselves as guys that can help us get there. So I don't think that's going to change anything. We just got to keep moving forward.
Q Coach, you're going to have the opportunity to play Louisville again real soon. How are you going to play differently and what can you expect from that program over the next several years?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, I can't really speak to what direction they're going. All I can answer is what we need to do. Obviously we need to get back to work and see how we evolve with our personnel in the spring. Depending on when we play them, we'll make determination what our game plan is and what our personnel is. That's so far off right now. We're going to add 25, 26 guys to this team and obviously develop the young men that we have and decide what direction we want to go in all three phases in the off season and spring ball and we'll decide what the game plan will be.
Q Coach, you talk about the process all the time and now the cloud is removed from the NCAA do you have a time frame you expect to get this program back consistently top ten competing at a high level?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, number one, we just won nine games for the third time in a decade. I wish we had won ten, all right, but we're busting our tails right now to keep moving. There is no time table. Again, I take responsibility for everything, responsibility for everything in the program. At the end of the day today wasn't good enough. Again, I'm proud of the seniors and I don't want that to be diminished or lost here. We're going to keep moving this thing forward and it's hard for me to give you a time table. When my time table is wiped out on August 15, 2011. It's hard me to give you a time table. I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done.
Q I was just wondering about you know what happens tomorrow? Do you meet with the under class men at all? Do the seniors just kind of walk away and that's the end?
COACH GOLDEN: We'll get the seniors back when they either, A, come back to school or when they start to work out to get ready and do those types of things. They know. We have a great relationship with the seniors, but tomorrow everybody is going to kind of go their own way. That's pretty traditional. We'll find an opportunity to get the seniors back and get them together, but we really did try to honor them as best we could at the banquet and just make sure before the game they understood how important they were and we just had another opportunity and we did that again.
Q Are you -- I guess you probably already talked to some of the juniors that are contemplating, perhaps, entering the NFL. How does that work now?
COACH GOLDEN: We have a great process in place where they get their draft reports. They had and will continue to have opportunities to speak to every entity that they need to, but as it relates to me. I'm just there for support. I am not part of that decision. I make sure that they get everything that they can get to make the best decision for them and their future and obviously if they need consultation from me, then I give it to them, just as we have a whole booklet of people that they can call and different people they can get information from to make the best decision for themselves.
ORLANDO -- The Miami Hurricanes were hurting at receiver coming into this game with sophomore Herb Waters out.
They are minus another: junior Rashawn Scott. He was among a list of three players UM confirmed did not make the trip up to play in the bowl game.
The others: freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen, who had made previous road trips and dressed in uniform, and cornerback Ray Lewis Jr.
UM has not given a reason as to why the three players are not playing. But they have confirmed they were left behind.
Scott has been suspended multiple times, including at the end of last season.
Olsen was charged with leaving the scene of a car accident before arriving at UM this summer. The report stated that Olsen “appeared to be under the influence of something.”
He and Lewis were both being redshirted this season.
Either way, it's never a good thing when you don't end up making a bowl trip with your teammates and you are healthy.
ORLANDO -- The Hurricanes (9-3) hope to complete their first 10-win season in a decade with a win over 18th-ranked Louisville (11-1) at 6:45 p.m. tonight at The Citrus Bowl.
It won't be easy. Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a former standout at Miami Northwestern and once a UM commitment when Randy Shannon was coach, leads a potent Louisville passing attack.
Las Vegas lists the Cardinals as a 3 1/2 point favorite. With good reason, too. Despite facing a pretty weak schedule, Louisville is sound defensively.
We'll be here to provide live updates as usual on Twitter and in our live blog.
ORLANDO -- Here is a breakdown of Saturday night's Russell Athletic Bowl game featuring Miami (9-3) and 18th-ranked Louisville (11-1). The Cardinals are favored to win by 3 1/2 points.
> Here is also a link to my weekly segment with Orlando Alzugaray on 640Sports.com.
WHEN MIAMI RUNS THE BALL
Louisville coach Charlie Strong said the Hurricanes present the toughest challenge his defense has faced in his four years with the Cardinals. That's not exactly a stretch -- at least for this season.
The Hurricanes are the highest-ranked scoring offense (35.9 points per game, 25th nationally) and top rushing team (172.5 yards per game, 63rd) the Cardinals will face this season. Although Louisville ranks second nationally in run defense (86.25) and is allowing only 2.74 yards a carry, they've faced only two teams who rank better than 80th rushing: Cincinnati (68th) and UCF (79th). Both of those opponents had some success (160 yards average and three touchdowns each) against the Cardinals.
Can Dallas Crawford, Gus Edwards and Eduardo Clements find running lanes behind a big, beefy offensive line that averages 320 pounds? With Duke Johnson sidelined over the last four games, they haven't done it enough. Miami has averaged 121 yards on the ground. That ranks 109th. To beat Louisville, Miami will also have to be better on third down (37.8 percent, 85th). The Cardinals rank second nationally in third down defense (28.6 percent). Edge: Louisville.
WHEN MIAMI THROWS THE BALL
The Cardinals have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the country (eight) and rank eighth in passing yards allowed (171.7). Only Cincinnati, whom the Cardinals beat in overtime 31-24 in the regular season finale, managed to throw for more than 250 yards against them. Sophomore cornerback Charles Gaines leads the team with 11 pass breakups and five interceptions.
Miami, led by quarterback Stephen Morris and receivers Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley, has thrived with the big pass play. UM ranks second nationally with 35 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Louisville has allowed only 10 pass plays of 30 yards or more all season (tied for fifth-fewest).
What the Cardinals do best to stop offenses is sack the quarterback (39 total, fifth nationally). Senior defensive end Marcus Smith ranks second nationally in sacks (12.5) and junior Lorenzo Mauldin is 17th with 9 1/2. UM has allowed only 13 sacks on the season. Edge: Even.
WHEN LOUISVILLE RUNS THE BALL
About the nicest thing you can say about Miami's run defense (ranked 81st, 182.33 yards per game, 25 TDs allowed) is that it isn't as bad as last year's (114th, 217.92, 29).
Junior Dominique Brown (6-2, 216) and senior Senorise Perry (6-0, 187) are averaging five yards a carry and have combined to run for 1,414 yards and 14 touchdowns on a Cardinals rushing attack that ranks 80th (150.2 yards per game). It's likely Louisville could opt to give them more work than usual Saturday when you consider the Hurricanes have given up 821 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground over their last three games. Edge: Louisville.
WHEN LOUISVILLE THROWS THE BALL
For the first time since 2010, Miami's pass defense has produced more interceptions (18) than touchdowns allowed (13). Of course, Teddy Bridgewater, the nation's fifth moss efficient passer (70.2 completion percentage, 3,523 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs), could change all that Saturday night.
He's got six receivers with at least 22 catches this season. Bridgewater doesn't go deep as often as Morris does, but when he does 6-3, 209-pound junior DeVante Parker (46 catches, 743 yards 11 TDs) is usually his favorite target.
But for the most part, Louisville doesn't mind killing their opponents slowly. The Cardinals rank sixth in time of possession (33 minutes, 25 seconds per game). Miami's defense is used to being on the field a lot. The Hurricanes rank 118th in time of possession (26:21). Edge: Louisville.
UM kicker Matt Goudis ended the season by shaking out of his funk with seven consecutive made field goals, finishing 13 of 17 including a season-long of 49 yards. Punter Pat O'Donnell had a special season, averaging 47.3 yards a kick including 20 punts of 50 yards or more.
Gaines has returned a kick (93 yards) and a punt (35 yards) for a touchdown this season and is hands down Louisville's most dangerous weapon in the return game. Cardinals kicker John Wallace hasn't had to boot many pressure kicks, but is 17 of 21 on field goal attempts with no makes longer than 39 yards. He has had three field goals blocked and punter Ryan Johnson (41.2 yards) has had one of his kicks blocked.
Louisville's punt coverage team is very good having allowed 15 total yards on 13 punt returns. Coley has a punt and kick return for a touchdown this season and should be aided by the return of Phillip Dorsett. Edge: Even.
Strong hasn't faced many ranked opponents in his four seasons as coach, but he's 4-1 in those games. His team has trailed only once at halftime this season -- 13-10 against Houston -- before rallying for a 20-13 win.
Louisville will be Miami's third rank opponent this season. The Hurricanes beat Florida 21-16 back on Sept. 7 before the Gators went into a tailspin and then they were blown out at Florida State 41-14. Miami is 3-5 under coach Al Golden against ranked teams. Good starts are almost mandatory with UM going 17-1 when leading at halftime under Golden, and 3-13 when trailing. Edge: Louisville.
PREDICTION: Louisville 38, Miami 27
ORLANDO -- UM coach Al Golden met with reporters Friday morning to look ahead to Saturday night's showdown with Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville at the Russell Athletic Bowl. Here is the complete transcript.
Opening statement: "Obviously, very grateful to Russell Athletic Bowl and the Orlando community for just an incredible week and an opportunity for our young people and all of our families, our staff, our coaches, wives, our children, just an incredible experience and one that will create lasting memories, so we're excited. We've turned our focus here in the last 48 hours to really getting ready for a really, really good Louisville Cardinal team and excited about the opportunity to kick that ball off tomorrownight at 6:45, so with that I'll open up to any questions that you might have."
Q: Coach, with a day until the game, what's the perception like with your players knowing that the University of Miami is back in a bowl game and they're this close to being on the field?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, they're excited. We've been excited, really, since we started our first practice, you know, probably more than three weeks ago now. Our freshman, sophomores, and juniors were not able to experience this so -- and that includes everything. That includes the bowl practices, that includes the travel, the unity and the bonding that occurs during these -- that can really only occur when you -- when you experience things like this. And they've practiced with a purpose. I think they've really earned our trust all week by being where you are. You know, they really conducted themselves well and were accountable to each other and now it's really time to get focused in and get ready to play this game.
I think we're in the right -- you know, we have a long way to go until we kick it off, but we're in the right frame of mind right now.
Q: Coach, Teddy Bridgewater is such a dynamic quarterback. What have you seen that you're going to do to try to stop him tomorrow night?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, I think you got to -- you can't let him throw in rhythm, so obviously you have to get pressure on him, you have to change up the rotation or the looks. He'll pick you apart if you just stay in one coverage or if you don't put any pressure on him. I think the thing about Teddy Bridgewater that he probably doesn't get enough credit for is his mechanics are tremendous. Tremendous balance, tremendous mechanics and, you know, really well taught. So he's got poise. His completion percentage to interception ratio is phenomenal, so we have to find a way to get pressure on him and we have to, you know, obviously make some plays.
Q: Coach, given the current competitive nature of college athletics, do you think the concept of the big three as it used to be, is that still attainable for obviously you guys and Florida and Florida State to be at that elite level on a regular basis?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, I mean, clearly Florida won championships. I don't know exactly, I think I want to say six and eight, '06 and '8, and Florida State is playing for a championship this year. We have to do our part. We have to continue to build. Obviously we've been encumbered a little bit more than we would have wanted to be the last two years, but we feel like we are moving the program forward and we do have an opportunity with a win tomorrownight to be the first team in Miami in a decade to win ten games.
And given the circumstances and the adversity that we've dealt with, that would be a tremendous task and a great honor for our seniors. So I don't think there's any question that can still happen and we intend to make it happen.
Q: Can you talk about how the extra bowl practices have helped with recruiting and where you are now in terms of the 2014 signing class?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, there's no many different ways to look at it. Number one, we didn't have the -- clearly we are one of the largest cities in the country in terms of cultivation and recruiting. We have one of the best bases, but yet the last two years we didn't have the opportunity for those young people to come over and watch bowl practice and be around us the way they are now.
We also didn't get this opportunity for a week long infomercial, if you will, that a lot of our adversaries had the chance to and then it was all compounded by the fact we were embroiled in something that brought a sensational element and we were dealing with a very difficult task. So I think clearly the first two are in place now. The third one has been eliminated, and just in the two weeks that I was able to get out, you know, we just have not, Manny, since we've been here -- and, again, you've covered us from the get-go. You know, the first year was a transition year and we didn't have much time at all to go recruiting and then the second two years we were dealing with a very tumultuous situation.
It's never felt like it's felt right now. We feel like we're recruiting to a higher level right now. We feel like the questions that we're getting from parents or coaches or young people, prospects are in line with what they should be. They should be about our university, about our program, our systems, our philosophy, and I can't tell you how good that feels to be able to go just out and recruit without handcuffs on.
It's been -- it's again great. This week has been great for us and can't wait to get back out on the road again.
Q: Coach, you were talking about those inroads with recruiting. Sometimes Louisville is known as Miami north, 26 guys from the area. In that regard, how important is this for the future with so many eyes in that area on this game?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, Coach Strong and his staff do a great job of identifying who they want to recruit and I believe the same for our staff. The difference now for us is that we don't have to do it with one hand -- really two hands tied behind our back. Again, whatever Louisville's philosophy is, their philosophy, I don't really worry about what anybody else is doing. I don't worry about the ones you don't get. I worry about the ones that you do get.
The ones that you do get have to be able to play, have to be able to execute. They have to be able to execute your philosophy on a daily basis. And as it relates to the University of Miami, they have to attend the number one school in the state of Florida, a top 40 institution nationally. So we're proud of that. And so, again, we have so much -- I mean this with a great deal of respect for Coach Strong and Louisville, but I would say the same thing if you were talking about Florida or Florida State or any of our adversaries, especially in the southeast. I don't negatively recruit. I don't talk about the other team, ever. We feel like we have one of the greatest products that there is in college football. We've gone through a very, very difficult time and we're excited to go out and sell that again and be able to do that. And so to be honest, I really don't worry about the other programs because we're in one of the greatest climates mats that there is in the nation. We have one of the best institutions in the nation. We've had more guys in the NFL than anybody. We've got a great tradition. We've played for more national championships than anybody over the last 30 years. We've won more, and it's our job to get it back and we're going to do it and we're going to keep fighting. And this is a big step obviously moving forward.
