ATLANTA — The season could not have started much worse for Miami.
Now it’s up to Manny Diaz to convince his team to take any positives it can from a 44-13 beatdown at the hands of No. 1 Alabama (and there were not many), move on and get ready for the rest of the schedule, one in which the Hurricanes play 11 teams that are more on their talent level. Make that 10, plus Central Connecticut State.
Because it will do no good for the Hurricanes to dwell on the fact that they still are not ready for Big Boy football.
The final score of Saturday’s game does not do justice to the disparity in talent, coaching, support staff, bands and anything else when comparing these two programs. Miami trailed by 27 points midway through the second quarter and had yet to cross midfield.
To recap the first half:
Alabama: TD, FG, TD, FG, TD, punt.
Miami: Punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt, FG.
“They’re disappointed,” Diaz said about his players. “They came here to compete.”
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With freshmen quarterback Bryce Young in the game, Alabama wound up scoring on all but two of its drives and had as many three-and-outs as Miami has ACC championships.
Alabama has another great quarterback
Young threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 27 of 38 passes. One of those scoring drives covered 99 yards in three plays, ending with a 94-yard touchdown pass. Just to make sure that was not humiliating enough, Miami’s Jahfari Harvey was called for roughing the passer.
That sequence came after Miami was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
“That was a hammer blow that got us off our rocker a little bit,” Diaz said.
Somewhere Blake Baker is smiling. Baker is the man Diaz demoted to name himself defensive coordinator. Baker since joined LSU’s staff.
The only bright spot for No. 16 Miami was D’Eriq King, the valiant sixth-year quarterback, who never had to be carted off the field. He did limp off in the second quarter and went straight to the sideline medical tent. That was after one of the four sacks the Hurricanes’ overwhelmed offensive line allowed.
Not much good can be taken from this loss other than the $5 million check for the privilege of being blown out by the preeminent program in the country.
The Hurricanes really were not competitive (Diaz disagrees), just like the last two times they faced a No. 1 team. Both were against Clemson and Miami was outscored 80-20.
Miami even was embarrassed by a premature unveiling of the Turnover Chain. The Hurricanes thought they had recovered a fumble in the second quarter, the chain came out and the Canes were celebrating, despite trailing, 27-0, when replay showed the Tide actually retained possession.
Not so fast. Television cameras caught UM sideline personnel retrieving the chain and stuffing it back into the box.
Diaz was sure his team had learned a lesson from last year’s 42-17 thrashing at Clemson, another misleading result. He was wrong.
Diaz is spewing the typical coach-speak message about how the Canes didn’t quit. How they played hard in the second half. How there will be plenty to take away from being crushed.
And maybe he has to, considering, as he said, “college football is famous for overreactions after Week 1 … this team’s story is not close to being written yet.”
Diaz added: “There’ll be some things under the rubble of this loss that will be bright spots.”
Hurricane fans have seen this story before
But aren’t Miami fans getting tired of that storyline?
Diaz is doing a good job in getting the culture and mindset of this program on track. But in Year 3, it’s time to start upgrading that talent so Miami does not look like the JV playing the varsity when it faces a No. 1 team.
As for King, he was returning eight months to the day of his surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee. All reports from the Hurricanes are King is completely healed. And he was not wearing a brace.
But late in the second quarter Alabama stud pass rusher Christopher Allen blew by tackle DJ Scaife and turned King into a pinball, hitting from one side, which pushed into another Alabama defender on the other. That sack resulted in King’s fumble.
“I didn’t see him,” King said about Allen. Something his line could say, too.
“I don’t know what happened on the protection. I kind of got twisted up a little bit and fell in an awkward way.”
King limped off the field and into the tent to get his knee re-taped. He was out in less time than a typical Alabama scoring drive and back to leading the offense on the next series. And there he remained until the fourth quarter when he mercifully was pulled with about five minutes to play.
Diaz said they wanted to get King one more good series “to put on tape.”
Like most everything else on the day, that didn’t work.
King’s final play of the game was throwing into triple coverage for his second interception and third turnover of the game. He was 23 of 30 for 179 yards and a touchdown.
And if he was looking for any help against what will be one of the best defenses – if not the best – in the country … the Hurricanes averaged a whopping 2.8 yards per run.
A microcosm of how the entire day went.