Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Randy Shannon has UM playing with renewed potential


November 10, 2008

I don't quite get what Randy Shannon is doing with quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, but it's working.

Don't quite know what to make of Miami's four-game winning streak, but it sure beats the dismal four-game losing streak that ended last season.

"You can look at this football team and see where we're going," Shannon said after the Hurricanes' most recent success, a wild 24-17 overtime comeback at Virginia.

He's got a point there, which is more than Miami had in its last game with Virginia. That was a 48-0 loss to the Cavaliers in the Hurricanes' Orange Bowl farewell, one year ago this week.

The picture is so much better now, with Miami 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. With a win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium, the remade Hurricanes could even stay on track for a potential shot at their first ACC championship.

Not quite as satisfying as a national title? Get over it.

Shannon finally has, or at least he's temporarily tabled the topic for public discussion.

Before Miami staggered to a 5-7 record in his rookie season as a head coach, Shannon stood before a group of boosters and said what he thought they wanted to hear - "This is going to be a great year where all we're thinking about are championships. Not ACC championships, the national championship."

Hey, so he got caught up in the moment.

What's happening now with the Hurricanes is real, at least, and with strong hints of unreal possibilities, even in the setbacks.

Take September's 26-3 loss at The Swamp. Miami held Florida to 89 yards rushing that night. Nobody else has kept the Gators below 100. Nobody but Miami has made the Gators punt seven times in a game, either.

That 41-39 shootout loss with Florida State said a lot, too, about Miami's ability to turn it on in the second half, rather than folding up psychologically in the manner of 2007. UM trailed 24-3 at halftime but had the Seminoles scrambling for an onside kick at the end.

The North Carolina loss at Dolphin Stadium was just the opposite, with Miami blowing a 24-14 fourth-quarter lead, but even then the Hurricanes came within a deflected interception in the end zone of scoring a comeback victory of their own.

Marve's pass went off the hands of Kayne Farquharson as time expired, turning what would have been the winning touchdown into a game-ending North Carolina interception.

That tip-drill play is all that stands in the way of Miami leading the ACC's Coastal Division. As it is, the situation is messy and headed toward some kind of tiebreaker. North Carolina beat Miami. Virginia Tech beat North Carolina. And all three teams have two conference losses.

"The recruits interested in Miami see no matter what happens that if you do your job, compete and prepare the right way, coaches will give you an opportunity to be successful," Shannon said. "You look at this football team, you'll see those types of guys all around."

Guys like Harris, who threw a tying touchdown pass in the final minute at Virginia and the winning pass in overtime. Like Travis Benjamin, who had 274 all-purpose yards against FSU. Like Aldarius Johnson and Sean Spence and Laron Byrd.

True freshmen all, and true freshmen have had a hand in 21 of Miami's 32 touchdowns this season.

Shannon's right. You can see where the Hurricanes are going these days, regardless of what happens Thursday night.

They're coming back,
slower than anybody connected to the program likes but far surer than it seemed a year ago.

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