CORAL GABLES — For Miami, the numbers are beyond troubling.
Among teams from college football's biggest conferences, none has given up more points or yards than the Hurricanes have in the season's first two games — staggering numbers for a program that long pointed to defense as its foundation.
Miami allowed 84 points and 1,035 yards in the first two weekends, a level of play that has the Hurricanes simply baffled.
“There is no explaining it,” defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo said.
Making matters worse: Starting linebacker Ramon Buchanan will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury that may mean the end of the fifth-year senior's Miami career and starting safety Vaughn Telemaque will miss at least this weekend's game with Bethune-Cookman, also with a knee problem.
So, on Saturday, when Miami takes the field for its home opener, the Hurricanes (1-1) will likely have only two seniors in the starting defensive lineup.
“We're not going to deviate from the plan,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “We have a lot of kids that are trying to do things the right way and we've just got to make sure we settle them down and trust them and just teach them how to go about this and have some poise in those situations and then move forward. We're disappointed but we're not discouraged. We're not going to change the way we do things or how we go about things.”
Kansas State rolled past Miami 52-13 on Saturday, the highest scoring total an opponent put up on the Hurricanes in a span of 167 games going to 1998. The Wildcats rushed for six touchdowns: For comparison's sake, the 2001 Miami team that won the school's fifth national title allowed eight rushing touchdowns that entire season.
Kansas State went 8 for 11 on third-down conversions and threw for 210 yards on just 11 attempts. The Wildcats' 39-point margin of victory was the biggest against a Miami team since Virginia topped the Hurricanes 48-0 in the last game at the Orange Bowl in 2007.
Pick a stat. They were pretty much all bad, especially on the defensive side.
“We got beat by a better team who played better,” Golden said. “And as painful as that is to say, you know, they executed better than we did. Their playmakers played better than ours. They coached better. And, as I said, I thought they were flawless in their execution on offense and beat us in all three phases.”
Kansas State finished with 498 yards of offense. Believe it or not, that represented an improvement for Miami. A week earlier, the Hurricanes beat Boston College despite allowing 537 yards of offense. It bears noting that, in Week 2, Boston College generated only 385 yards. Against Maine.
“We've got a lot of guys right now making mental errors,” Chickillo said. “We just have to fix it.”
So now comes that chance to fix it, a breather against lower-division Bethune-Cookman, right?
Well, maybe not. Bethune-Cookman lost 45-14 at Miami a year ago but held the lead into the second quarter and finished with 422 yards in that game.
“I think there's numerous things that we can do better on and that we can fix, certainly,” Golden said. “That blame is shared by everybody from the coaches to the players. I didn't see a defense that quit. I didn't see a defense that was lazy or didn't run to the ball.”
And now, the Hurricanes at least get to be at home.
With a depth chart loaded with freshmen and sophomores, Miami is one of only three teams to have played two road games so far and Golden hopes not having to get on a plane again this week makes things a tiny bit easier.
“Not only did they go on the road once to start the season; they went on the road twice,” Golden said. “And they started school, they're managing study halls, their studies, everything and we've got to teach them to stay on schedule, stay on process and teach them how to do it, how to manage their time and have the discipline to do so. It's no easy task. But we embrace the challenge and we're excited about moving the team forward this week.''
Pictured above is Miami coach Al Golden