It was their last chance, and they blew it.
It was the final time this season that the Miami Hurricanes were afforded an opportunity to show the nation that they could play with the big boys. It became painfully obvious on Saturday that the Canes are not ready for primetime.
They had the No. 6 Clemson Tigers right where they wanted them. At home in Sun Life Stadium, where the Canes were 3-0 this season, 16-3 over their last 19 home games, in the heat of the South Florida afternoon. Having given Florida State all it wanted just a few weeks prior, Miami was poised to pull the upset; or so it seemed.
But in front of a nationally-televised audience the Canes laid an egg; an egg as rotten as a 15-day-old mango. Clemson congaed its way up and down the field. It was over after a 21-0 first quarter, but the bludgeoning continued unmercifully until the clock read zeros and a 58-0 embarrassment finally came to an end.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was magnificent; tip your hat to that. The sophomore directed the Tigers’ attack in magician-like fashion, distributing the football in the appropriate direction time and time again. Whether he was throwing the pass downfield, flipping the bubble screen in the flat, or taking off himself, Watson displayed a talent level above the others on the playing field.
He accounted for 241 of Clemson’s 567 total yards, throwing for 143 (15-for-19) and rushing for another 98 on eight attempts. And he didn’t even play much of the second half, watching and resting on the sidelines.
The “Fire (head coach) Al Golden” chants started early and the trouncing didn’t end quickly enough for former Hurricanes standouts who took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.
All-American Warren Sapp echoed the sentiments of pretty much everyone who follows the Canes.
Thank U ABC! #FireHim
— Warren Sapp (@WarrenSapp) October 24, 2015
Former offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez simply couldn’t take it any longer.
I'm so embarrassed! @CanesAllAccess I would take his headset at halftime!! Do not wait until end of season, make a statement dammit!!!!!
— Joaquin Gonzalez (@Joaquin_UMOL73) October 24, 2015
Miami missed its defensive leader, senior captain Raphael Kirby. The Canes linebacker was lost for the year to a knee injury in last week’s victory over Virginia Tech. By the second period, they had also lost their quarterback. Sophomore Brad Kaaya was harassed seemingly unimpeded throughout the first quarter and into the second when he was sent to the sidelines with a concussion.
It wouldn’t have made any difference if both had played for 60 minutes on Saturday. Clemson had the better athletes and they were better coached. The differences in the trenches, both offensively and defensively, were painfully obvious. In short, Miami never stood a chance.
The humiliating defeat leaves Miami’s Coastal Division hopes in ashes, it would seem. The Canes are 4-3 overall and 1-2 in ACC play. But games with Pitt, Duke and North Carolina, all above Miami in the standings, still loom large. And if the team could somehow rally from this disaster, although the possibility seems remote, at least a bowl berth is still in the offing.
But with its defensive leader already lost for the season, and the extent of Kaaya’s injury uncertain at the moment, the future appears shaky at best for a coach and a program that was all in this season for its first-ever ACC Championship Game appearance, or bust. The latter appears far more probable at this stage.