Posted: 4:12 am Sunday, October 27th, 2013
By Matt Porter
MIAMI GARDENS – For the third week in a row, Miami emerged with a win with a second-half rally. For the second week in a row, the Hurricanes went to the ground in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. At 7-0 and 3-0 in the ACC, they’re one of 10 unbeaten teams left in major college football. This week they’ll visit another: Florida State (7-0, 5-0).
The full breakdown from Sun Life Stadium:
THE BIG STORY: In Miami’s first game after the NCAA clouds cleared, Duke Johnson stepped into the light. The Hurricanes star sophomore tailback, constantly banged up, took over in the fourth quarter with Miami trailing. His two touchdowns capped a 168-yard day on a career-high 30 carries in the seventh-ranked Hurricanes’ 24-21 win.
STAR OF THE SHOW: In Johnson left UM’s last game, two Thursdays ago at North Carolina, he took a knee to the head in the first quarter and didn’t return. He has had at least two in-game concussion tests this year, and has sat out at least a couple plays with injuries in each game. There are questions about his durability, but Johnson showed no ill effects as he carried 20 of his 30 times in the second half, gaining 131 of his 168 yards.
“Dinged up, it comes with the sport,” Johnson said. “I signed up for this. This is something I’ve been doing my whole life. I expect to get hurt. I expect to get hit. But it’s all about how you answer. It’s how you come back in this game. It’s how you help your team win.”
He was ready for that, even after fumbling twice in the Sept. 28 win at USF and once in a 184-yard game against Georgia Tech the next week. He said he asked for the ball in the fourth quarter. With UM down 14-10 to start the final 15 minutes, Johnson carried 14 times for 85 yards on Miami’s final 22 plays.
“It’s a great feeling knowing everybody putting their faith in you,” Johnson said. “Coach didn’t have to give me the ball after my previous fumbles. He didn’t have to. It was a great feeling him trusting me.”
Al Golden said he had no trouble trusting Johnson. He was effusive in his praise:
“Man, oh man. He ran with a purpose and an anger that we haven’t seen from him. His stiff arm was awesome all day. He ran with his pads down, protected the ball. He was clearly on a mission. How about his conditioning? What tremendous conditioning. He gets knocked out of the game last week, and this week he is lowering the pads all day, second and third effort … what can you say about the effort that he gave? Was he at 35 yards or something at the half? It wasn’t much more than that [note: it was 37]. That’s a heck of a second half, and certainly heck of a fourth quarter.”
STANDINGS CHECK: With the win, Miami moved to 7-0 for the first time since 2003, when it went 11-2 and beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes also improved to 3-0 in the ACC, taking the Coastal Division lead with No. 16 Virginia Tech’s upset loss at home to Duke. The Hokies come to town the week after next, Nov. 9.
Miami has won nine straight games dating back to last year, tied (with FSU) for the fifth-longest streak in the nation.
WHAT’S NEXT: A game few Miami players wanted to talk about on Saturday, but we’re free to discuss. It’s the seventh-ranked Hurricanes at the second-ranked Seminoles; on a short list of the best rivalries in sports over the last 30 years, and even better when both teams are undefeated in November, with national championship implications. ESPN’s College GameDay will be there; ABC will broadcast the game in prime time (8 p.m.).
While Miami struggled with Wake Forest, Florida State demolished North Carolina State, going up 35-0 in the first quarter and coasting to a 49-17 win at Doak Campbell Stadium. Jameis Winston was 16-of-26 for 292 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, and left after the first series of the second half. Another explosive performance by the ‘Noles offense, which looks like it could have its way with Miami’s defense after the Hurricanes had trouble with Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest in successive games.
“It’s all a concern,” Golden said. “It’s just one big [concern]. They’re all just one-game weeks. They’re just one-game seasons. Every game is its own chess board, and you have to make adjustments. I thought we made adjustments. … We all know what this week is about coming up. We’ll regroup here tonight, tomorrow get healed up and get ready to go. I don’t think there will be any carry-over.”
If you’re looking to read a Miami player saying something interesting about Florida State, you’ve come to the wrong place. Coached up by Golden, UM players took a one-game-at-a-time approach; they would enjoy this Wake Forest win Saturday night, then start thinking Sunday about the Seminoles. One example:
Reporter: “Stacy, you grew up down here. I grew up down here. We know Miami-Florida State is never ‘just another game.’ How excited is your family about this? They must be talking to you. You must be feeding off some of that energy.”