Q: Coach, are there any -- I know you're seeing Louisville again next year in the regular season. Are there any benefits at all preparation wise, spend some time looking -- how do you think they might have fared competitively in the ACC this year?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, I think, you know, Coach Strong, they're fundamentally sound as any team that we'll see. I think they're going to do what they'll do. I feel the same way about us. We're going to do what we do.
And whenever we meet again next year, you know, depending on quarterbacks, depending on personnel, depending on what direction both programs go in the spring and then obviously the way we start the season, it might change a little bit, but we are pretty much who we are and we're just going to try to get better at it.
I think the one thing that we sorely missed, and maybe I underestimated it, that we really missed were these bowl practices. You know, to see Jermaine Grace and Jamal Carter and Artie Barnes, Gus Edwards and how much better they have gotten over this, you know, three and a half weeks or whatever, whatever it has been, this time of bowl preparation has been invaluable and clearly those young guys are going to benefit from it down the road. We've missed that.
Q: The second part was how do you think they might have fared?
COACH GOLDEN: I think they're going to be an excellent team. It's a great addition. I'm sorry I didn't follow up. I'm being blinded here by the light. It's a great addition for the Atlantic Coast Conference, it really is. It's making us stronger in every aspect, in every sport, but certainly from a football standpoint, from a men's and women's basketball standpoint, baseball. It's going to make us really strong. We're excited to have them in.
You know, we have to do our part. We have to continue to move and get better and that's going to help the national appeal of the ACC. But certainly I think Louisville coming in is going to help us an the brand recognition now from Boston down to Key West is really going strong for us in terms of television sets and population density. It's going to make us strong and I think Louisville is going to help us with that.
Q: I wanted to get your thoughts on just Ladarius Gunter's progress. The last time he was out there, it ended very scary for him. You know, how has he just been working back from that injury and that situation and how did that impact all the guys afterwards?
COACH GOLDEN: I think Ladarius -- you know, first of all, we have great medical staff and we're so much better prepared, all of us, in the sport now to handle any injury that may look significant as it relates to head or neck. So we -- he ran through all the tests. Certainly he missed the last game, but was really cleared the next week when we started practice. And he's another young man that has gotten better and especially at the bowl side. I think he's practicing with a purpose. I think he understands the challenge ahead of him with Teddy and this great receiving core that we're going to face. He's been really doing well. In terms of the impact on the team, the team knows that we're going to always be smart with them relative to head injuries or, you know, the protocols that we have in place to make sure that we safeguard their health and put the student athlete welfare first. I think our team trusts that and understands that, so I know they were glad that he was, A, okay, number one, okay, and then, B, that he was able to return to action and compete like he is.
Q: Is there room in this state for the big four with the way UCF has been progressing?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, for you guys -- those are all the story lines for you guys. I mean, I wished I lived in that world. Sometimes I wish I did, but I don't live in that world. I don't worry about any of those things. I just think George has gone a great job. George is a class act and he's done a great job and I'm happy for George.
But, again, it's hard for me to understand, you know, without playing them or seeing them or being in the league, you know, what all goes into that, you know, other than, you know, you admire the job he's done from afar.
Really, with our student athletes, with our staff, with all that we've been through, we're just focused on Miami and moving Miami forward and I just can't tell you how good it feels to finally be able to do the things that you came to Miami for, A, go to bowl games, B, get your team better, C, recruit like you are at Miami and not, you know, being challenged by things that are -- circumstances out of your control.
Q Coach, as you've watched the film, who at Louisville kind of jumped off the screen and you believe is the next level talent?
COACH GOLDEN: There's quite a few. Starting with Teddy -- you know, again, I can't say enough kind things about the young man and his maturity and probably the leadership that he provides to their organization, but he's such a good decision-maker and so good with his balance and his rhythm and those are the challenges for us, so certainly Teddy.
But there's others. I mean, wide receiver core is really talented. Again, I got them all here, Parker Copeland, you know, all those guys do a great job, Eli Rogers. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Marcus Smith on the other side of the ball, a very disruptive -- you know, 12-plus sacks, the TFLs that he has, very active, you know, active secondary, you know, Brown at middle linebacker, a big, strong physical kid who can run, so those are all some guys.
But overall very balanced and offense. You know, they'll rush for 150 and throw for 300, very balanced. They do a great job with time and possession. They convert on third down better than just about everybody that we've seen at over 55 percent. On defense, you know, they're top ten on just about everything on defense. I think the one thing that jumps off to me at defense is how disruptive they are. Tackles for loss sacks and interceptions, very disruptive group. And their experience, they have an experienced offensive/defensive line. If you can get experience there, you have a chance to be good.
Q: I know you're limited in what you can say in terms of names and so forth, but in terms of early enrollees do you have a number now that you're thinking you're going to end up with?
COACH GOLDEN: No. It's still evolving. I would say safely eight, you know. You probably have it in front of you more than I do. It's probably about eight. It may grow depending on what transpires here. But, you know, we need that. You know, we needed some guys to come in and offset some of the losses we had. I'm excited for those young people that are coming in because it's going to give us an opportunity to challenge them and acquaint them to how we do things at the University of Miami and cultivate them into our philosophy and how we do things systematically and then obviously give them a chance to adjust to college life itself. I'm excited about that.
Q: Obviously you have a lot of commitments. You've been rebuilding this class for awhile. But this last month, are there any position areas that you're still hoping to address, or do you feel like you've pretty much shored up everything you've wanted?
COACH GOLDEN: No. We still got some positions that we have earmarked. I really don't want to get into the specifics of it, Manny, with all due respect. You know, there's still some -- you guys really probably do a better job of just charting who we're recruiting. That will tell you what we're still looking for.
But because of, you know, some of the things that we imposed against ourselves in the last two years, we had a very small class last year. That's not ideally how you want to build your team. This class is going to be a large class. It's kind of backwards. It should have been the other way around. But having said that, we're excited about this group and what they bring and I really feel like it has a chance to be our best class since we've been here. It may be that way already, Manny, to be honest with you.
Q: Coach, with it being only a day away from the bowl game, what's your main message to the whole team? Is it to make sure that they win? Is it to make sure that they get out there and play?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, I think clearly we're prepared, you know. We're prepared, but, you know, you can lose a lot of games in the final 48. I think the most important things for our guys is to trust. We have 120 years of bowl experience on our staff, but yet we have very few young people on our team that have been to a bowl game so now they have to understand how to stay focused and how to avoid the lobby and how to avoid all the -- because, you know, as the preparation dwindles, you know, as the game approaches, the amount of distractions increases.
There's more people in town. There's more family in town now since the holiday, you know, has ended, so now they really have to trust the formula that we have for them, win the final 48 mentally, and just really stay focused and eliminate the distractions. That's easier said than done when you don't have a lot of guys on the team that have been there, so that's going to be our -- you know, in addition to what the message is to the team, it's going to be making sure we do that.
Q: I'm going to try to take you to that world, so I apologize. You're a hot commodity coach. Charlie Strong is a hot commodity coach. Having dealing with him, he is frustrated with answering questions and questions and questions. How do you deal with it?
COACH GOLDEN: I'm going to have Charlie answer them. Is Charlie coming back in? I'll have Charlie answer them for me. You know, we're in one of the greatest places that there is in college football and we've gone through a really hard time. But it's hard to imagine, you know, places out there that you could, you know, sell, that you could present better than the University of Miami. We know we're not where we want to be, but we know we're not where we were. It was pretty dark days, as you remember. Many of you covered it. We were on the cover of Sports Illustrated two years ago. For these kids -- and it wasn't because we were holding up a trophy. They wanted to end the program. I dealt with masses of media.
My first training camp at the University of Miami, if you can imagine throngs of media three or four times the size of this. Manny is over there shaking his head. And the questions were are you going to have a team next year, and I couldn't believe it.
But we had a lot of young men that stood with the University of Miami. We had a lot of coaches and staff that stood with the University of Miami through really, really dark times, dark days and we're excited about moving the program forward. We're excited about the experience this week and the opportunities that we have and all that we're doing. You know, we just moved into a new football complex. We just finished a new student center on campus. There's never been a better time to be at the University of Miami in terms of the educational opportunities, in terms of everything that we can afford. Young people in our college town of Coral Gables, South Miami, Coconut Grove, you know, but yet we have the diversity and culture that only a world-class city like Miami can bring. So we haven't had the opportunity to really sell that and I'm looking forward to doing that here in January and thereafter.
The Miami Hurricanes football team held its 2013 Canes Football Awards Show on Saturday night at the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall located inside the Frost School of Music.
Joe Zagacki, the “Voice of the Miami Hurricanes”, served as the awards show’s emcee. The show opened with the top 13 plays of the 2013 season.
The Hurricanes coaching staff handed out 21 annual player awards. Freshman WR/KR Stacy Coley was named the team’s Newcomer of the Year; junior LB and Butkus Award semifinalist Denzel Perryman was named Defensive MVP, while senior OG and Senior Bowl participant Brandon Linder was named Offensive MVP.
Second-team All-America P Pat O’Donnell was named Special Teams MVP and senior WR Allen Hurns was awarded the Jack Harding Team Most Valuable Player award.
Throughout the evening, several video messages from prominent #ProCanes were played for the team – Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester and Greg Olsen.
QB Stephen Morris was the recipient of the Plumer Award for Leadership, Motivation and Spirit. Senior DE Shayon Green received the Melching Leadership Award. Both awards are voted on by the team.
At the end of the night, head coach Al Golden thanked the senior class and all 25 seniors were presented with their framed jersey.
"We were on the road all week, and we’re excited to be out on the field tonight and again tomorrow for the last two open practices, and then we’ll great into our preparation for Louisville and the Russell Athletic Bowl. I missed an opportunity to visit since the bowl announcement, but clearly we’re grateful for the opportunity to go to the Russell Athletic Bowl, to play in Orlando, and let our kids experience the sites and attractions and the community in Orlando, and get a great opponent in Louisville. Our kids are excited, I think they’re grateful. They’ve been through a lot the past two years, and they have not been able to have this opportunity. I thought after we talked last weekend, that [the conversation] resonated in the way they practiced. Hopefully we’ll see that again here tonight and tomorrow. They’re practicing with a purpose, they’re excited, and clearly they have a really tough opponent coming up."
On the younger players who impressed during the first weekend of bowl practice…
“Just jumping around, I think Taylor Gadbois and Alex Gall were two guys that really benefited from that. I think both of those guys stepped up and showed that they’re capable, so we’re going to continue to push them and get them ready here for the bowl game. Those are two guys that come to mind. I told [Raphael] Kirby again today, I thought he really grew up last week and played with low pad level and ran and took charge of it. He needs to do that. In Jimmy [Gaines’] absence, he needs to be able to do that. If he keeps practicing like he did last week, he’ll carve out more playing time. I thought Jamal Carter really great up and answered the call for us.
“There were a lot of guys who really competed. There were others, a lot of guys that really competed. You got that sense when you were out there, that it meant something to them. Clearly now with a lot of the veterans coming back, there will be more competition. We’re still going to see a lot of those young guys, but this time it will be against guys like Allen Hurns, Stephen Morris and Brandon Linder, which should make the competition all the more better.”
On the challenges for his secondary of facing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater…
“We have to play really well. This is a very talented young man. He has great command on the offense. I don’t want to intimate you at all, that I’ve studied everything I can about them, we’re going to do that about 11 a.m. Sunday. We’re going to take two whole days to do that. Clearly we see enough Thursdaynight games or Friday nights to see the young man is talented. He has speed, good corps of receivers, knows how to distribute the football, doesn’t make many mistakes with the football, can move in the pocket. It’s going to be a great challenge for our corners and safeties. Those guys are going to be challenged again tonight to improve, compete and get better. Certainly we’re not where we want to be yet, in every facet of the game – not just corners and safeties.”
On his satisfaction with safety play, specifically Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush…
“I think your comment is fair. We need to continue to be more physical and more consistently physical. Deon clearly has been hampered all year. Hopefully every time we were hoping we were going to see Deon…he came up with a hamstring recently and before that, his groin. Hopefully we’ll see him get healthy here and finish off the season well. With Rayshawn, it’s continuing to trust the process and be consistent. Not your highs be high and your lows be low – just continue to be consistent, and we have to to get that play out of him, there’s no question about it."
On how he has seen freshman Stacy Coley improve over the first weekend…
“I think Allen [Hurns] has been a great mentor for him. He has learned how to prepare. I keep saying to you guys, his talent is really good. He has excellent talent. But what’s allowing him to play at a high level and have so many explosive plays is [that] he’s trustworthy. We give him a lot of plays. It’s really a great example of ‘Hey, if you want to increase your role in a game, master the ones we give you.’ He has done that. It hasn’t always been easy for him, as you guys can recall. He didn’t start off the season the way he wanted to, let alone how we wanted him to do. He fought through it and continued to get better every day. This is a young man who can be a great model for a lot of young players out there for how to prepare, how to study, and how to article that. Mike James talked to our team in the spring, when he got back from the NFL Combine, about being able to regurgitate it and being able to articulate it. This young man, no matter what we ask him – he’s very loud and proud in the meetings. He tells James [Coley] or Brennan [Carroll] or the offense exactly what he’s going to do on a play – with conviction. That leads to a lot of trust. There is a preparation element in there that really exceeds his age.”
