The Almost Comeback

Here I was getting ready to write a comeback story piece. One of those good ol’ “clutching victory from the jaws of defeat” stories that we all love so much. I promise, I had all intentions of writing an article about a second half of redemption, watching our new QB1 TVD grow up before our very eyes, and overcoming adversity. Then he had to go and bleep that all up. Thanks a lot Manny! I take no joy in writing negative articles about my alma mater. I bleed orange and green. I love my school about as much as one can love a group of inanimate buildings that house so many of my nostalgic memories and formative experiences. I am desperate to write about a team from my school with all-time great talent making another run to a national championship. Unfortunately, that is not the case at the University of Miami currently and even worse, it hasn’t been the case for almost two decades now. The prospects of us ever returning to that form seem lower than ever at the moment. Thursday night was a great opportunity to win a thrilling game in dramatic fashion but apparently; tragically, Manny Diaz had other plans.

I foolishly let myself begin to believe that the win was inevitably imminent. Our defense got the big stop we needed and our offense was easily driving down the field with a mix of runs and passes that Virginia seemed too exhausted to resist. Chunk play after chunk play ensued until the Hurricanes were in the scoring zone with two minutes to go. Miami converted 3rd and longs with well executed pass plays and 3rd and manageable with power run plays. All for significant gains. Virginia’s defense was on life support. Most of the Cavaliers didn’t have a pulse and the ones who did were getting escorted off the field with cramps due to the ruthless unforgiving nature of the heat and humidity in Hard Rock stadium. It was only a matter of time before we punched it in.

Matt Barrie, the ESPN commentator, was already monologuing about Miami’s amazing come from behind win to save the season. Joe Zagaki was on the radio calling a game that his vocal intonations led you to believe he was smiling ear to ear in his commentator booth sponsored by “El Palacio De Los Jugos” and “Williamson Cadillac of Miami.” Then inexplicably, Manny Diaz decided to pump the brakes on the drive and put his career in the hands (or rather the foot) of a true freshman college kicker. He bled the clock and bet it all on a kick that had 50/50 odds at best. Borregales has great potential but he already missed a 27 yard chip shot earlier in the season during the Michigan State game and that kick didn’t have the immense pressure that a game winner at the buzzer has. We all knew that he was going to miss it. We could feel it in our bones. When Manny decided to not go for the decisive win and score the touchdown, one couldn’t help but feel that uneasy feeling in the pits of our collective stomachs that this would not end well. With the loudest thud that I have ever heard from a missed kick that hit the goal post, all of our hopes and dreams along with any goodwill that Manny Diaz had left as the head football coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes, came crashing down with the crescendo of a climactic scene in a Greek tragedy supported by a Philharmonic orchestra that specialized in playing tunes to ease you into a state of depression. Gasps and funeral music is all that could be heard in that stadium as the band played the teams off the field. I thought I would be writing a story about how the UVA Cavaliers capitulated like the French in World War II as the German army circumvented their lines and the Maginot line by trekking through the “impassable” Ardennes forest.

However, it turns out the better comparison or analogy was that the Cavaliers were actually the British Expeditionary Force trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. We had them encircled with no path to retreat into the waters. They were burnt toast, then suddenly just like the German army- the Hurricanes decided to halt their advance and let Virginia off the hook. The Cavaliers miraculously escaped after a horrifying retreat and just like the British in 1945, the Cavaliers ultimately got the win and the last laugh.

This one hurt my soul. I know that had to hurt Manny’s soul to the core as well. He looked so weak and feeble as Coach Mendenhall clutched him at the 50 yard line whispering sweet inspirations in his ear after he had just ripped the heart out of Manny’s chest and stepped on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mendenhall dusts of his résumé and applies for the position himself when Manny is inevitably relieved of his duties. That would be an awkward conversation: “Hey Manny. It’s Bronco. Sorry I had to do it to you that other night man…..good game though….quick question for you: how big is your office bro? I hear it’s warm down there in the winter.” It’s time to end this experiment that is Manny Diaz’s coaching stint at Miami. It clearly is not working. Manny had me sold early on. I was very excited when he returned from his brief stint at Temple with “New Miami” catch phrases, TNM hashtags, pulling up to the Wharf on yachts, and crashing FSU’s coaching convention in Orlando with booze and bravado. I ate it all up and desperately wanted Coach Diaz to succeed. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. He is clearly not ready for the position and Thursday night’s game was a clear evidentiary exhibit to seal his conviction.

I would be remiss if I did not give a special shout out to the players who played their hearts out and made big game changing plays in that game that should have been a win: Cam Harris, Tyler Van Dyke, Charleston Rambo, Mike Harley Jr, Corey Flagg (had a rough game but came up with a big interception), Leonard Taylor (young man is a lightweight terror), James Williams, Te’Cory Couch, Deandre Johnson, and Xavier Restrepo. This team has great young talent, but they need better coaching that will develop them properly and allow them to achieve their full potential.

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