Stacy Coley: “No ma’am. We just treat it as a game. Nobody’s actually talking about Florida State. Like we say, we just take it as another opportunity, just another game.”
Reporter: “Denzel, you grew up on ‘Canes football. You’re going to FSU. You’re undefeated, they’re undefeated. You’re both in the top 10. Please don’t tell me it’s just another game, ’cause we’re not buying it.”
Denzel Perryman: “It’s why you come to UM. We pretty much have to stay grounded. We’re going to enjoy this win. Monday morning, we’ll compete.”
OTHER STORYLINES: That NCAA thing, obviously. This was the first game in Golden’s tenure at UM he coached without wondering what the future held for his program. (Post subscribers can read columnist Greg Stoda’s take here.)
Tuesday’s decision, which Golden and his players learned about in the morning, made for a joyful celebration. Neither players nor Golden had been permitted to speak to the media from Tuesday until Saturday. They described the scene when they heard the news:
Coley, on the reaction of the older veterans: “They were just happy. Everybody was happy – just happy. It was a happy moment.” What did the moment look like? “It was everything. High-fiving, happy, crying, whatever. Hugs, everything.”
Perryman: “I mean, obviously you know, you’re nervous because you want to know what’s going on. We got good news, so we jumped for joy.”
Anthony Chickillo: “It was awesome. It was a long wait, a long time coming. We were all excited. … It was just something that’s lingered over our program the whole time I’ve been here. It’s gone.”
Perryman: “For us we were pretty happy, but at the same time we still have half the season to continue to play. We got to enjoy it for a little bit, then we went to meetings.”
Coley, on learning the sanctions did not include a bowl ban: “It was a blessing. I knew in my heart we were going to be able to go to a bowl game. I had no doubt in mind the sanctions would not let us lose a bowl game.”
Perryman: “I didn’t know what to think to be honest with you. I was sitting there waiting like everybody else.”
Was it different, playing without the weight of the NCAA investigation on their shoulders?
Shane McDermott: “We pretty much attacked this game like we would any other game. We didn’t feel any freer or anything like that. … We’re just glad it’s over. That’s all I can pretty much tell you.”
Tracy Howard: “We do a great job of blocking things out. It was just like any other game. The emotions were the same. I know it may not seem true to y’all, but we really block things out. We don’t worry about it. Coach Golden and his staff do a great job with that.”
Chickillo: “I wouldn’t say when you come out you’re thinking we’ve got sanctions and stuff coming our way. It’s just when we won that sixth game you’re thinking man, it can happen again. When that finally went away, everyone was excited.”
Miami was informed Monday of the impending decision. Golden said he was supposed to meet find UM Athletic Director Blake James at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, but couldn’t find him. He thought something might have been wrong.
“In my heart, I was going ‘Oh, what does that mean?’” Golden said.
But James, who was meeting with UM President Donna Shalala, found Golden and addressed the team at 9:05. That’s when the whole NCAA mess ended: in a players’ meeting room 9:05 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, with 2 ½ years of frustration released in what players described as a joyful celebration.
“Obviously the kids were thrilled,” Golden said. “That journey ended [sighs] but 10 minutes later you have to go prepare for Wake Forest. You want to talk about an emotional rollercoaster. For all of us, we didn’t talk about it all week. I know they’re excited about it now in there, just thrilled that it’s over. We found a way to scratch and claw and win our seventh [game]. You can’t take any of the previous wins with you to Tallahassee next week. That’s over, we have to get better at the things we’ve got to get better at, and we need some kids to step up.”
In all, it was an emotional week for the Hurricanes.
“Clearly emotional,” Golden said. “I’m not going to lie to you. Just an emotional week. Now we can breathe and move forward. I was more worried than ever this week, just because nobody [outside the program] was really talking about Wake. Everybody was talking about the NCAA and obviously future scheduling. I just tried to keep them going all week. I was hoping we would have enough in the tank, just because of how emotional it was to have that ordeal over. We didn’t really address it, but you guys gave it ample play, and I’m sure they were listening to you guys all week. I’m just glad we had a chance to come out here and find a way to win.”
* This is the third game in a row Miami has won after being 10 or more points down. The 11-point lead Wake Forest held for a large chunk of the second quarter was Miami’s largest deficit of the year.