On the health improvements of junior Phillip Dorsett…
“I’m expecting him to be healthy, I really am. I’m as anxious as you. I’ve been out all week. I think we have a green light with him. We should see Phillip back to normal, which hasn’t been the case since the North Carolina game for us. We would love to have Phillip back - he was really having a heck of a year when he got hurt.
“I think he has had a great attitude. He fought, fought, fought and got really close, and really we thought we would have a chance with him in the Virginia game but it wasn’t quite right. There were a couple plays in Pitt when he got in, but not to have the impact of the game that he wanted to have. Clearly on offense we were doing well, so it got to a point where [we said] “Do we really need to put him in?” I know he’s anxious to get back out there, and hopefully we’ll see him out there today.”
On how closure to the NCAA investigation has affected his staff’s ability to recruit…
“I don’t know if it’s ever easy, but what energizes your staff when you go out? What motivates it and what drains it? Clearly you can understand almost every high school we left, we left answering 20 questions about something we didn’t have any answers about. We did that for 28 months. It’s very difficult to recruit under those circumstances.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to have tonight - we’ll have 30 or 40 juniors out there from South Florida. We haven’t had that opportunity. We haven’t been provided that opportunity. It feels totally different. You’re not going to get them all. There are other good opportunities for kids and all that, but at the end of the day, we feel like we’re on a level playing field for the first time. It’s unfortunate it comes at the tail end of our third class, but nonetheless, it gives us a chance to finish this one and start the 2015 class with a fresh slate. There has been a lot of positive energy out there, and we’re just excited to move forward. You can feel the difference.”
On the difficulty of recruiting dominant interior linemen…
“When I answer the question, it’s hard to answer without reflecting on the players that are currently in the program. What head coach and what defensive coordinator doesn’t want dominant defensive players? We have to continue to develop the young men we have, but I don’t think it’s a secret we need help on the defensive line, help on the front seven.
“I think everybody understands that, and I think that’s reflected in our numbers of guys we have committed at those positions. We were not given the opportunity to recruit the type of full class we wanted to recruit last year. We’re making up for it right now. We were looking at 16 commitments going into Signing Day a year ago. If you’re on a regular ‘Year Two’ schedule, that number probably would have been 23, 24 or 25. Here we are the following year trying to make up for that. It’s been a challenge. There were a lot of places we would have loved to fortify our positions a year ago, we weren’t given that opportunity. We gave up a lot so we can move forward now, so let’s move forward.”
On if he has a plan to divide the scholarship reductions …
“I do. I don’t know if I want to share that at this time, just because we’re working through it. Again, it seems very simple, because now they quantified it for us and made it a static number. You can deal with a static number. Last year, I had no idea how many I was going to have - before Signing Day, after Signing Day, right until after we kicked off the ball. Now that we have an idea, I feel like we can plot a course. Clearly I don’t recommend anybody running their business that way. It’s hard.”
Nine Miami Hurricanes were selected to the 2013 All-ACC Football team by the league’s 14 head coaches, the ACC announced Wednesday. Miami’s first- and second-team All-ACC selections mirrored those selections made by ACSMA last week.
Junior LB Denzel Perryman and graduate P Pat O’Donnell were both named to the first team. Sophomore RB Duke Johnson, senior WR Allen Hurns and senior OG Brandon Linder were named to the second team.
Senior QB Stephen Morris, a third-team All-ACC selection by ACSMA, was named to the coaches’ All-ACC third team and was joined by senior OT Seantrel Henderson, junior C Shane McDermott and freshman specialist Stacy Coley.
Henderson, McDermott and Coley were All-ACC honorable mention by ACSMA.
Perryman, who has started all 12 games at linebacker, leads the Hurricanes defense with 104 total tackles – 65 solo stops – along with 5.0 tackles for loss. Perryman, who was honorable mention All-ACC by ACSMA and the league’s coaches in 2012, has tallied 10+ tackles in six games this season.
O’Donnell ranks third nationally with a 47.3 yards-per-punt average, which leads the ACC by nearly 3.0 yards per kick. O’Donnell has 20 punts of 50+ yards to his credit and 17 that have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Despite missing the last four games of the season with a fractured ankle, Johnson collected second-team All-ACC honors after rushing for 920 yards and six TDs. He was averaging 115.0 rushing yards per game before his season-ending injury. He averaged 174.1 all-purpose yards per contest.
Hurns is currently enjoying one of the greatest receiving seasons in program history. The senior leads Miami in both receptions (60) and receiving yards (1,138). He is only the fourth player with a 1,000-yard receiving season in school history and 19 yards shy of breaking the school single-season receiving yards mark. Currently, Hurns ranks seventh in Miami history in both career receptions (119) and career receiving yards (1,867) and eighth in career receiving TDs (14).
Linder, a preseason All-ACC selection, helped anchor Miami’s offensive line that paved the way for the Hurricanes to average 446.8 yards of total offense and 35.9 points per game. Miami’s offense scored 40+ points five times in 2013.
Miami’s four third-team selections were led by Morris, who has thrown for 2,868 yards and 21 TDs through 12 games. For the second straight season, Morris has posted four 300-yard passing games. The Miami native ranks third all-time in Miami history with 7,736 passing yards and 49 passing TDs. Morris is the only QB this season to throw a 50+ yard pass in nine different games.
Joining Morris on the third team were Henderson and McDermott, who were part of an offensive line that allowed only 13 sacks in 12 games – tied for the fewest in the ACC. Coley is the only FBS player this season to score a TD four ways: rushing, receiving, punt return and kick return.
No. 25 Miami (9-3) will play No. 18/16 Louisville (11-1) in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando. Tickets, which are priced at $77 and $82, can be purchased through the UM Ticket Office online at CanesTix.com, in-person at BankUnited Center (M-F 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) or by phone at 1-800-GO-CANES.
Miami is also hosting BankUnited #CanesFest Family Friday Bowl Practice from 5-7 p.m. Friday at Cobb Stadium. Admission is free. Sebastian the Ibis, Miami cheerleaders and the Sunsations will be at practice. Bounce houses will be on site for the kids, who can also take their photo with Santa. The Hurricanes will also be collecting toys for "Toys For Tots". Fans in attendance will also have the chance to purchase Russell Athletic Bowl tickets.
Duke beats Carolina, heads to ACC Title game; UM shifts focus to final exams, bowl practices, recruiting
Al Golden said he wasn't going to lose his mind Saturday scoreboard watching or "become a slave to the TV for seven hours" to see if the University of Miami would get the help it needed to reach next weekend's ACC championship game.
Duke made sure the agonizing only lasted three and a half hours for everyone else who bleeds orange and green.
The Blue Devils, who beat Miami for the first time since 1976 two weeks ago in Durham, punched their ticket to Charlotte and a date with second-ranked Florida State Saturday afternoon thanks to a late 27-yard field goal in a 27-25 win at North Carolina.
Had Duke lost and Virginia upset rival Virginia Tech, UM would have began preparing for a rematch with the Seminoles Monday. Instead, the focus for the Hurricanes (9-3) now shifts to final exams, a few days off and the team's first trip to a bowl game since Golden was hired in December 2010.
> Golden said "it's tough to quantify" what missing 30 to 35 December practices under self-imposed bowl bans did to hurt the program over the last two years and he's definitely looking forward to having them this year.
"Having all the [recruits] in South Florida come watch bowl practice and watch us operate and be around our team and players," will be big for the program moving forward, Golden said. Getting to 10 victories with a bowl win -- at likely either the Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta (Dec. 31) or the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando (Dec. 28) -- is also important, Golden said.
> What did Golden like and not like about Friday's effort in chilly Pittsburgh?
"The kids competed; they had a great attitude," Golden said. "It meant something to them which is so important. I think we’ve all seen instances where it’s like, all right, nobody cares. We’re not in this bowl game or that bowl game. Or we’re letting external influences impact our judgment or our attitude or how we play. That didn’t happen [Friday], which was awesome. They wanted to finish on a positive note."
Golden cited Miami's continuing woes on third down (UM was 4 of 11 on offense; 6 of 14 on defense), special teams breakdowns on kick return and kickoff coverage, and a few instances of poor tackling as negatives in the Pitt win. He did, though, credit linebacker Denzel Perryman, safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush and cornerback Antonio Crawford as having better tackling performances Friday.
"There are so many things we have to fix and continue to fix," Golden said. "One of our goals in the postseason is clearly to push a lot of young players along that have not had the benefit of this time of year -- to be pushed at this time of year."
> Golden said UM came out healthy from the Pitt game and he expects cornerback Ladarius Gunter and defensive end Dwayne Hoilett, who missed Friday's game, to return for bowl practices. Linebacker Alex Figueroa, who has missed UM's last three games, could return but must be cleared by a doctor.
"If we were playing next Saturday Fig would not be ready," Golden said. "There’s a good chance for the bowl game. That would be awesome for him and great for him to have that opportunity."
> Golden said freshman running back Gus Edwards is "practicing better and starting to become more comfortable" in Miami's system. Edwards ran 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown Friday.
"We can’t live in the past but there’s a young man that missed however many practices in training camp, a good bunch of them," Golden said. "Gus is a young man that is really going to continue to improve. He should be fresh. His play count is not as high as Brandon Linder or Clive Walford or some of those guys. He should bring some energy to us and we expect him to continue to improve.
"He’s got deceptive speed but I thought he did a great job with his vision and his lateral cuts [Friday]. He really made the right cuts. He stayed with his cuts, he didn’t freelance at all. And when he got to the second level he made some guys miss. We’ve got to continue to get his pads down and get that stiff arm going but we’re hopeful that Gus will continue to improve."
Hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.
Susan Miller Degnan is up in chilly Pittsburgh to cover today's game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ABC. Feel free to participate in today's live blog as usual.
Six Hurricanes players and several coaches’ wives delivered 48 turkey dinners and other traditional non-perishable Thanksgiving food items Tuesday afternoon to the Greater Mercy Missionary Baptist Church in Overtown.
Players delivering Thanksgiving meals included: backup quarterback Ryan Williams, receiver Herb Waters, defensive tackle Justin Renfrow and walk-on linebacker Akil Craig, walk-on defensive back Alex Irastorza and walk-on defensive back Hugo Delapenha Jr. Director of Player Development Ryan McNamee organized the trip along with Kelly Golden, Diona Kehoe, Valerie McNamee and Inika Vance.
Pastor Willie Williams greeted players as they arrived Tuesday afternoon and was very appreciative of the Hurricanes’ special delivery. All 48 Thanksgiving dinners were handed out within an hour.
> UM coach Al Golden said receivers Phillip Dorsett (knee) and cornerback Artie Burns (ankle), two players coming back from injury, looked good during Tuesday's light practice.
> Golden said he's "struggling a little bit" with why punter Pat O'Donnell is not a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. O'Donnell, a fifth-year transfer from Cincinnati, is averaging 47.6 yards a punt this season, second-best in the nation.
"Pat's a great kid, always locked in, very processed oriented, always out here working on his game," Golden said. "Blame the offense or blame me for not putting the punt team out there enough."
Golden said O'Donnell is in the mix to be named team MVP at the end of the year. Golden said he's never named a punter team MVP in the before.
Here are six video interviews I shot with Hurricanes players Monday as they prepare for the regular season finale at chilly Pittsburgh Friday afternoon.
Injuries in the secondary and players returning from injury prompted changes in the latest Hurricanes depth chart released Sunday night by head coach Al Golden. Miami (8-3, 4-3 ACC) closes its regular-season slate Friday at Pitt (6-5, 3-4 ACC). Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on ABC.
On offense, redshirt freshman Danny Isidora is listed as the backup at right guard. Isidora made his Hurricanes debut during Saturday’s 45-26 Senior Day win over Virginia after missing the first 10 games of the season with a lower extremity injury.
Junior WR Phillip Dorsett, who returned to the depth chart last week at the Hurricanes’ second wideout position, is not on this week’s depth chart. Dorsett has missed the last five games with a lower extremity injury.
On the defensive side, sophomore Tracy Howard and freshman Artie Burns are listed as co-starters at left cornerback, while Burns, sophomore Antonio Crawford and senior Kacy Rodgers II are tri-starters at right cornerback. Miami will be without junior Ladarius Gunter and freshman Corn Elder who were injured against the Cavaliers.
An update from the University of Miami on junior DB Ladarius Gunter:
"Ladarius Gunter has been released from the hospital this evening following an upper extremity injury he suffered Saturday afternoon against Virginia. He will be able to play football again this season once he is fully healed."
The Hurricanes (7-3, 3-3 ACC) will attempt to end a three-game losing skid against woeful Virginia (2-8, 0-6 ACC) this afternoon. Kickoff is at noon and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
As expected receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee), cornerback Artie Burns (ankle), and linebacker Alex Figueroa (shoulder) were ruled out for Saturday's game when the injury report was released Thursday.
Here are a couple interviews from earlier this week with linebacker Denzel Perryman and receiver Allen Hurns.
Although he's has been hopeful to get 2012-leading receiver Phillip Dorsett (MCL tear) back soon, UM coach Al Golden said Wednesday both Dorsett and freshman cornerback Artie Burns (ankle) appear doubtful for Saturday's home finale against Virginia.
Neither player has been fully integrated into practice this week, Golden said.
"If he feels good we're going to give it a run. But it's not where it needs to be right now," Golden said of Dorsett, who has missed four games after injuring his knee Oct. 17 at North Carolina.
"He's isolated right now. Until he can become integrated, avoid guys and make guys miss and protect himself we're not going to put him out there. When he's ready to do that we'll do it. But right now it looks doubtful."
> Receiver Herb Waters (groin) injured against Duke "has a chance" to play Saturday, Golden said. Golden lists Waters as probable.
