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Miami Hurricanes

Stunning loss to FIU shows Miami still isn’t back

Matt Zemek

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On a recent Florida Football Insiders podcast, after Miami beat Louisville 52-27, I asked FFI columnist Jamil King if the Hurricanes had clearly turned the corner. It was not only easy, but logical, to be optimistic.

After all, Miami had truly cleaned up its act since the late-game escape in Pittsburgh The Canes then crushed Florida State on the road in the kind of physical, focused performance a good team delivers against a rival. Miami then scored over “half a hundred” against a Louisville team, which had defeated Wake Forest and Virginia this year.

Miami offered three straight convincing performances – somewhat shaky against Pitt, but good enough to win on the road against a decent opponent. Then, Miami maxed out on defense against Florida State and maxed out on offense against Louisville.

The Georgia Tech loss was a distant memory. The pronounced struggles of the offense in the first half of the season felt very remote. This was a different Miami team over the past three weeks.

Just to be sure, the Canes had a week off to rest, refocus, and recharge for the final two games of the season, one against Duke and one this weekend against Florida International.

Yes, Florida International viewed this game as its “Super Bowl” and was always going to be jacked up for a date with Miami. Former UM head coach Butch Davis, who led Miami to a No. 2 national ranking in the 2000 college football season before moving to the pros with the Cleveland Browns, badly wanted this win.

Okay. Sure. Fine.

Butch Davis really wanted this game. I wanted a million dollars and my own national TV show. You probably wanted five million dollars and an oceanfront condo.

Badly wanting something doesn’t mean you’ll get it. In no reasonable universe should Florida International beat Miami. Come close, MAYBE, but certainly not beat the Canes.

GULP!

FIU didn’t merely beat Miami 30-24. FIU beat UP the Canes.

The Panthers were clearly better, clearly faster, clearly stronger, clearly better-coached.

Miami committed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play.

Miami burned all its timeouts with 4:51 left in the game. The Canes threw a bunch of passes short of the sticks and in bounds on their last drives.

Miami couldn’t stop FIU when the Panthers recovered a late onside kick with just over three minutes left, and needed one first down to seal the win.

Miami’s offensive line couldn’t protect Jarren Williams.

As for Williams, he couldn’t protect the ball. Forget about making great plays; Williams couldn’t at least avoid huge mistakes. He had only thrown three interceptions all season coming into Saturday night. At the Miami Marlins baseball park Saturday night, he threw three of them, including two in the second half to dig the hole, further.

Miami wasn’t prepared at the start of the game. And, Manny Diaz’s staff didn’t make halftime adjustments. Miami kicked a field goal on fourth and two from the FIU 6 late in the third quarter, when trailing by 16 points.

What a disaster.

We at least have clarity on the question, “Has Miami turned the corner?” Nope. Not at all. No way.

At least this makes everyone sure of where the program stands entering next season. That, at least, is helpful, even if nothing about this game helped the Hurricanes.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Miami Hurricanes

Hurricanes bungled bringing Alonzo Highsmith to program

Florida Football Insiders

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Mark Hoffman- USA TODAY Sports

These are definitely trying, and in some cases, embarrassing times for the first season being completed by Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz. And, now comes another indication of dysfunction to the forefront late this week.

This, as former Canes running back great Alonzo Highsmith was apparently all set to join Diaz and the football program in some type of administrative / “Chief of Staff” type-role.

However, Highsmith, AD Blake James and Diaz apparently could not come to an agreement on his role,  responsibilities and probably biggest of all, compensation for it. So, the latest on Thursday is the reunion will not be happening:

Hiring Highsmith to help in such a role is something that is now common over the last few years of college football, to especially relieve some of the day-to-day administrative duties of the head coach and allow him to do more, you know, actual coaching in his program.

Nick Saban has this at Alabama. So, too does Dabo Swinney at Clemson.

And even new USF coach and former Clemson co-offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott will be utilizing his father, Brad (a former FSU offensive coordinator himself) in the same role with the Bulls.