* How historic would a Wake Forest upset have been? The Deacs’ last — and only — win over a top-10 team was exactly 67 years ago Saturday, when they beat Tennessee on the road. The last time they beat Miami: 1944.
* Coley had two catches for 52 yards, including a juggling 44-yarder (see below), returned two punts for 37 yards, one kick for 14 yards and had a 7-yard carry. Despite playing zero snaps against Florida, the true freshman ranks second on the Hurricanes in receiving yards (278) and all-purpose yards (539).
* Antonio Crawford‘s interception with 30 seconds left, off a tipped pass, sealed the win. It was the only turnover for either team. Crawford’s second career pick (he had one against Savannah State).
* Senior receiver Allen Hurns left the game in the second quarter after landing awkwardly on a tackle attempt. His left side was wrapped with ice on the sideline. WQAM, the Hurricanes’ flagship station, reported Hurns had a hip pointer. Hurns returned later in the quarter. He finished with two catches for 25 yards, but had a third-down catch in traffic for 17 yards on Miami’s first drive of the second half.* Wake Forest came in ranked 102nd in the nation in third-down conversion percentage (33.3). The Deacs converted their first five tries and were 6-of-9 in the first half. Miami allowed 2-of-7 conversions in the second half. Wake was 2-for-2 on fourth down, including a touchdown on fourth-and-1 to go up 14-3 in the second quarter. A few plays before that score, Miami allowed its worst third-down conversion, a 56-yard reception by Wake’s Tyree Harris. Quarterback Tanner Price rolled to his left and looked to be out of options, but he lofted a pass up the sideline. Freshman corner Artie Burns lost Harris in coverage, bringing Wake from third-and-9 on its own 26 to Miami’s 18.
* Sophomore kicker Matt Goudis missed a 40-yard field goal that would have made it 14-13 in the third quarter. He is 6-of-9 in his first season as Miami’s full-time kicker, with misses from 23, 40 and 43 yards. He has hit all 37 extra points.
* True freshman Walter Tucker returned after missing last Thursday’s game at North Carolina with an ankle injury. He played on special teams.
* Tight end Asante Cleveland picked up his first two catches of the season. He finished with 18 yards.
* Linebacker Tyrone Cornelius registered the first sack of his career.
* Defensive end Shayon Green had his third of the season (and of his career), along with five tackles (1 1/2 for loss) and a pass break-up.
* Tough homecoming for Wake safety Ryan Janvion, a Dade Christian alum. He led all tacklers with 14 (12 solo), but committed three second-half penalties: a horse-collar and a facemask, each on Johnson, and pass interference on Coley. They were costly flags, too; the facemask brought UM from the Deacs’ 25 to the 8 before Johnson score to give Miami its first lead of the game at 17-14. The pass interference call brought Miami from the Deacs’ 42 to the 27 before Johnson scored the deciding touchdown.
* Redshirt freshman Jamal Carter committed a pair of special teams penalties.
* Before the game, a plane circled the stadium towing a banner that read: “Thanks Al, Donna & team. #FullSpeedAhead.” The banner was paid for by fan website CanesInsight.com.
* Paid attendance was 66,160, according to UM. At most, it looked like 50,000 fans showed up.
* Wake Forest redshirt freshman linebacker Teddy Matthews, a Royal Palm Beach alum, picked up his first career sack. With Miami double-teaming Wake’s Nikita Whitlock, Matthews raced through on a linebacker blitz and hauled down Stephen Morris for a 9-yard loss on third down. It was just the sixth sack of the year allowed by Miami.
* Catch of the Year candidate I: Keep your eye on the ball (and possess crazy athleticism) and good things happen.
* Catch of the Year candidate II: Like a frog catching a fly with his tongue.
* Wake Forest tailback Dominique Gibson picked one heck of a time to score his first career touchdown. Gibson broke loose for a 44-yard catch-and-run (with help from Cornelius, who whiffed on the tackle) to put the Deacs ahead 21-17 win 4:02 left. Gibson, a redshirt freshman, played with Walford at Glades Central High. “I was,” Walford said when asked if he was happy for Gibson. “Even though I wanted us to come out with the win, I was kind of rooting for him whenever he got the ball. Congrats to him.”
* Perryman describing his thunderous hit on Gibson (see below): “I was pretty much doing my job, getting to the ball. He wanted to go ahead and shoulder me. That’s not happening. I just squat down and loaded up.”