Receiver Stacy Coley and freshman cornerback Corn Elder, who were in a non-contact jerseys earlier this week at practice are expected to play, Golden said.
> With three commitments since the NCAA sanctions were announced last month, Golden was asked Wednesday if he's noticed more interest from recruits since the penalties do not include any post-season bans and only the loss of nine scholarships over three years.
"Their response has been different," Golden said. "We've gotten three [commitments] since the announcement, which is unique this time of the year. Kids are getting ready for playoffs and things like that. So it's attributed to that, there's no question about that because mostly kids made the decision two months ago or are waiting until the holidays, visits. So that's positive for us.
"I think most of the interest from the younger guys is that it's behind us now and not getting hammered. Remember, the kids that are [high school] juniors, all they've ever known about the University of Miami is that we've been in trouble. Since they've been recruitable prospects we've been under probation. So it's good to have that behind us now. We have to move forward."
Golden said the Hurricanes were cut short last year on scholarships "for a variety of reasons" and the staff is now "trying to compensate this year by signing more than we did last year."
UM's class features 27 commitments and is ranked fourth nationally by Rivals.com.
Has the fact the defense looked so bad helped garner more interest from recruits who think the could help right away? Golden bristled at that question.
"We're going to continue to need help everywhere," Golden said. "People want to talk about the defense because all of us haven't executed well enough the last couple of weeks. So I answer that question now I'm saying that the kids we have aren't good enough. That's not the case. The case, as I've been saying, is we're going to continue to build until we have the depth to go through a whole season and there's no drop-off. That's a separate question all of us here who have worked today, that watched film -- all of us have to fix what's going on now."
> Golden has been steadfast in his support for his seniors and wasn't happy Tuesday when a reporter suggested the sudden emergence of freshmen and sophomores on the team's latest depth chart are a sign coaches are making a decision to play younger players.
"On the outside it's easy to sweep it under the rug and act like it's no big deal or it's over. It's not over. These guys have been through a lot," Golden said of his seniors. "They stood with us through a really tumultuous time. I think it's important that me, the staff, their teammates support them down the stretch.
"I keep getting the questions 'Are you going to go younger now that you lost a couple' No. We're not doing that. We're going to honor these seniors and push them to the finish line and help them do something they haven't done. They haven't been to a bowl game the last two years. We have to finish off strong and send them off strong."
UM is hosting a Thanksgiving Canned Food Drive during Saturday’s home finale against Virginia at Sun Life Stadium.
Collection bins will be located outside all four helixes (Gates B, D, F, and H) as well as gates C and G. Fans will be allowed to donate as much food as they want. All food donated will go directly to Feeding South Florida.
Part of the Feeding America network consisting of 202 food banks, Feeding South Florida is the largest of nine Feeding America food banks in the state of Florida, distributing almost 35 million pounds of food annually to 949,910 individuals in need of food assistance. FSF is the leading domestic hunger relief organization in South Florida, serving Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties through a network of nonprofit partner agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, group homes and other emergency food service programs.
Saturday's game will also kick off its "Uniendo La Familia" (Uniting the Family) campaign. During the celebration of the Hurricanes’ last home game, the Hurricanes will show their appreciation of the diversity within the South Florida community with an on-site concert featuring radio host celebrity, DJ Laz, and popular artist, Maffio, along with pre-game activities appropriate for all ages. The event will give attendees the opportunity to partake in a variety of family-fun activities, including an Instagram booth and photo opportunities.
To purchase tickets to Miami’s home finale, fans can order online at www.canestix.com, visit the UM Ticket Office at BankUnited Center (M-F, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) or call 1-800-GO-CANES.
The University of Miami released a new depth chart late Sunday night after the team's third consecutive loss and as expected receiver Phillip Dorsett was back on it, an encouraging sign considering the Hurricanes could use all the help they can get.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all was that for the first time all season explosive sophomore Tyriq McCord was on it, listed as the co-starter with Thurston Armbrister at strong side line backer.
Also around and easy to spot on the two-deep: freshman defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (backup to Shayon Green, hadn't seen him listed in weeks), freshman safety Jamal Carter (backup to Rayshawn Jenkins and Kacy Rodgers) and freshman cornerback Corn Elder (second team behind either junior Ladarius Gunter or freshman Artie Burns). Also, sophomore Deon Bush is now the clear-cut starter over senior AJ Highsmith at safety and sophomore Earl Moore is now listed as a backup to Curtis Porter at defensive tackle.
Which raises this question: is Al Golden ready to dump the old guys for the new guys? Sure has that aroma.
Obviously the depth chart is a mere piece of paper. Golden can ultimately do whatever he chooses and play whomever he chooses. But I'm taking this as a sign that now that the Canes really have no shot at the Coastal Division title and because the defense has been horrendous he's going to let some of the young guys get some real burn. Honestly it's one of the smartest things he can do at this point.
Only three games left. The Hurricanes (7-2, 3-2 ACC) have a big one this afternoon at Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC). Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
You know the drill here.
It's easy to argue second-ranked Florida State was a deeper and more talented team than the Hurricanes two weeks ago and ultimately that's as big a reason as any why the Seminoles turned a close game at haftime into a 41-14 rout.
And it clearly was. Go back and read the Counting Stars blog I did before the game it shows you the Seminoles were not only deeper but loaded with more overall blue-chip talent position-by-position.
What's been irking most fans about Miami's loss to Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) last weekend at home -- aside from the perceived poor coaching by defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio -- is that UM should be on par with the Hokies in terms of overall talent, if not loaded with more.
This Saturday afternoon's game at Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC) should be a case where the Hurricanes are clearly the more talented and deeper team. But the truth is the talent gap isn't as wide as one might believe.
Duke's starting lineup for instance features six three-star prospects on offense (QB Anthony Boone, RB Josh Snead, WR Jamison Crowder, LT Takoby Cofield, LG Dave Harding, RG Laken Tomlinson) and six on defense (S Jeremy Cash, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Justin Foxx, DE Kenny Anunike, LB Kelby Brown, LB David Helton). There's depth too with another dozen 3-star prospects as backups.
Virginia Tech's offense featured four 4-star prospects in the starting lineup (QB Logan Thomas, TB Trey Edmunds, WR DJ Coles, RT Brent Benedict) and five other 3-star prospects. The defense featured 5-star recruit Kendall Fuller at outside linebacker, four-star safety Kyshoen Jarrett and three-star recruits everywhere else. The only players considered hidden gems: LB Jack Tyler (no stars) and defensive tackle Luther Maddy (2-stars). The Hokies were also loaded with experience (309 career starts on defense and 149 on offense).
The recruiting star-system obviously isn't a perfect science. Some 5-star kids bomb and some two-star kids turn into gems. But what the system does tell you at least pretty clearly is how heavily recruited each player is.
Five-star recruits are blue-chippers with offers from many, if not all of the country's top BCS programs. Four-star recruits aren't far behind, and three-star recruits generally have between five to 10 offers from decent Division I programs. Two-star recruits and below are players considered reaches and usually players with only one or two legit offers to play at the FBS level.
The Hurricanes have had higher-ranked recruiting classes (15th in 2009; 16th in 2010; 36th in 2011; 9th in 2012; 20th in 2013) than Virginia Tech (23rd in 2009; 23rd in 2010; 33rd in 2011; 22nd in 2012; 23rd in 2013) and Duke (51st in 2009; 71st in 2010; 76th in 2011; 52nd in 2012; 67th in 2013) over the last five years according to Rivals.com.
But that only explains a small part of the story.
Miami signed 118 players over the last five seasons and 42 that helped make those classes Top 25-worthy ran into trouble at one point or another, cutting their careers at UM short. That's nearly 36 percent.
Some never or haven't made it into school, some transferred, some were forced out because of discipline issues and some had injuries they never recovered from. All the while for the past three years, UM has had to also deal with an NCAA cloud over its head.
SHANNON'S FINAL TWO CLASSES
A look back at Randy Shannon's last two recruiting classes (2009 and 2010) and Al Golden's first three (2011, 2012, 2013) better illustrate the point below.
> Of the 48 players Randy Shannon signed in his final two recruiting classes, three left early for the draft (Lamar Miller, Brandon Washington, Olivier Vernon all 4-star recruits) and three used up their eligibility (3-star TE Chase Ford, 4-star CB Brandon McGee and 4-star RB Mike James).
> The more eye-opening number? A total of 21 signees from those two classes either transferred or ran into academic or discipline issues. Two were 5-star recruits (defensive backs Ray-Ray Armstrong and Latwan Anderson) and another six were 4-star recruits (defensive tackle Tavadis Glenn, linebacker Travis Williams, offensive lineman Jermaine Johnson, defensive end Dyron Dye, defensive back Jamal Reid and running back Storm Johnson).
> Of the 21 players Shannon recruited still at UM, one is a 5-star recruit (OL Seantrel Henderson), four are 4-star recruits (OL Malcolm Bunche, RB Eduardo Clements, OL Brandon Linder and DT Luther Robinson), a dozen are 3-star recruits (QB Stephen Morris, WR Allen Hurns, OL Jon Feliciano, FB Maurice Hagens, C Shane McDermott, DE Shayon Green, S Kacy Rodgers, LB Tyrone Cornelius among the notables) and four are two-star recruits (TE Clive Walford, TE Asante Cleveland, LB Kelvin Cain, LB Jimmy Gaines).
> UM recruited 24 defensive players between 2009 and 2010. A total of 13 either transferred or ran into academic or discipline issues. Two are in the NFL (Brandon McGee, Olivier Vernon), six are still here serving as starters (Curtis Porter, Shayon Green, Tyrone Cornelius, Kacy Rodgers, Jimmy Gaines, AJ Highsmith) and three are career backups (Luther Robinson, David Perry, Kelvin Cain).
Golden had six weeks after being named UM's coach in December 2010 to wrap up the Hurricanes 2011 signing class, which makes up UM's juniors and redshirt sophomore class. He reeled in 18 recruits including 13 on defense.
Only two were four-star prospects: defensive ends Anthony Chickillo (12.5 sacks in 30 career starts) and Jalen Grimble (transferred to Oregon State this fall).
Of the eight 3-star defensive recruits, one (Dallas Crawford) was switched to running back, five are no longer with the program (CB Thomas Finnie, LB Gionni Paul, DE Ricardo Williams, LB Eddie Johnson, LB Antonio Kinard) and only two start (LB Denzel Perryman, DE Olsen Pierre). The other recruits: defensive tackle Corey King, linebacker Thurston Armrbister and JUCO defensive tackle Darius Smith (graduated) were late additions and nowhere on the recruiting radar.
The other five recruits in the 2011 class were receivers Phillip Dorsett (3-star) and Rashawn Scott (3-star), running back Kevin Grooms (3-star, now at Marshall), JUCO punter Dalton Botts (now gone) and Matt Goudis (2-star, now 7 of 11 on FGs in 2013).
Where Golden has finally begun to catchup is in his last two recruiting classes.
The Hurricanes signed 33 players in 2012 (at least three more than any other program in the country).
Of that group a dozen have made instant impacts either as starters or backups. Those are: five-star prospects RB Duke Johnson and CB Tracy Howard, four-star prospects LT Ereck Flowers, WR Malcolm Lewis, S Deon Bush, DE Jelani Hamilton, LB Raphael Kirby and DE Tyriq McCord and three 3-star additions WR Herb Waters, S Rayshawn Jenkins, CB Antonio Crawford and CB Ladarius Gunter.
Another 11 serve as reserves (all 3-star prospects): DE Dwayne Hoillett, WR D'Mauri Jones, QB Gray Crow, OL Danny Isidora, OL Taylor Gadbois, DE Dwayne Hoillett, DT Earl Moore, LB Jawand Blue, TE Jake O'Donnell, CB Nate Dortch and CB Larry Hope.
But another group of 10 either never got in, aren't here anymore or ended their football careers early. Among those: 4-star WR Angelo Jean-Louis (never got in) and WR Robert Lockhart (transfer) and 3-stars prospects WR Jontavious Carter (transfer), RB Danny Dillard (transfer), QB Preston Dewey (back), QB David Thompson (baseball only), CB Vernon Davis (West Virginia), DT Jacoby Briscoe, DT Dequan Ivery (Northeast Mississippi) and LB Josh Witt (concussions).
> The 2013 class featured 19 recruits including nine four-star recruits. But of that group, only 16 are physically at UM (ATH Ryheem Lockley, WR Derrick Griffin and LB Devante Bond aren't).
A group of seven are already in the two-deep: WR Stacy Coley (4-star), RB Gus Edwards (3-star), FB Walter Tucker (2-star), TE Beau Sandland (4-star), CB Corn Elder (4-star), DE Ufomba Kamalu (2-star), CB Artie Burns (4-star).
Another four play in reserve duty and on special teams: DE Quan Muhammad (4-star), DB Jamal Carter (4-star), LB Jermaine Grace (4-star) and OL Alex Gall (3-star).
And another five appear headed toward a redshirt: TE Standish Dobard (3-star), QB Kevin Olsen (4-star), CB Ray Lewis III (3-star), OL Sunny Odogwu (3-star) and OL Hunter Knighton (3-star).
Even if you believe UM's recent struggles have to do with poor coaching, player development or play-calling, you can't ignore the amount of attrition the Hurricanes have endured the last five years.
Just because UM has had decent recruiting class rankings the last five years doesn't mean the shelves are loaded with enough talent for this program to be "back."
I spoke to three different recruiting analysts Thursday who all said the same thing: Miami is not deep enough anywhere and the overall talent isn't good enough to be a legit contender this year. And it probably won't be for another year or two at least.
Why? In part because Golden was dealing with an NCAA mess and in trying to do so probably took some players early in the recruiting process that normally wouldn't be at UM if they were sanction-free.
