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Canes Mettle and Culture Will be Tested Against North Carolina



credit: College Football Report

In a game that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most stunning losses in Miami Hurricanes football history, the Canes fell to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with a final score of 23-20 this past Saturday night. While the Canes had seemingly survived a frustrating error filled game, it was a controversial decision by Miami’s head coach, Mario Cristobal, that ultimately turned the tide in favor of Georgia Tech.

The pivotal moment of the game occurred with less than two minutes remaining when Miami had the opportunity to seal the victory. Inexplicably, Coach Cristobal chose not to instruct his team to kneel and run out the clock, a decision that left fans and pundits scratching their heads. Instead, they ran a play that led to a fumble, or so it was ruled by the referees.

The subsequent call from the officials was nothing short of egregious. Instant replay clearly showed that Don Chaney Jr. was down before the ball was stripped. However, the referees ruled it a fumble, robbing the Hurricanes of a crucial first down that would have sealed their long-elusive victory against Georgia Tech.

For the Miami Hurricanes, it was a heartbreaking déjà vu moment reminiscent of a similar call Mario made in Oregon in 2018 that led to a loss against Stanford. The question on everyone’s mind was whether this was a Dawson call or if Cristobal was responsible. When pressed about the decision on the Joe Roe Show the morning after the game, Coach Cristobal stated, “Like everything we have a process, and we got the first down, and after that, there’s no way to rationalize it. Should have taken a knee.” Nevertheless, he refused to point fingers at anyone, even himself.

But accountability is a crucial aspect of building a strong team culture, and many believe that Coach Cristobal should take responsibility for the game-changing decision. Owning up to mistakes is essential in fostering a culture of growth and improvement. Cristobal understands this and finally on Monday’s presser, the head man took full responsibility for the blunder. “I take full ownership in not taking a knee” Cristobal stated. He went on to expand that he has had conversations with players including Chaney, letting them know that this game was on him and not on them. This is the type of transparent leadership that is needed from the Head Coach, authentic, consistent responsible messaging applying his own standard to himself.

Amidst the controversy surrounding Cristobal’s blunder, it’s essential not to overlook the performance of quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who had been a Heisman candidate for four weeks leading up to the game. Against Georgia Tech, TVD appeared lost and struggled with basic defensive formations like Cover 2 and Cover 4. His decision-making left much to be desired, as he repeatedly tried to force passes to Xavier Restrepo or his first read.

However, amidst the struggles, Tyler Van Dyke showed flashes of brilliance. His 60-yard pass to Colbie Young, leading to a Parrish touchdown, demonstrated his ability to battle adversity and put the team in a position to win. In the end, it was the players who fought hard and gave their all, while the coaching staff’s questionable decisions loomed large.

Despite the devastating loss, Miami still boasts a 4-1 record and control over their destiny in the ACC. The team possesses the best offensive line in the conference and talented players at wide receiver and running back positions, including Don Chaney Jr. The upcoming game against #12 UNC on the road will serve as a litmus test for Miami’s newfound culture under Cristobal.

After spending two years building his team, Cristobal now faces a significant challenge in rallying his players after a historic error. Will the team crumble in the face of adversity, or will they use it as motivation to come back stronger? Will TVD show commitment to studying film with his wide receivers and offensive coordinator and rallying his team to be laser focused on North Carolina? Miami must block out the external noise and assert their dominance on the field, proving that they are the more aggressive, physical, and balanced team.

It’s worth noting that Miami is not alone in facing unexpected challenges this season. Other powerhouse teams like Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and UNC have also struggled in games they were expected to win easily. The true test of Miami’s culture change is not in losing games like the one against Georgia Tech but in how they respond and recover as a united team.

For Mario Cristobal, Saturday’s game against UNC will be the most important of his coaching career. It will either validate everything he has preached about culture and accountability or highlight the fragility of the team. Let’s hope that Miami can take a step forward and move on from what will be remembered as the worst coaching decision in the history of the Miami Hurricanes.

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