Miami focused on improvement after stellar season opener

BY foxsports • September 4, 2016

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- The numbers sound superb. Miami gave up a mere 22 yards rushing in its opening game of the season, scored 10 touchdowns, set a school record with 42 points in a quarter, picked off two passes, blocked a punt and allowed only three points.

So how should they react when watching the film?

"Horrified," Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.

He was serious. Even with many things going right, Miami still has plenty of work to do.

What Miami dealt with after beating Florida A&M 70-3 likely wasn't any different than what Ohio State, Louisville, Michigan and Oklahoma State faced after they won openers by an average score of 68-9. Great-looking Week 1 scoreboards aren't a cause for massive celebration, and not even the third-largest margin of victory in program history could dupe the Hurricanes into believing otherwise.

"I think most of our guys, the more mature guys anyway, understand when they make a mistake," Miami coach Mark Richt said Sunday, a day after his debut coaching his alma mater. "They know we can get better."

There was much to like. Miami had three running backs all eclipse 100 yards, Brad Kaaya passed for four touchdowns while barely breaking a sweat, the team's 13 pass completions went to nine receivers, nine players scored touchdowns and 29 Hurricanes found their way onto the defensive stat sheet.

And a return to the AP Top 25 -- the next poll comes out Tuesday -- seems quite possible.

Only eight current Miami players have appeared in a game for a ranked Hurricanes team. Kaaya isn't one of them; he was a high school senior when Miami was last part of the Top 25.

"If they rank us outside the Top 25, if they rank us top 25, 24, it doesn't matter," Kaaya said. "I think we've got guys who are still hungry and are still going to keep going. This is a good win, a good team win, Coach Richt's first win, but in the grand scheme of things we have a lot bigger fish to fry. You guys all know that. We've got to win the big games, to be honest."

To get there, there's still work to be done.

Hence, the origin of Diaz's "horrified" prediction.

He said the second quarter had some plays Miami shouldn't be proud of, things like focus being lost and tackling starting to slip a bit. But he was also quick to point out that problems on film can be good things -- since they promote more learning.

"There's going to be a lot of things that we don't like," Diaz said. "But now you finally have something to fix. You can tell them every day in practice -- they're like `I hear you coach, I hear you' -- and then they see it in a game and they're like `Oh, yeah, we left that guy wide open.' You make game corrections. Good football teams usually make a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2."

The way to do that, he said, is to not overreact to how good a 70-3 win looks on paper.

"It's imperative that we come back with a mentality that we have got to improve off this performance next week," Diaz said.

And if any further reminders are needed, their next opponent -- Florida Atlantic, which visits this Saturday -- gave Miami quite a few problems in the first half of their meeting on the Owls' home field a year ago.

"Just because the first game ended up with that score, that can't help you relax," Miami receiver Braxton Berrios said. "That should feed you. That should really drive you a little bit more. That's what we can do."