The 2014 class, however, appears to be the start to the road back. The defensive line haul is impressive. Brad Kaaya is considered by many to be UM's best quarterback recruit in some time. The offensive line is also very good.
What talent is here now is young and growing. The older talent? One could argue Golden and his staff tried to squeeze as much out of it as they could.
I spoke with Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net Wednesday. Who does he like among Miami's draft-eligible 2014 class of seniors and juniors?
"None of them really," he said. "I liked Morris a lot going into the season. He's shown some ability at times this year, but at other times he just makes passes and you scratch your head and say 'What the [heck] was that all about?' Too much inconsistency.
"Seantrel Henderson. He's the same thing to a much greater degree. Off the field issues. He just hasn't seemed to elevate his game.
"I do like Perryman a lot. The thing with him is going to be size, speed issues. I think Linder is going to be a late day steal. I think Linder in the right system can be a 10-year pro. I think he's going to be a guy drafted somewhere in the later rounds.
"I do like Jimmy Gaines. In the sense he's elevated his game, his head is in the right direction. Gaines you're thinking at best a late round pick or somebody who works his way onto the roster as a free agent. And then Allen Hurns, who is probably a last day guy. That's it."
The Hurricanes official injury report won't be coming out until Thursday, but it's guaranteed backup strongside linebacker Alex Figueroa is going to be on it.
The 6-3, 235-pound freshmen missed practice again Wednesday after being spotted during Tuesday's media viewing of practice with his left arm in a sling.
"We're evaluating his shoulder again today and we'll know more by tomorrow and certainly by Friday," UM coach Al Golden said during his weekly appearance on the ACC Teleconference. "He did not practice again today and we're holding him out right now. We just want to make sure whatever the diagnosis is we go through the battery of tests he needs to and we're not going backwards there."
Figueroa, who started against Savannah State and South Florida, has played in all nine games for the Hurricanes. Coaches raved about him during fall camp and he's done a nice job on special teams and in his appearances, racking up 17 tackles and a sack on the season.
"We're very high on Alex," Golden said. "He needs to continue to learn how to prepare and play the game faster, [fix] the mental errors, a lot of the things we deal with freshmen. Sometimes we forget he's a freshman. He is a guy we're excited about and that has a great future."
> Junior linebacker Denzel Perryman, who leads the Hurricanes with 78 tackles, welcomed a daughter to the world on Tuesday morning.
> Golden said freshmen Artie Burns and Corn Elder and sophomore Antonio Crawford "have been coming on" in practice "and earning some reps" at cornerback.
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."
Golden after loss to Virginia Tech: "Whatever I say is an excuse. At the end of the day, we have to fix it."
On the difficulties in fighting uphill after falling behind early...
“Huge. You can’t spot them 21 points like that. At the end of the day, we executed the punt return and kick-off return exactly what we wanted - one was 30 [yards], one was 50 [yards], and we fumbled both of them. Just inexcusable. We had a low snap and gave them a short field there, and now you’re playing uphill the whole time. They’re basically playing keep-away at that moment. We didn’t get off the field well enough on third down. We didn’t convert enough plays on offense. Just really disappointed in those mistakes.”
On lopsided time of possession in the first quarter affecting chances of success...
“There isn’t any question about it. We had two fumbles and basically what amounted to a fumble on the low snap that we were down on. To start out the game like that, I don’t think there’s anybody in this business that would see that coming. There’s just no way that should happen. I’m really disappointed there.”
On the general issues that he sees with his team’s defense...
“We didn’t get off the field enough on third down. We missed too many tackles - too many egregious third downs that they converted. Really against the odds plays for them that they converted, and we didn’t stop them enough in the red zone. Even with the mistakes that we aided them [with] in the half, I think we were still only in the 30’s going into halftime play-wise. Not that that’s great, but it’s not like it was 40 or 50 plays. Again, just really disappointed. We didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t protect the ball, a low snap, three big blunders to start the game, and as I just said to them, don’t let anyone say we weren’t ready, we weren’t focused. If everyone is blocking who they’re supposed to be and we return it 50 yards, we’re ready to play. We fumbled the ball. We had a good scheme and we fumbled the ball. We score early on a screen, we’re ready to play. Just really disappointing. It’s impossible to overcome those odds.”
On how the weather affected his team’s gameplan...
“None. Zero. Don’t let anyone say the rain affected those fumbles. They started to get in traffic, you have to cover that up, and the ball should be higher. Something we work on constantly. The ball was just too low, the point was down. I’m embarrassed by it, to be honest with you.”
On any systemic issues he sees with the defense...
“We need to help them on special teams and on offense. There are a lot of things we need to fix. We had too many guys open, we didn’t tackle well enough, we didn’t get off the field, we didn’t get a red-zone stop, and we didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback.”
On if the same issues that plagued the defense last week were recurring against Virginia Tech...
“The numbers would say yes. There were too many third-and-longs, too many against-the-odds third downs they converted. It was the function of two things: we blew a coverage – a man got free or cut a guy loose - lost leverage in the zone, or we didn’t tackle real well.”
On the play of the Virginia Tech wide receivers...
“We had some guys running free. We got out-leveraged a couple of times. As I said, we didn’t tackle. There’s no excuse. It has to be better, it wasn’t good enough, and it’s my responsibility to get it fixed.”
On what his team needs to do better offensively...
“We needed to get the ball. Obviously on the two occasions that we fumbled it, those two possessions certainly could help. We’re not good enough right now on third down. We’re not converting enough on third down with enough consistency, and obviously that’s an excellent defense we’re playing [against]. [When] you spot them 21 points, you’re fighting an uphill battle. It gets skewed when you make those kind of mistakes. It’s really tough. We didn’t convert enough of our shots down the field.”
On if he anticipates making any changes to his defensive scheme...
“We have to look at it. It would be premature to say we have to change things when we really had too many unforced errors, to be honest with you.”
On if the cushion for Virginia Tech wide receivers on third down was the product of mental errors...“I know twice we got rubbed off and didn’t stay on our man, the other one we missed a tackle. We’re playing man [coverage] a couple of times, so it wasn’t like we weren’t being aggressive. We didn’t get it done. There’s no excuse. We’ll examine it, look at it, from top to bottom.”
On the Coastal Division race...
“We’re going to go to work tomorrow, like I just told the team. I’m going to be in there, getting back to work. They have to decide which direction they want to go – there’s a lot of football left. They have to get their minds right and move on. I don’t want to hear anything about last week’s game affecting this week’s game. We were ready to play. We did not take care of the football, and it really was the equivalent of three turnovers early in that game when you look at the two kick plays and the knee down. We didn’t tackle well enough, we didn’t get out of the field well enough, we didn’t get a red zone stop on defense. On offense, we didn’t run the ball well enough, we didn’t convert on third down, we didn’t hit the shots when we had them down the field, and we dropped a few [passes], to be honest with you.”
On the differences he sees from his team’s win against Florida to the loss against Virginia Tech...
“Whatever I say is an excuse. At the end of the day, we have to fix it. We have to go back to work and fix it. I’m not even going to go down that path. We’re all responsible for it, I’m responsible for it, and we’re going to go to work tomorrow on getting it fixed and getting this thing right, and do all the little things right to move forward and move the program forward. That’s what we have to all get going tomorrow.”
Considering how bad the Hurricanes looked in the second half against Florida State last Saturday one might imagine players and coaches are dying for another shot at the Seminoles in the ACC Championship game.
UM coach Al Golden made it clear Wednesday during his 10-minute weekly meeting with the press in the ACC Teleconference the only thing on his mind and his players' minds is beating Virginia Tech on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.
When asked if he saw something that gives the Canes hope in a potential rematch with FSU, Golden said: ""Again, I'm not even -- we don't even live in that world."
"Our world right now is going against a defense that has 28 sacks and keeping opponents to 29 percent on third down and 4.1 yards a play and 16.9 points per game. Trust me, that's the world we live in. I don't want to own any quotes about a rematch or anything like that. You guys can speculate on that. In terms of our mentality, we're going to have our hands super full on Saturday with a Virginia Tech team that has obviously been the benchmark here in the Coastal Division and will give us everything we can handle. So that's where our minds are at right now."
What else was Golden talking about Wednesday?
> What he see from the Hokies' defensive front: "They're powerful. They're athletic, work in concert with each other. They pursue and they're aggressive. [Defensive tackles Luther] Maddy and [Derrick] Hopkins, those two collectively working together. [Ends James] Gayle, [J.R.] Collins, [Dadi] Nichoas and then the linebackers with [Jack] Tyler leading the way, having a great season. They're deep. They roll guys in. Very good unit."
> The Hokies won their first three ACC games and didn't turn the ball over once. But in their losses to Duke and Boston College the last two weeks they turned over four times each.
"It's the same issue we had," Golden said. "You have to do whatever you can to try and resolve it, emphasize it in practice, protecting the ball. Maybe it's helping the quarterback make different decisions, things of that nature or changing the way you practice. [The turnovers were] certainly like ours were -- self-inflicted, unforced errors in a way. We went through the same thing so it's really important we protect the ball this week."
> Golden said he doesn't really have a long-term prognosis for running back Duke Johnson following ankle surgery Monday night, but made it clear there's probably no way he will be back in time for a bowl game.
"I don't really have the long-term prognosis other than everything went really well and I'm going to see him today," Golden said. "He'll be back on campus either [Thursday] night or Friday morning. We're just trying to get him back, get him integrated back with academics, treatment and getting him in the weight room. Again, these days they get the guys going with treatment and rehab and things of that natue. He's doing well. He's at home. I'll get a chance to visit with him later."
> Will Dallas Crawford be the workhorse with Johnson out or will it be more of a committee approach?
"They're going to earn their reps in practice," Golden said. "We're going to evaluate those guys every day in practice and depending on what we're asking them to do we're going to see all three of those running backs and probably all three by the end of the first quarter. I don't think there's any question we'll see more of them. But certainly Dallas right now -- he was No. 2 and then No. 1 -- has demonstrated he can carry the load. Again, a lot of its going to depend on the play-calling, what groupings are in there, the flow of the game."
> Could Corn Elder be moved from cornerback to running back to add depth?
"We made that decision with [freshman] Walter Tucker a month ago that Walter would be the next running back if we need him," Golden said. "So Walter has the ability to play fullback or running back at 225 points. Obviously he's been playing a lot for us on special teams. That decision has already been made. Corn will stay at corner."
> How would Golden characterize Dallas as a running back?
"No. 1 he's got a low center of gravity and strength. He's probably 197, 198 pounds. So big legs, low center of gravity. He does utilize the spin move occasionally. He does have an excellent lateral cut and ability to start and stop. Some of those characteristics are the same as [Duke Johnson]. I would just say he's a little bit more powerful in terms of being able to drop his pads because of his leg strength. Those are the things he does really well. Like Randy, we can put him out, throw him a screen or line him up in the slot because he does catch the ball really well."
> Where does FSU rank among the four top unbeaten BCS teams?
"I know your guys' job is to debate all that and that's probably what creates the interest all year long. I think it's going to shake out. It's hard to imagine they're not the best team or one of the top two or three teams in the country. Those two wins were very impressive. Just seeing them up close. They're deep at every position. They have very few weaknesses. They execute it at a high level and they have a quarterback that's playing as good as anybody in the country. Because of that they certainly staking their claim or at least an argument to be that [top team]. I think it will all shake out in the end."
As devastating as it was to get dominated in the second half by rival Florida State and lose Duke Johnson for the season in the process, the Hurricanes shifted their focus Monday and completely immersed themselves in preparing for Saturday's pivotal Coastal Division showdown with Virginia Tech.
"We have a lot to play for," UM coach Al Golden said. "We got a lot of season left. How we play here in the next four weeks will determine how much, what the stakes will be. It's real important we get back on the saddle given the team that's coming in, their tradition, what they've meant to this division and the challenge they pose."
The Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1 ACC) still control their destiny in the Coastal Division. But lose to the Hokies (6-3, 3-2) and the Hurricanes will need help to reach the ACC title game.
"It's still all in front of them," Golden said. "What they have to do is trust what we're telling them. Let them go through that process of growing and maturing and learning, just focusing on the details everyday and not focusing on everything else. Sometimes you get stung."
NEWS AND NOTES FROM MONDAY
> The No. 1 question on the minds of all Hurricanes fans has to be just how bad Duke Johnson's injury really is. A source inside UM told me Johnson's broken ankle is not nearly as bad as the one receiver Malcolm Lewis is still trying to completely recover from.
When asked if Johnson might be ready for spring ball, Golden appeared encouraged: "I think he'll be back sooner rather than later," he said. "We're going to try like heck to get him stronger, really work on his nutrition and his weight gain. I know Clinton Portis is one of the guys who talked to him about that. He's got to continue to get stronger, and he will."
> How will the Hurricanes handle not having Duke around? Offensive coordinator James Coley said replacing Johnson's production will involve a running back by committee approach. Still, expect to see Crawford handle the bulk of the carries with Clements coming in on third downs and Gus Edwards likely participating in special packages. Freshman Walter Tucker is simply taking more reps in practice in case any of those three go down.
Golden said the reason Edwards had not seen much work (one carry for no yards at North Carolina) since tallying 166 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries against Savannah State and USF four weeks ago is because Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford "were holding his reps off."
"Gus is ready for this now," Golden said. "He's going to be in the mix and is definitely going to be carrying the ball for us on Saturday."
Golden said the offensive play-calling would not be scaled down with Johnson out and noted that the team's mental errors are down 50 percent from where they were a year ago "at this very date."
