GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They're back, no matter what you say. Back to being competitive, let's start with that. That's where you have to start with a Miami program that is still trying to get rid of the stink from Nov. 10, 2007.
That was the night The U took a U-turn and said goodbye to the Orange Bowl -- and a lot of its dignity -- in the now infamous 48-0 loss to Virginia. It's still going to take more than one game, or one season to get rid of that much embarrassment. It has the half life of uranium. On Saturday, though, the comeback, small as it might have been, started.
|Miami QB Robert Mavre: 'You saw a young product of what we (will) have.' (Getty Images)|
Miami lost the game 26-3 to No. 5 Florida, but gained a backbone.
"We're not the same team," said Marve, a freshman remembering that night 10 months ago. "That's an old team. That team is gone. We're trying to bring different characters to this team. You saw a young product of what we (will) have."
In their drive for five national championships, Miami was hardly ever mentioned as a team on the come. Even more rarely against Florida, which hadn't beaten the Hurricanes since 1985. But this was a statement game. The statement: We still matter. The last time the Hurricanes had two freshman quarterbacks in the two deep was 25 years ago. Their names were Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde. This time they're Marve and Jacory Harris. That Miami team also lost at Florida by the eerily similar score of 28-3.
Those Hurricanes in '83 never lost again. This one is looking to have its self-esteem boosted. When you're coach Randy Shannon and you've got 14 freshmen in the two-deep, you've got to walk a fine line between the disappointment of getting beat by 23 by an in-state rival and the reality of knowing it wasn't that bad. Even better, there was progress.
"We were able to play a top five team in the country and thought we had a shot," Shannon said. "That's all you want is a shot."
Last season ended so drearily that whispers immediately started about Shannon's job security. He had brought a moral compass to the team -- Marve was suspended for the opener a week ago after winning the starting job -- but the program had lost its bounce. Shannon went out and recruited like the days of old so at least there was some promise.
A week ago, 21 Miami players were in their first college game. In their first visit to The Swamp, they had that shot, trailing only 9-3 two minutes into the fourth quarter. Coordinator Bill Young's defense mixed a perfect combination of blitzes to keep Tebow off balance. The problem was that's all it did was get Tebow off balance. Besides winning the Heisman, he might be the toughest quarterback in the nation to bring down. Another quarterback, any other quarterback, would have gone down six times on Saturday.
Freshman linebacker Sean Spence was the only guy to do it and one of several in his class who didn't crack.
"We played in a lot of big games in high school," said Spence, one of eight recruits from national champion Miami Northwestern High School. "We know how to block out the crowd and deal with it."
Yeah, but none like the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium record crowd of 90,833.