As for Highsmith, he is certainly qualified after having played on Howard Schellenberger’s 1983 title team and then for Jimmy Johnson for two years after. He ran for nearly 2,000 yards and 25 TDS in his career and was put in the Canes Hall of Fame in 1997.

Highsmith played six years in the NFL and after having worked for the Green Bay Packers for almost two decades (above) moving up in their front office, he came to the Cleveland Browns as their Vice President of Football Operations this past year.

However, when Cleveland jettisoned GM John Dorsey earlier this month, that paved the way for Highsmith to potentially come to Miami in a similar role that could help Diaz and the football program try to regain its footing.

Miami ended the regular season horribly, with humiliating losses to FIU and Duke and then, was embarrassingly beaten in a 14 – 0 Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech.

Diaz fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos after just his first season in Coral Gables, and has hired former Auburn and SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to replace him.

So now, the fact that Highsmith, who has lots of experience with running football operations and obviously a love for the school where he helped win a National Championship, is now not coming, is another bad sign for Diaz at least in the short-term.

Then again, Diaz may have someone else in mind for the role and we may see that announcement soon, but we at F.F.I wouldn’t advise that you hold your breath on that one.

Instead, it’s the latest in a series of missteps around Hurricanes football at a program has spiraled downward over the course of the last 10 – 15 years.

This includes Miami having lost 9 of its last 10 bowl games and no longer being relevant on the national stage year-in and year-out.

Highsmith represented a link to Miami’s great past of the 1980s and not being able to work out for him to help has to discourage those who care the most about the Canes trying to get back.

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Miami Hurricanes

Will Canes hiring of veteran OC Lashlee save Manny Diaz?

Matt Zemek

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hanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Diaz did not seem prepared for his first season as a college football head coach at Miami. The Hurricanes were often disorganized, and Diaz’s gameday decisions were often misguided. The Hurricanes lost to FIU, Duke, and Louisiana Tech to close their season. Their offense scored 52 points against Louisville, and did very little else in 2019.

And, obviously, Dan Enos was a bust as offensive coordinator.

Diaz had to make changes to such an unacceptable situation. He has reportedly chosen SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee as his new offensive coordinator.

The move might not work out – no move is guaranteed to bring supreme success; just ask Michigan about Jim Harbaugh or Texas about Tom Herman – but on paper, it looks like a decision which can revitalize Miami’s offense and give the Canes what they have lacked since Ken Dorsey: a reliably dynamic offense.

Yes, recruiting a strong offensive line has to complement what Lashlee brings to the table. Yes, Miami and Diaz have to put together a roster which can carry ideas from the realm of theory into applied practice. A good offensive system doesn’t mean anything unless the players can put it into action. Lashlee’s arrival guarantees nothing. We can all acknowledge that.

However, if one was to look at the offensive coordinator market and identify the various options Manny Diaz was considering, Lashlee is certainly better than most. He spent multiple seasons under Gus Malzahn at Auburn and was by Malzahn’s side when the Tigers reached the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.

The Tigers used RPO (run-pass option) concepts and a diversified running game which attacked defenses with a combination of tempo and varied angles to bedevil SEC defenses. Auburn won that season’s SEC Championship Game over Missouri by scoring 59 points.

That was Lashlee’s best-ever season.

This past year was his second-best season.

Lashlee helped Sonny Dykes guide the SMU Mustangs to a very rare and exhilarating 10-win season, a rapid climb few people in the college football punditocracy anticipated. Lashlee worked beautifully with Texas transfer Shane Buechele to maximize the potential of the SMU offense, which carried the Ponies throughout the season. When SMU lost, it was usually because the defense folded like a house of cards. The SMU offense did very few things wrong in 2019.

This is the man Miami is reported to have named as its next offensive coordinator.

Nothing is guaranteed in life, but if you were to make a quick “good or bad” call on this move, I’d certainly give it a thumbs-up. Only time will tell if Manny Diaz saved his hide and gave Miami a real chance to make a U turn on offense.

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