> Expect to see safety Deon Bush a lot more this week against Virginia Tech, which could lead to fewer minutes for senior AJ Highsmith, who despite making Miami's only sack Saturday didn't have a great game overall.
Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and Golden both came to Highsmith's defense Monday. Golden actually said Highsmith "played really well at FSU" and has done a great job "leading, getting us lined up."
"I know he'd like to have the one play back -- he's was probably one step away from intercepting the deep play [to Kelvin Benjamin] -- one of the few deep ones they got in the game," Golden said.
D'Onofrio said Highsmith didn't get the help he needed from the cornerback covering on that play (Ladarius Gunter) and noted Highsmith has "played played a lot of snaps without a mental error. Going into that game he was 250 snaps without making one mental error, which is hard to do, especially at that position."
Still, D'Onofrio conceded he'd like to have a more physical safety out there. Bush had four tackles and his first career college interception Saturday (his previous one came his junior year at Miami Columbus).
"It is the most he's played and the best he's looked so hopefully we can get him back to the confidence level he was playing with last year prior to the injuries he's had to deal with," D'Onofrio said.
"We need physical players back there. Your physical players in games like that have to make plays, they have to impose their will. You guys know who they are. You watch the games. The guys that are physical, that can cause fumbles, those guys have to show up and be physical. He's one of the guys that can do that. And we're going to need that from him."
Bush said Monday he still experiences some pain in his surgically repaired groin, but is feeling the best he has in a long time. He also dealt with neck/shoulder injury last year.
> D'Onofrio said his defense was obviously disappointed with giving up 41 points and more than 500 yards of offense to Florida State because they had a lot invested into Saturday's game. But the Hurricanes did enjoy some success against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston early, throwing a mix of man and zone coverages in with an occasional blitz, leading Winston holding onto the ball and to two interceptions.
The problem for UM was they couldn't get off the field on third down and let Winston escape the pocket a few times on third downs for first downs.
"That was disappointing," D'Onofrio said. "Our guys had an understanding of who was back there [Jameis Winston] and we just didn't make plays on him a couple times. We didn't have the vision we needed there. It's really a two-level deal. You have to keep him in the pocket, try to come clean and get a sack, and then have underneath defenders that have vision. Somebody needs to be a wrap player whose watching him if you're in man coverage and then all the underneath defenders need to watch him in zone. We just have to do a better job overall when you're dealing with a mobile quarterback like that."
The difference in the game, D'Onofrio said, was Florida State's ability to establish the run in the second half. Once the Seminoles went up by a couple scores Miami was simply playing catch-up.
> Against Virginia Tech's offense, the Hurricanes will have to try and contain a quarterback that has beaten them with his legs before.
Senior Logan Thomas ran 22 times for 124 yards and a touchdown last season against UM, but struggled throwing (19-37, 199 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) in a 30-12 Canes win. A year earlier in Blacksburg as a sophomore, he lit UM up, finishing 23 of 25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns and running for 38 yards and two scores in a 38-35 win.
Defensive tackle Justin Renfow, who faced Thomas a few times when he played at Virginia, said its even more important this week for the Hurricanes defense to make sure they don't let the opposing quarterback escape the pocket.
"Logan Thomas is a good quarterback and I think think its even more important this week [to cut off running lanes," Renfrow said. "He's been a lot more run first. One look and if his first look is not there he's tucking and running. As a d-line we definitely have to corral him because he tries to run people over. The big guys up front need to be delivering the hit instead of leaving it like we did against Florida State for the corners and safeties to come up and do it."
> Golden made it seem Monday as though receiver Phillip Dorsett might be able to come back before the end of the regular season. "He is fighting like crazy to get back" Golden said. "We have to help him by continuing to play well."
A source said Dorsett had a clean tear in his MCL, which was helpful in his case, and was catching passes at Monday's practice. Still, it's more likely to believe Dorsett will be back for the ACC Championship game, assuming Miami makes it.
There was a reason Florida State pushed the Hurricanes around Saturday night like a little brother.
The Seminoles are better, elite in a lot of places: quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive line, secondary. The gap may not have looked that big after two quarters Saturday. But it was on display for the nation to see over the final 30 minutes. Florida State is legit, national championship good. Miami is just getting back into the Top 25 good.
That gap is nothing to be ashamed about if you bleed orange and green. Jimbo Fisher has been building this thing for over five years, since we first heard he would be the guy replacing Bobby Bowden.
Al Golden? He's been trying to rebuild Miami for three years with one arm tied behind his back. It wasn't until two weeks ago tomorrow the 28-month hostage situation with the NCAA really came to an end. Even then, it's been impressive what Golden has been able to accomplish the last couple years.
As fun as it was to see this team start 7-0, climb to No. 7 in the national rankings, ask any talent evaluator and they will tell you these Hurricanes truly were not ready for a Top 10 showdown Saturday. Three recruiting classes into yet another Miami makeover, Golden has restocked the shelves with a few gems (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Tyriq McCord, DE Quan Muhammad, CB Artie Burns, S Deon Bush, OL Ereck Flowers, WR Stacy Coley, LB Jermaine Grace). But really, he's still playing catch-up and only now beginning to fight with both fists free.
I know the thirst has been here for awhile to shout "We're back baby!" But that's really not going to happen until the Hurricanes get to the point where Florida State is. Where you have legit NFL prospects up and down your roster. Fisher had a school-record 11 players taken in last April's NFL Draft. He'll probably have eight more at least this year with half of that taken in the first two rounds.
Miami had two players taken last April (RB Mike James, CB Brandon McGee) and might have four or five this April (LB Denzel Perryman, QB Stephen Morris, OL Brandon Linder, OL Seantrel Henderson) and one of them is a punter. Do the math. Did that sound like a Top 10 matchup Saturday night?
Truth is Golden and his staff over the last three years have taken a bunch of average, leftover talent (DT Curtis Porter, OL Jon Feliciano, S Kacy Rodgers, MLB Jimmy Gaines, WR Allen Hurns, DE Shayon Green, OL Malcolm Bunche, WR Rashawn Scott), coached them up, plugged in a few holes with transfers (DL David Gilbert, DL Justin Renfrow, P Pat O'Donnell) and made this team better year-to-year.
Saturday's game might have been a little closer in the second half had a few guys (LB Eddie Johnson, LB Gionni Paul, CB Thomas Finnie) kept their heads on straight and still been here. But every program has a few knuckleheads who don't seem to get it. Until Saturday, UM hadn't faced a team with superior depth and talent to the them. Florida? The Gators have an elite defense and that's why Miami was in a dog fight. But the Gators are 4-4 now, proof even Will Muschamp (hired at the same time Golden was) isn't having an easy time of it in Gainesville after losing eight draft picks from last year's team.
What the Hurricanes have proven thus far in 2013 is that they are not going to lose games they shouldn't and have the fight in them to rally when they're down. Players are improving. That's what we didn't see enough of during the last regime.
Now, after Saturday's heartbreaking loss (Golden gave the team Sunday off to rest and recover) we'll get to see what this coaching staff and this team is really made of. Duke Johnson is a special talent. But he's not the sole reason Miami is 7-1 and still ranked 14th in the country.
Saturday's opponent, Virginia Tech, a team UM hasn't beaten twice in a row since 2002, is the real benchmark the Hurricanes have to measure themselves against. The Hokies have won the ACC four times since coming over from the Big East with Miami in 2004. Their talent and Miami's talent is and has been much more comparable over the last couple of seasons.
What Golden and his coaches have to prove to us now is that even in the face of adversity (losing his best player) and coming off a humbling defeat against the team you want to catch-up to they can get this football team to re-focus and finish the season strong. As Golden pointed out last year, you can't win the ACC until you win the Coastal Division.
That's really what this season needs to be measured on: Can these Canes continue to beat the teams they are supposed to, win their division and finish the season with momentum for the future?
That's what Randy Shannon's teams couldn't seem to do. UM only had one winning month in November (3-1, 2009) in his four years here. Golden is now 5-4 after Saturday in November. UM finished 3-1 in November last year.
It's going to be challenging without Johnson to finish this November 4-1. But this UM team should be good enough to beat Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at home Saturday, Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC) on the road Nov. 16, Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at home Nov. 23, and win at Pittsburgh (4-4, 2-3 ACC) the day after Thanksgiving.
It's time to finish the mission Canes.
And now for the second half of the breakdown between the Hurricanes and Seminoles.
> Miami: DE Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 277, Jr., 4-star, No. 3 DE in 2011 by Rivals); Shayon Green (6-3, 264, Sr., 3-star, No. 65 DE in 2009 by Rivals); David Gilbert (6-4, 256, Sr., 4-star, No. 12 DE in 2009 by Rivals); Ufomba Kamalu (6-6, 285, Jr., 2-star, unranked JUCO in 2013 by Rivals); Al-Quadin Muhammad (6-3, 240, Fr., 4-star, No. 3 WDE in 2013 by Rivals); Tyriq McCord (6-3, 235, So., 4-star, No. 7 WDE in 2012 by Rivals); DT Justin Renfrow (6-6, 320, Sr., 3-star, No. 43 DE in 2009 by Rivals); Olsen Pierre (6-4, 305, Jr. 3-star, unranked in 2011 by Rivals); Curtis Porter (6-1, 325, Sr. 3-star, No. 54 DT in 2009 by Rivals); Luther Robinson (6-3, 296, r-Sr., 4-star, No. 18 DT in 2009 by Rivals).
> FSU: DE Eddie Goldman (6-4, 303, So., 5-star, No. 2 DT in 2012 by Rivals); Mario Edwards (Jr., 6-3, 277, So., 5-star, No. 1 DT in 2012 by Rivals); Chris Casher (6-4, 260, R-Fr., 4-star, No. 4 WDE in 2012 by Rivals); Demonte McAllister (6-2, 290, r-Sr., 4-star, No. 4 SDE in 2009 by Rivals). DT Nile Lawrence-Stample (6-1, 305, r-So., 4-star, No. 29 DT in 2011 by Rivals); NG Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 296, Jr., 4-star, No. 2 DT in 2011 by Rivals); Jacobbi McDaniel (6-0, 295, R-Sr., 5-star, No. 2 DT in 2009 by Rivals); Desmond Hollin (6-3, 270, Jr., 3-star, unranked JUCO in 2013 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. If not for the transfers of Justin Renfrow and David Gilbert for Miami, the talent gap here would be much wider than it already is. FSU has three 5-star recruits in its defensive line rotation and three highly-touted 4-stars that were top five at their respective positions. UM doesn't have any 5-star recruits on the d-line and only two who were top five at their respect positions in Chickillo and McCord.
> What's happened: That all being said, UM's front is vastly improved from a year ago. UM ranks 39th in run defense (141.7 yards per game) has tallied 22 sacks (the Canes had 13 all of last season). FSU's run defense ranks 29th (135.7 yards per game) and the Seminoles have produced 17 sacks with only five coming from their linemen. All that being said, Jernigan is the highest-rated NFL prospect of all the current draft-eligible defensive linemen in this game. ESPN ranks him second among DTs. CBS Sports rates him sixth best among and a potential second rounder. McAllister is next at 11th among DTs according to ESPN.
> Real edge: FSU, but not as widely as people think. For all the hype FSU's linemen got out of high school, only Jernigan has been a consistent force up front. Miami does its work collectively, but still gets the majority of its pass rush from third-down specialists like McCord and not enough from its starters. FSU has produced 19 quarterback hurries this season and only allowed five. UM has produced 13 QB hurries and allowed 17.
> Miami: MLB Jimmy Gaines (6-3, 240, Sr., 2-star, unranked in 2010 by Rivals); Raphael Kirby (6-0, 235, So., 4-star, No. 5 OLB in 2012 by Rivals); OLB Tyrone Cornelius (6-2, 225, Sr., 3-star, No. 38 OLB in 2010 by Rivals); Denzel Perryman (6-0, 240, Jr., 3-star, No. 25 ILB in 2011 by Rivals); Alex Figueroa (6-3, 235, Fr., No stars, no ranking in 2012 by Rivals; Thurston Armbrister (6-3, 233, Jr., No stars, no ranking in 2011 by Rivals)
> FSU: MLB Terrance Smith (6-4, 215, R-So., 3-star, No. 18 OLB in 2011 by Rivals); OLB Christian Jones (6-4, 235, Sr., 5-star, No. 2 OLB in 2010 by Rivals); Telvin Smith (6-3, 218, Sr., 4-star, No. 18 OLB in 2010 by Rivals); Reggie Northrup (6-1, 220, So., 4-star, No. 30 OLB in 2012 by Rivals); Dan Hicks (6-4, 260, R-Sr., 2-star, unranked in 2009 by Rivals); Ukeme Eligwe (6-2, 240, R-Fr., 4-star, No. 2 OLB in 2012 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. It's almost puzzling how Miami has managed to survive at linebacker considering the of lack of talent recruited for the position. Gaines, recruited by former assistant John Lovett, had only a couple other offers (Buffalo, UConn and Syracuse). Figueroa didn't have any offers and Armbrister, a converted safety, was a late addition by Golden.
> What's happened: Gaines has developed into a lot more than anyone really expected, tallying 158 tackles in 21 career starts. Perryman, the only Butkus semifinalist in the ACC, has blossomed into UM's best defensive player despite being thrown into the fire right away as an undersized freshman. CBSSports rates him as the eighth-best draft-eligible outside linebacker and a potential second or third round pick in April. FSU's Jones, meanwhile, sits atop the board as the top projected inside linebacker by CBSSports and a second round pick. Teammate Telvin Smith ranks 12th among outside linebackers and a potential fourth rounder.
> Real edge: FSU. Jones (33 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and Smith (49 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 sack) are elite players. UM has one in Perryman and a couple overachievers. It should be noted by the way Jones plays a lot of defensive end, too and told reporters in Tallahassee this week he sees himself as a defensive end now.
