Miami Hurricanes

Miami twice: Canes can’t let one loss become two

October 8, 2016: Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15)  in action during the first half in a game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida State Seminoles at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL    (Photo by JCS/Icon Sportswire)
Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire

We’ve seen it happen so many times before: A team with high expectations drops a heartbreaker in a game it could have and probably should have won. One loss turns into two losses as the team doesn’t fully recover mentally from the disappointment. It ends up doubling down on its misery by dropping the next game.

That’s exactly the situation the Miami Hurricanes want to avoid. After rising to a rank of No. 10, an undefeated Canes team lost a football game in one of the most heartbreaking ways possible. A blocked extra-point kick in the waning moments of the fourth quarter left Miami one point short of a possible overtime period. The U was denied its chance to preserve an undefeated season.

The denouement of this game — strictly in terms of the flow of play — was devastating. How much more agonizing it was that the Canes’ 20-19 loss came at the hands of their most heated and hated rival, the Florida State Seminoles. That’s what makes this a critical time for the Canes.

“Emotionally, it’s tough, but we just have to keep going and just let this become added motivation for us going forward,” said Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya in the postgame press conference. “It’s only one loss in the ACC. It’s more fuel to the fire.”

Kaaya threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns, including what appeared to be the game-tying score with 1:38 left in the game, but we all know what happened on the PAT attempt.

“It was a tough one,” Kaaya said. “It’s heartbreaking when that happens. You think you’re going to overtime and then that happens. I don’t know. It’s a heartbreaker but we just have to keep going.”

In his first season as the head coach at his alma mater, Mark Richt has made Miami a program that expects to beat inferior teams. The Canes did so four times this season, leading up to the FSU showdown.

On Saturday in a key home game with defending ACC Coastal Division champion North Carolina, we’ll see what kind of mental makeup Richt has instilled in this team.

“The Coastal is wide open right now,” Kaaya said.

“I think just about everyone has a loss. We just have to keep going, keep fighting and plan on winning it. That’s what I plan on doing. I know that’s what the rest of the team plans on doing. We can’t let this loss define us.”

Kaaya has the right attitude. He’ll need the rest of the team to follow suit if the Canes are able to move forward, as he said, and achieve their goals. It’s still in front of this team to do what none before them have been able to: win an outright Coastal Division title and play in the ACC Championship Game.

It’s happened many times before: Miami throws its best punch at Florida State, leads late, but loses late on a Seminole comeback. These gut-punch losses have detracted from Miami’s confidence and concentration in past Octobers. If some senior citizens die of a broken heart after a spouse or other loved one dies, many Miami seasons have died of a broken heart because the team wasn’t able to sufficiently recover from a wrenching loss to FSU.

Surprising Virginia Tech (2-0) and Virginia (1-0) are still Coastal Division teams without a conference loss. Duke already has two league setbacks and Georgia Tech has three. Saturday’s game with North Carolina is huge and will tell us much more about the progress of the team and the program.

The goal of snapping the losing streak to Florida State will have to wait another year, but winning the Coastal is still entirely attainable in 2016.

The goal sits in front of the Miami Hurricanes. Like Lot’s wife in the Bible, this team can’t look back. There’s still so much to look forward to, so much to achieve in a season which can still become very special.

It’s up to every Miami player to reshape reality… and not let one blocked PAT ruin an entire season.

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