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Miami Still Searching for Breakthrough Win Under Al Golden


Miami took a step back in its quest to finally win the Coastal Division title, losing 28-17 to Georgia Tech on Saturday night. The loss to the Yellow Jackets dropped coach Al Golden’s team to just 1-2 in ACC play and put a serious dent in the Hurricanes’ hopes of playing in Charlotte in early December.

In Miami’s last 27 ACC games, the Hurricanes are a pedestrian 14-13 and only one season since 2010 has resulted in more than seven victories (2013). Golden doesn’t appear to be in any danger of losing his job this year, but it’s fair to wonder just how far Miami has progressed under his watch over the last three years.

The overall inconsistency and defensive struggles are the biggest problem for Golden moving forward. Quarterback Brad Kaaya is promising, and Duke Johnson is still one of the top running backs in the nation. The talent on defense seemed to be better this year, and there was some progress on that side of the ball through the first couple of games.

A win over Duke last Saturday breathed life into Miami’s division hopes and suggested this team addressed some of its defensive woes by limiting the Blue Devils to just 10 points and 3.5 yards per play. Holding Duke to just 3.5 yards per play was the fewest per-play average allowed by Miami since 2011.

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Georgia Tech is not an easy team to prepare for, and new quarterback Justin Thomas has provided a spark for the offense. But Miami’s defense struggled to find answers for the Yellow Jackets, as Thomas guided an offense that never had a drive fewer than eight (until the last two plays – kneel downs). The Yellow Jackets gashed Miami – a team that annually recruits better talent than Georgia Tech – for 4.9 yards per carry and 318 overall yards.

In the last three seasons, the Hurricanes have allowed five games of at least 300 rushing yards. Again, for a team like Miami that recruits as well as it does, those numbers are hard to fathom.

Coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has been feeling the pressure from the fanbase, and the play-calling and overall schemes were a source of criticism on Saturday night.

It’s only Week 6, but there’s a glaring problem for Miami. Take a look at the schedule. Is it going to get any easier? Road trips to Virginia Tech and Virginia aren’t going to be easy, and the Hurricanes still have to play Florida State – arguably the No. 1 team in the nation – in November.

As Golden navigates through his fourth season in Coral Gables, the program is still trying to piece everything together and reclaim a spot among the ACC’s elite. 

The Coastal Division certainly isn’t filled with elite teams, which is why Miami’s inability to breakthrough is puzzling.

With road trips to Virginia Tech, Virginia and a home date against Florida State remaining, the Hurricanes could be looking at a 7-5 final record.

Golden inherited a tough situation and is starting a true freshman quarterback (Kaaya), so some growing pains are expected.

But in a wide-open division, and with the talent on the roster, more should be expected of Miami.

The Hurricanes are 1-2 in league play, and with a likely loss to Florida State ahead, Golden’s team needs to sweep the rest of their ACC games to have a shot at the division title.

It’s not impossible, but it looks unlikely.

And while Golden inherited a tough situation due to a NCAA investigation, Miami is still trying to breakthrough in the Coastal. The next six games are critical for Golden, as he needs to show this program is on the right track, the defense is capable of moving forward, and Kaaya can develop under his coaching staff.