> Miami: CB Tracy Howard (5-11, 184, So., 5-star, No. 1 CB in 2012 by Rivals); Ladarius Gunter (6-2, 196, Jr., 3-star, unranked JUCO in 2012); Antonio Crawford (5-11, 187, So., 3-star, unranked CB by Rivals); Artie Burns (6-0, 190, Fr., 4-star, No. 15 CB in 2013 by Rivals); S Kacy Rodgers (6-2, 212, Sr., 3-star, No. 37 CB in 2010 by Rivals); Rayshawn Jenkins (6-1, 208, So., 3-star, No. 32 S in 2012 by Rivals); Deon Bush (6-1, 203, So., 4-star, No. 6 S in 2012 by Rivals); AJ Highsmith (6-0, 208, Sr., 3-star, unranked ATH in 2009 by Rivals).
> FSU: CB Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 190, Sr. 5-star, No. 1 CB in 2010 by Rivals); P.J. Williams (6-0, 190, So., 4-star, No. 9 S in 2012 by Rivals); Ronald Darby (5-11, 190, So., 4-star, No. 2 CB in 2012 by Rivals); Nick Waisome (5-10, 176, Jr., 4-star, No. 8 CB in 2011 by Rivals); S Jalen Ramsey (6-1, 195, Fr., 5-star, No. 3 CB in 2013 by Rivals); Terrence Brooks (5-11, 200, Sr., 3-star, No. 45 CB by Rivals in 2010); Keelin Smith (6-3, 185, R-So., 3-star, No. 34 CB in 2011 by Rivals); Nate Andrews (5-11, 208, Fr., 3-star, unranked ATH in 2013 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. Outside of Howard, Burns and Bush, Miami's secondary is made up of mid-level talent according to recruiting gurus. While FSU has two five star recruits starting (one at corner and one at safety) and the rest of its corners are all four-star prospects.
> What's happened: FSU has allowed the fewest passing yards in the country (153.7), ranks fifth in passing efficiency defense (97.34), has 29 pass breakups and 10 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). Joyner, a player FSU took out of UM's backyard at St. Thomas Aquinas, has been dominant. He's posted 27 tackles, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups and 3 forced fumbles in his senior season and is projected to be the second free safety taken in April's draft according to CBS Sports. Brooks, his teammate, has 22 tackles, 4 PBUs, 2 FF and 2 INTs. He's projected to be a third or fourth rounder. UM ranks 17th in pass defense (200.6 yards per game) 10th in passing efficiency defense) and has 22 passes broken up and 12 interceptions. Howard leads the way with three.
> Real edge: FSU. Miami, obviously a lot younger than FSU in the secondary, didn't look good against the one good pass offense it faced in North Carolina, which completed 74.4 percent of its passes for 395 yards. Tight end Eric Ebron abused Miami. FSU hasn't had a bad game yet in pass defense and held Tahj Boyd and Clemson to only 203 yards passing. Opponents are only completing passes at a 52.2 percent clip against FSU, which is also allowing only 5.2 yards per attempt.
> Miami: K Matt Goudis (6-0, 172, So., 2-star, No. 13 kicker in 2011 by Rivals); P Pat O'Donnell (6-5, 220, Gr., 2-star, unranked in 2009 by Rivals); KR/PR Stacy Coley (6-1, 180, Fr., 4-star, No. 13 WR in 2013 by Rivals); KR Duke Johnson (5-9, 196, So., 5-star, No. 1 all-purpose running back by Rivals in 2012).
> FSU: K Roberto Aguayo (6-1, 203, R-Fr., 3-star, No. 3 kicker in 2012 by Rivals); P Cason Beatty (6-3, 229, So. 2-star, unranked kicker in 2012 by Rivals); KR Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 180, Sr., 5-star, No. 1 CB in 2010 by Rivals); KR Karlos Williams (6-1, 223, Jr., 5-star, No. 2 safety in 2011 by Rivals.com); PR Kenny Shaw (6-0, 170, Sr., 4-star, No. 14 WR in 2010 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: None really. But it is noteworthy Aguayo got a three-star rating. Kickers rarely do.
> What's happened: The Hurricanes lead the nation in kickoff return average thanks to Johnson (29.23 average) and Coley (1 kick return for a TD). FSU does a better job on punt returns (29th, 11.79 yard average) compared to UM (62nd, 8.09 yard average). When it comes to punting, O'Donnell (45.67 average) has saved the Hurricanes a couple times with big kicks. Beatty is averaging 40.3 yards a punt. Aguayo has converted all 58 kicks in his career (10 field goals, 48 PATs) and has a career-long of 45 yards. Goudis also hit a 45-yard field goal against Wake Forest, but has missed his last two kicks from 40 yards or more (43 and 40).
> Real edge: Even. Both teams have explosive return men and Miami has an edge with O'Donnell. But if it comes down to making a big kick Aguayo has the stronger track record.
Florida State and Miami has always been a huge game not only because of the rivalry, but because of the recruiting stakes involved in the game.
Nowadays, recruits pick schools for a lot of different reasons (playing time, relationship with the coach recruiting him, etc.). Still, to the winner usually go the spoils because perception is whoever wins this game and looks better playing in it is closer to the ultimate prize: a national championship. And that always has ripple effects in recruiting -- usually with high school underclassmen and not seniors (many of which have already made their minds up by now).
That being said, this isn't a breakdown of which recruits are on the fence for UM and FSU heading into February's National Signing Day. That on the fence deal doesn't really exist anymore since players commit so early and classes are usually filled by now.
Rather, this is a breakdown of the perceived talent versus talent in Saturday's game. Who has more stud recruits and where are they on the field? Making recruiting evaluations is hardly a perfect science. But when you watch the game Saturday night take note of some of the items in this blog so you can keep count of who was supposed to be the better recruit in head-to-head battles.
> Miami: Stephen Morris (6-2, 218, Sr., 3-star, No. 26 Dual-Threat QB in 2010 by Rivals)
> FSU: Jameis Winston (6-4, 228, R-Fr., 5-star, No. 1 Dual-Threat QB in 2012 by Rivals)
> What's happened: Winston (69.9 comp. pct, 2,177 yards, 23 TDs, 4 iNTs) has obviously lived up to all the hype with a stellar first season as the starter after being recruited to FSU by former recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig (now at Auburn). Winston is already among the favorites in the Heisman race and projected to be a first rounder in the NFL.
Although an ankle injury has slowed the preseason hype down around Morris (he won MVP honors at the Manning Passing Camp and is now ranked 7th among draft eligible QBs by ESPN), people forget how much Morris (59.9 comp. pct., 1,463 yards, 10 TDs, 8 INTs in 2013) has grown during his time at Miami. When he chose to play for Mark Whipple the summer before his senior season his other top two offers were Virginia and Purdue. Where would UM be without Morris today? Probably not in the Top 25 rankings.
> Recruiting edge: FSU. In case someone gets hurt, backup Jacob Coker (3-stars, No. 18 pro-style QB in 2012 by Rivals) is considered a better talent than UM backup and Memphis transfer Ryan Williams (6-5, 223, Jr., 2-stars, unranked among QBs). Although Williams has played better this season in spot duty.
> Real edge: FSU. Hard to argue with what Winston is doing right now even with what the ankle injury has done to Morris.
> Miami: Duke Johnson (5-9, 196, So., 5-star, No. 1 all-purpose running back by Rivals in 2012); Dallas Crawford (5-10, 194, R-So., 3-star, No. 27 cornerback in 2011 by Rivals); Maurice Hagens (5-11, 250, Sr., 3-star, No. 8 fullback in 2011 by Rivals).
> FSU: Devonta Freeman (5-9, 203, Jr., 4-star, No. 10 running back by Rivals in 2012); James Wilder (6-2, 229, Jr., 5-star, No. 2 running back in 2012 by Rivals); Karlos Williams (6-1, 223, Jr., 5-star, No. 2 safety in 2011 by Rivals.com).
> What's happened: Johnson, who committed to Randy Shannon before news of pending NCAA sanctions broke, has been an instant superstar upon his arrival. He's averaged nearly 7 yards a carry in his career and been a nightmare to stop on kickoff returns while proving to be one of the country's best all-purpose threats. Crawford, who switched over from defensive back, led UM to a come-from-behind win at North Carolina with Johnson out and has proven to be better than your average backup (65 carries, 295 yards, team-leading 9 TDs rushes).
Freeman, whom UM made a very late push for once coach Al Golden took over the program, has broken out this season (87 carries, 561 yards, 6 TDs) with a career-best 6.4 yards per carry average. A linebacker and running back in high school, Miami never really pushed for Wilder. Despite a mediocre college career (41 att., 226 yards, 2 TDs, 5.5 average in 2013) is the only FSU draft-eligible running back on ESPN's big board (he ranks 14th). Williams, who made the switch to running back this season after starting for the first time in the ACC championship gmae at linebacker, leads FSU with 7.9 yards a carry (44 carries, 349 yards, 7 TDs).
> Recruiting edge: FSU by the numbers. A pair of 5-star talents and a 4-star running back who lead your team in rushing compared to one 5-star running back and a converted three-star defensive back.
> Real edge: UM. Sure, FSU has more depth. But tell me someone who wouldn't take Johnson over any of FSU's running backs.
> Miami: WRs Allen Hurns (6-3, 195, Sr., 3-star, No. 60 WR in 2010 by Rivals); Herb Waters (6-2, 193, So. 3-star, No. 50 WR in 2012 by Rivals); Stacy Coley (6-1, 180, Fr., 4-star, No. 13 in 2013 by Rivals); Malcolm Lewis (6-0, 187, So., 4-star, No. 28 WR in 2012 by Rivals); Rashawn Scott (6-2, 199, Jr., 3-star, unranked in 2011 by Rivals); TEs: Clive Walford (6-4, 259, R-Jr., 3-star, unranked in 2010 by Rivals); Asante Cleveland (6-5, 260, Sr., 2-star, unranked in 2010 by Rivals).
> FSU: WRs Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 234, r-So., 4-star, No. 8 WR in 2011 by Rivals); Kenny Shaw (6-0, 170, Sr., 4-star, No. 14 WR in 2010 by Rivals), Rashad Greene (6-0, 180, Jr., 4-star, No. 29 WR in 2011 by Rivals); Christian Green (6-2, 200, r-Jr., 4-star, No. 7 ATH in 2010 by Rivals); TEs Nick O'Leary (6-3, 248, Jr. , 4-star, No. 1 TE in 2011 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: FSU. This is a case where FSU went out and recruited well, developed players and they've lived up to the hype. UM went hard after Benjamin (23 catches, 430 yards, 5 TDs), O'Leary (17-307, 6 TDs) and got Greene (39-690, 8 TDs) to take an official visit in January, but FSU won the recruiting war.
> What's happened: With Winston throwing them the football, FSU's top four receivers are all averaging at or near 18 yards a catch. Outside of the much-hyped Coley (who picked UM over FSU), the Hurricanes have taken mid-level recruiting talent and developed it nicely. Hurns (28 catches, 506 yards, 2 TDs to lead the team) has become Morris' favorite target on third downs along with Walford (17-244, 2 TDs). Coley (17-278, 3 TDs) is just beginning to hit his stride now. Although the loss of Phillip Dorsett (3-star, No. 38 WR in 2011 by Rivals) hurts the Canes, Lewis and Scott returning to full health should help them down the stretch this season.
> Real edge: FSU. More players catch passes for Miami, but the foursome FSU has at the top is nightmarish.
> Future: Of all the draft-eligible receivers in this game, FSU's Rashad Greene rates the highest according to NFL scouts. He's currently ranked 19th by NFLDraftScout.com. Hurns is UM's highest-ranked draft-eligible receiver at 38 by NFLDraftScout.com. Coley could ultimately be the biggest star down the road in the NFL.
> Miami: LT Ereck Flowers (6-6, 315, So., 4-star, No. 20 OT in 2012 by Rivals); LG Jon Feliciano (6-5, 318, rJr., 3-star, No. 55 OT in 2010 by Rivals); C Shane McDermott (6-4, 296, Jr., 3-star, No. 31 OC in 2010 by Rivals); RG Jared Wheeler (6-5, 319, Sr., 3-star, No. 43 OG in 2009 by Rivals); RT Brandon Linder (6-6, 319, Sr., 4-star, No. 3 OC in 2010 by Rivals); RT Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 345, Sr. 5-star, No. 1 OT in 2010 by Rivals); OL Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 327, rJr., 4-star, unranked in 2010 after prep school).
> FSU: LT Cameron Erving (6-6, 320, rJr., 3-star, unranked DT in 2010 by Rivals); LG Josue Matias (6-6, 322, Jr., 4-star, No. 25 OT in 2011 by Rivals); C Bryan Stork (6-4, 300, rSr., 3-star, No. 26 TE in 2010 by Rivals); RG Tre' Jackson (6-4, 330, Jr., 3-star, No. 60 DT in 2011 by Rivals); RT Bobby Hart (6-4, 315, Jr., 4-star, No. 8 OT in 2011 by Rivals); OG Ruben Carter (6-4, 309, R-So., 3-star, No. 29 OG in 2011 by Rivals).
> Recruiting edge: Miami. Henderson, who lost his spot in the starting rotation after another suspension (something he's battled throughout his career) recently, was no doubt the most highly-touted offensive lineman any of these teams signed. But the Hurricanes earn the edge here not because of him, but overall depth and natural ability. FSU had to convert some players into offensive linemen including Irving, who now the clear-cut NFL top prospect in the group. CBS Sports currently has Irving to projected to go 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
> Real edge: Miami slightly. The Hurricanes have put up better numbers this season in pass protection allowing only six sacks compared to FSU's 15 (Winston has been sacked 12 times, preferring to eat it than throw it up). But when it comes to running the football UM (214.71 yards per game, 19 TDs) and FSU (212.29 yards per game, 22 TDs) are about dead even.
