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Let your guard down & enjoy the ride, Miami

Posted Nov 19, 2008

Sitting at 2-3 in early October, the Miami Hurricanes faced a fork in the road. Could this young team turn their season around, or was a repeat of last year in store - wheels falling off and another collapse in the making? Five wins later, not only are the Canes proving last year was a fluke - this squad is two wins from an ACC title game. Time for the fans to get on board and enjoy this ride.

The apologist in me wants to excuse Miami should they lose at Georgia Tech this Thursday.

Five straight is a hefty feat. Especially for such a freshman-heavy bunch. Should they stumble down the stretch, it'd almost be forgivable. This crew has proven they're not last year's squad. No one folded up the tent at 2-3. This is a team on a mission.

Low-scoring defensive battles. Grinding games out. Wearing down the opposition. Randy Shannon said he'd rid Miami of a loser's mentality that set in last year. Bring in kids from winning programs, accustomed to being the best and ready to get busy fixing a program.

It's working.

Miami is two games away from an ACC Championship berth and three away for their first BCS game in half a decade. Didn't seem possible five games into the season, but five later, the Canes control their fate for the first time in a long time.

Logic will mess with your head, telling you that young teams on five-game win streaks stumble somewhere, somehow. At some point they have to play down to their age. Don't they?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Georgia Tech is beatable and Miami has the motivation. Three straight losses and a crop of freshman who've made it their goal to get a senior class to their first BCS game. Those same seniors are winless against this week's opponent and this is their final shot at redemption.

Yet another milestone opportunity for a young team that keeps defying the odds.

Logic. It's the best way to look at the situation. But being objective isn't always the most fun. With a proven team, you 'expect' wins. BCS games are almost a gimmie. Recruiting isn't the hard sell it can be with a losing record.

A few down seasons took away my ability to cover this team with the occasional orange and green shades. I could throw more at the wall half a decade ago and it'd stick. Miami was a perennial top-five team. BCS games were commonplace. Losses were rare and unexpected. As a fan you could puff that chest out and the question wasn't "if" the Canes would win - it was by how much.

The landscape changed and fans had to face some harsh realities about the state of the U. Some kept their heads in the sand, riding a mindset that simply strapping on that helmet and employing some 'swagger' (in recent years, false bravado) would ensure victories.

Compare and contrast this year and last. 5-7 was rock bottom. Some called for it then, while others called for a worse season this year and predicted a certain head coach getting run out of town after year two.

Hardly the case.

Shannon finally has Miami right where he wants it. The players believe and the team is building on that momentum. A season has been saved and the best could best is yet to come. Whether that starts with a BCS game this year or the stage set to make a run in '09, remains to be seen.

The one many thought was the wrong guy at the right time, Shannon is proving he should've been a no-brainer hire for Miami. Played and coached under Jimmy Johnson. Spent time on Butch Davis' staff. Ran the defensive side of the ball during this decade's dominant run.

Randy knows Miami - the school and the city. He played as a Cane and was exactly the type of kid this program thrived on. Who better to send out in the recruiting trenches, looking for 'it's factor local kids with that built-in swagger. It's not an accident when a Sean Spence, Marcus Forston or Travis Benjamin just look like the 'fit' the Miami mold. Shannon is following the blueprint. It's a proven formula.

The young talent came to play. Besides proving their tomorrow's stars today, they've changed the culture and have rubbed off on upperclassmen in need of a gut check. Sam Shields, Glenn Cook and Anthony Reddick all look reborn, after looking replaceable earlier this season.

Reggie Youngblood gave up the chance at a mid-season medical redshirt to play out his senior year because he believes his younger teammates will send this senior class off with that BCS berth.

These Canes are rising and if they believe, so can the fans. Tap into your emotions and enjoy what this team is doing. This isn't the same Miami squad you saw back in September. Freshman are playing like veterans and seniors are playing like there's no tomorrow. We finally have reason to start buying into the hype.

One game away from exacting some revenge. Two games away from Tampa. Three games away from the Orange Bowl - which prove rather fitting a year after the Canes missed the postseason and lost their home with the same name as this year's potential BCS destination.

Let loose. Enjoy this ride. Save your criticism for when it's necessary. Don't waste your time nitpicking what could've, should've and would've been done. Live in the moment. The Canes are riding high and a BCS game is a distinct possibility for the first time in a long time.

Right now it's pointless to focus on anything other than that.


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