After Miami held Georgia Tech’s option offense to 211 total yards and only 134 yards rushing in a dominating 24-7 win on Saturday, Coach Al Golden said thought his players were beginning to understand the process behind a winning culture.
He also emphasized, “We can’t be up one game and down the next. We have to be able to sustain momentum and execute from game to game. We must be consistent.”
In Thursday night’s 28-21 loss to Virginia, the Hurricanes were nowhere near as consistent as they were in winning two straight games showing that they haven’t mastered the process or culture that Golden spoke about.
“Clearly, we had some penalties [five for 51 yards] that were absurd,” Golden said. “We can’t have the penalties and mental breakdowns that we did. We also had a field goal blocked. We weren’t sharp, and we didn’t execute as well as need to. That starts with me.”
The defense allowed 470 yards total offense to Virginia and 207 yards rushing. It gave up 7 of 16 third and fourth down conversions, and there is no telling how many tackles were missed.
For the fifth time, the Hurricanes allowed over 400 total yards to an opponent, and for the third time, previously to Maryland and Virginia Tech, they lost. In their fourth loss, 28-24 to Kansas State, they gave up 398 yards.
“It was difficult,” Golden said, “but we knew that it was going to be a challenge going from an option defense in a short week. We didn’t get the
players to execute the way that we needed for them to execute. We weren’t sharp on defense, period.”
Linebacker Sean Spence, who was outstanding against Georgia Tech, wasn’t sure what went wrong, but the Cavaliers were able to consistently make yards on the perimeter ofMiami’s defense.
“I thought we were on a roll,” Spence said. “I thought that we were going to string some wins together. They were able to run the ball, and they hit a couple of big passes that decided the game. It hurts.”
Miami hasn’t had a three-game winning streak since 2009 and has lost three of the last five to Virginia. The loss was also the Hurricanes’ first in 17 home games on ESPN’s Thursday Night Football. They are 15-3 overall.
While the defense couldn’t stop the Cavaliers, the offense, for most of the game, wasn’t much more efficient.
The Hurricanes finished with 432 total yards, but they gained 150 of those yards in the fourth quarter. They reached Virginia’s 16 with 2:10 left but couldn’t convert a fourth and 2 as Mike James was stopped.
They regained possession with 25 seconds left and reached Virginia’s 32. Backup quarterback Stephen Morris, who replaced starter Jacory Harris two plays earlier, then threw to Eduardo Clements who was stopped at the 9 by linebacker Steve Greer.
The Hurricanes, who had 85 yards on the ground, were held under 100 yards for the second time in three games. Lamar Miller had 70 yards, the third game in a row that he hasn’t gained 100 yards. Miami converted only 4 of 12 third and fourth down plays.
“We didn’t convert well,” Golden said. “We were in too many third and longs because of penalties and lack of execution on first down. We were better on fourth down [2 of 4] than third down [2 of 9]. We were also just 2 of 4 in the red zone.
“If teams are going to take away the run, then we have to make X number of explosive plays in the passing game, and we have started to do that. We just aren’t running the ball as effectively as we need to. We aren’t staying on track with our first and second down efficiency.”
Wide receiver Tommy Streeter saved Miami on offense as he caught seven passes for 176 yards with touchdowns of 3 and 51 yards.
Harris, who suffered an undisclosed arm injury but said he was fine, finished with 311 yards passing on 21 of 30 with three touchdowns.
After beating Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes were 4-3 with a chance to go somewhere. It was essential that beat Virginia and Duke before going to Florida State. Now, the rest of the season doesn’t look as bright.
The loss to Virginiawas a blown opportunity, and no one knows it better than Harris.
“It is very disappointing,” Harris said. “I’m tired of doing this. I’m tired of always having to come back. We put ourselves in bad situations. We have to come out and do better.”
Harris was asked about no three-winning game streak since 2009.
“I really have no answer,” he said.
As for the remainder the season, he knows what needs to happen.
“We have to win out,” he said. “We can’t let anybody stop us again. We can’t go on these quick two-game streaks and then lose a game. We have just got to be consistent. We have find out momentum and keep it.”
Unless the Hurricanes adjust better to the process and culture that Golden is trying instill in his team, being a consistent winner isn’t likely to happen soon.