> Future: Stork ranks 4th among draft-eligible linemen at center by ESPN. Henderson (8th among OTs by ESPN) is the highest-rated draft eligible tackle in this game. Linder ranks 11th at guard according to ESPN.
CHECK BACK FOR THE DEFENSIVE AND SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWNS
Here are some video interviews with the Hurricanes from Tuesday prior to the big showdown Saturday in Tallahassee.
Your BCS 7th-ranked Miami Hurricanes (6-0, 2-0 ACC) kickoff the second half of their season and play their first game without an NCAA anvil hanging over their head at noon today against visiting Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2).
The game can be seen on ESPNU. Feel free to chat with us as the game is going on.
University of Miami athletic director Blake James, speaking to The Miami Herald during a one-on-one interview, made it clear the program will not officially appeal any decisions made by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions Tuesday.
But that doesn't mean UM isn't going to try trim the number of football scholarships its set to lose -- nine over three years -- down a bit. For the first time Tuesday, James said UM had already "internally imposed some scholarship reductions" and the hope is the NCAA will take those measures into account. But if the NCAA doesn't, that doesn't mean Miami is going to put up a huge stink.
"We will be discussing that situation with the NCAA right now and we'll see how its best to go forward," James said. "Again, we were looking at the situation and getting an understanding of where we thought things were going to go. Again, we did think [scholarship reductions] were a possibility, but it was something we kept internal. Now that it did become a reality of our penalties we'll document with the NCAA the steps we took and work with them on checking on the possibility of that being included in this year's scholarship numbers."
The Hurricanes, currently at 74 scholarship players by the media's count, have 19 seniors on their roster and 25 oral, non-binding commitments. If the Canes' current recruiting class stays at the same number and no underclassmen depart the program, UM would have 80 scholarship players on its roster next season.
Of course, UM has the flexibility, James said, of reducing its football scholarships at the rate it sees fit. Meaning, UM doesn't have to trim three scholarships each year. It can work with any formula it sees fit. Men's basketball, set to lose one scholarship per year over the next three years, doesn't have that flexibility, James said.
"That's something I'll work with Al on," James said. "It's really going to be Al communicating with us how it best works for us to meet the penalty, at the same time what's best for the football program understanding we have that flexibility with these nine that we can allocate them over a three-year period."
> What was Blake's reaction to Tuesday's news?
"First of first reactions I was pleased to be at the end of the process," he said. "Obviously it's a process I think that's worn on all of us. It's something that as an institution we've taken very seriously. I was pleased to get to the end of the process. In terms of looking at the sanctions, we're looking at nine scholarships for football. I would say, being honest, being a part of the process, it was something I thought was in line with what I expected, but still something that was very significant.
"I would say the same with basketball -- again in line with what I was expecting based on the case. With that said, very significant along with many of the sanctions we've put in place, many of which have been very public setting up the bowl bans, two bowls and an ACC championship. And some that until today we had been working on behind the scenes and working with the NCAA on."
James said if UM had been given another bowl ban it definitely would have been something the school appealed. But he didn't sense that coming.
"I think that was something that would have been real hard," James said of another bowl ban. "We have 115 young men in our program right now that are committed to achieving their goals. In many cases you have a group that hasn't been able to play in a bowl at all. In some case you have a few individuals that maybe got a chance to be a part of the Sun Bowl and that experience there, but really weren't active members of the team and have sat out on the sidelines the next few years.
"To have our young men not have that opportunity again would have been something that would have been very hard. But again, we respected the process and understood the Committee on Infractions was going to do what was best. I didn't feel another bowl justified and I was pleased to see the COI felt the same way. So I was very pleased we were able to go forward in that front."
James said he had been on the phone all morning with UM President Donna Shalala. Her reaction wasn't much different than his, he said.
"We've been in regular communication. I would say her feelings are very similar to mine," James aid. "Obviously we're disappointed that the institution had this situation occur. We're going to do things we need to do to make changes. Many of those are already in place. We'll continue to educate our people. We'll continue to closely monitor the program and we'll move forward as the great athletic program we are representing one of the finest institutions in the country."
This obviously isn't the first time Miami has dealt with sanctions. What kind of changes has Blake seen from the athletic department when it comes to compliance since taking the athletic director job? Plenty, he said.
"I think it's a situation where I first got here we had a very established compliance program in that they were looking to do all the things they needed to do with enforcement. How we ended up missing some of the violations that occurred is the disappointing part because I think the people we had in place were professional and did the best job they could," James said.
"I think it's a situation where maybe we didn't do some of the education that we're doing now. You see those things being in place. If you look at it from my time being a senior associate to my time now I would really say the biggest change is just the educational aspect. I think we have made some structural changes and our approach on things is really trying to make everyone understand what the rules are and how we have to operate within those rules. I wouldn't say that wasn't the case here before. Obviously there's something amiss we had this going on for 10 years. Not being here for the vast majority of that time it's hard for me to speculate on that because I know people that were here before were very dedicated to putting an institution in the best light. I know I struggle with how something like this could happen."
James said UM will not cut ties with former players as USC did.
"Again, based on the COI report there wasn't any mention of any type of disassociation," James said. "I would say that isn't something at this time we need to move forward with given the results of the findings."
From a purely personal standpoint how does James feel now that this is over?
"Again, I'm happy the process is completed," he said. "Obviously I hope this is a situation I never have to go through again, and I can assure all of us I will do everything I can to put systems in place to avoid this situation again. [I'm also] disappointed our program has gone through the challenging time it has over the last few years. It's been hard on our coaches, hard our student-athletes and hard on our administration and staff. I think we all recognize that and are all happy to move full speed ahead."
University of Miami Head Football Coach Al Golden:
“I want to sincerely thank our student-athletes and their families who, not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission. They shouldered the burden, exhibited class and exemplified perseverance for Hurricanes everywhere.
“Further, I would like to express heartfelt appreciation to our staff and families who did not subscribe to this challenge three years ago, yet courageously adopted it as their own. They have brought the utmost professionalism, resiliency and integrity to our program. More importantly, they continue to recruit and represent our world-class institution with class and dignity in unprecedented circumstance.
“Lastly, it is with gratitude and humility that I say thank you to our administration, U Family everywhere and the entire South Florida Community for their unyielding support of our young men and program over the last 28 months.”
University of Miami Head Basketball Coach Jim Larrañaga:
"I am a big believer that success is based on attitude. We continually remind our players that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
“We will continue to approach our work with a positive attitude as we march towards being the best we can be. I am grateful to our administration and counsel for leading us through this difficult journey and I want to thank everyone who loves this University and who has supported the young men who proudly wear the Miami uniform. We are excited about the upcoming season and we are all moving forward.”
The news is officially out from the NCAA on UM -- and it's better than anticipated. LINK TO COMPLETE REPORT
HERE IS THE LIST OF SANCTIONS FROM THE NCAA ON UM
> Public reprimand and censure.
> Three years of probation from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2016.
> Former assistant football coach B (Clint Hurtt) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013 through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details. The committee also adopted penalties imposed by the coach’s current employing university, which are detailed in the public report.
> Former assistant football coach C (Aubrey Hill) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details.
> Former head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith penalties: A suspension for the first five regular-season games of the 2013-14 season. Attendance at one NCAA Regional Rules seminar at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year.
> Former assistant men’s basketball coach B (Jorge Fernandez) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details.
Football program penalties
> Reduction of football scholarship by a combined total of nine during the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
> Miami may only provide a prospect on unofficial visits complementary tickets for one home game during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Self-imposed by the university
> Two year bowl ban following the 2011 and 2012 seasons, including the 2012 ACC Championship game.
> Reduction of official paid visits for 2012-13 by 20 percent to a total of 36 visits.
> Reduction of fall evaluations in 2012-13 by six (from 42 to 36).
> Reduction of available contact days during the 2012-13 contact period by 20 percent.
Men’s basketball program penalties
> Reduction in the number of men’s basketball scholarships by one during the each of the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
> Additional penalties: For all sports, any staff member who sends an impermissible text to a prospect will be fined a minimum of $100 per message, and coaches will be suspended from all recruiting activities for seven days.
> Further penalties resulting from impermissible texts and phone calls are detailed in the public report.
Hurricane coach Al Golden, who has dealt with the NCAA investigation since his first fall practice, declined to address Tuesday impending announcement after participating in his weekly radio segment Monday night in Coconut Grove.
“I’m not going to get into it, guys. I apologize. I haven’t talked to the president or the AD," said Golden, when approached by a throng of reporters outside of Sandbar Grill, site of Hurricane Hotline.
Asked what he said to his players, Golden didn't budge.
“Guys, I’ve been respectful as you can be for 28 months," Golden said. "I don't know anything that you guys don’t know and I haven’t talked to either of my superiors. So in deference to that, I’m not going to comment on anything."
The Miami Hurricanes look to open ACC play with a win over Georgia Tech this afternoon at Sun Life Staidum. UM hasn't been 5-0 since it started the 2004 season 6-0.
Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. The game is being televised on ESPNU. Feel free to follow the game with us here and participate in our CoverItLive discussion.
> As reported earlier, right tackle Seantrel Henderson has been suspended for today's game by UM for violation of team rules. Henderson, a senior, has made 21 starts in his career and now been suspended at least three times. Jonathan Feliciano will start in his place at right tackle. Malcolm Bunche will start at left guard.
TAMPA -- You know the drill.
Your Miami Hurricanes (3-0) are playing at Raymond James Stadium against the winless USF Bulls (0-3). Kickoff is at noon. Today's game can be seen on ESPNU. Hope you have it.
Al Golden has played up USF's defense. Bulls coach Willie Taggart is a good coach and eventually should right the ship. But it shouldn't be much of a contest today.
Vegas lists Miami as an 18.5 point favorite. I've got the Canes winning 44-7.
The Hurricanes (2-0) host 60-point underdog Savannah State (1-2) tonight at 7.
The game can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on WQAM (560 AM).
As usual, join our live chat or follow me on Twitter for updates.
O'Donnell rebounded from blocked punt with two game-changing punts in the second quarter, plus other notes
It's not often the punter gets invited to the post-game victory press conference.
But Pat O'Donnell earned himself a place in the spotlight Saturday afternoon with a pair of booming punts in the second quarter while the Hurricanes offense was struggling and the defense badly needed to shift field position.
"We're grateful for Pat O'Donnell. That's all I'm going to say," said sophomore rush end Tyriq McCord, who had the sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery that led to the decisive touchdown run by Duke Johnson.
"He's amazing. In practice he's always booting it about 100 yards average. That's all I can say."
O'Donnell, a graduate student and transfer from Cincinnati, crushed a 55-yard punt from Miami's 17-yard line after the Hurricanes offense went three-and-out to open the second quarter. He then shifted the field again with a 60-yarder, his longest punt of the season, after another three-and-out and Miami pinned back at its 16.
It was a nice bounce-back effort considering the day didn't exactly start great. Florida produced it's 13th blocked kick under coach Will Muschamp when Louichez Purifoy broke through and blockedhis first punt that led to Florida's first touchdown.
"As a punter, that's your job to flip the field when you can," O'Donnell said. "Unfortunately we had some events in the game that didn't go our way. I tip our hats to the Florida Gators. They did a good job rushing the punt."
Saturday's first quarter was one to remember for quarterback Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes, who put up 14 quick points on a seven-yard TD pass to Herb Waters and then a 52-yard scoring pass to Phillip Dorsett.
But the final three quarters were a nightmare.
UM only produced four first downs and 69 yards on 35 plays after exploding out of the gate with 143 yards over the first 15 minutes. Duke Johnson ran for 39 yards in the first quarter, but only 20 more over his final 15 attempts. Morris finished 12 of 25 passing for 162 yards and an interception after going 8-of-11 for 101 yards to open the game.
UM's 212 total yards of offense were the fewest since a 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech in 2009.
"They have a great defense, one of the best defenses we’re going to play all year, one of the best defenses in the country," said Johnson, who was babying his left foot after the game. "They just came out and did their job and did it better than I expected."
Said Morris: "They made a lot of great adjustments. They knew when we were going to run and throw it. that was the best defensive line I ever went against, but we did what we needed to do to win the game."
MOVING UP THE POLLS
The Hurricanes, who broke into the polls earlier this week for the first time under coach Al Golden at No. 24 in the ESPN Coaches' poll, should find themselves moving up when the new polls are released Sunday.
Morris, who said Tuesday he could give "two you know whats" about where Miami was ranked, kept the same mindset after Saturday's win.
"It really doesn’t matter to me or this team," Morris said. "Whoever is in front of us we’re going to look at as a threat and we’ve got to do our best to win that game, no matter what we’re ranked no matter; if we’re not ranked. Our biggest focus is to continue on and moving forward."
> Safety A.J. Highsmith had the tackle on Florida's failed two-point conversion attempt and the recovery on the Gators' failed onside kick attempt late in the game.
> Senior Seantrel Henderson made his first start of the season at right tackle. Junior Jonathan Feliciano, who started at right tackle in the open, slid to left guard. The rest of Miami's starters remained the same.
> Safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who had an interception in the first half, was helped off the field with 5:29 to play in the third quarter. Trainers were looking at his left leg.
> Linebacker Thurston Armbrister left the game with a left ankle injury early in the fourth quarter.
I shot this video in the tunnel. Listen to them sing: "It's Great to be a Miami Hurricane!"