CORAL GABLES — This was the plan, the one that Miami coach Al Golden put together back in May and June when he actually mapped out how every day was supposed to go this season for the Hurricanes.
Sept. 7: Beat Florida.
Sept. 8: Move on from beating Florida.
Golden’s visions became reality on both fronts this weekend, first when his team knocked off the formerly 12th-ranked Gators 21-16 on Saturday, then when the Hurricanes gathered to put that win in the rear-view mirror on Sunday. Golden tweeted out a message at 6:33 a.m. warning against the dangers of complacency, and his players started filing through the training room three hours later.
“I set the schedule that we would win the game Saturday, come in Sunday, lift and watch the game, just to make sure we snap ‘em back in and stay focused and don’t let this turn into Mardi Gras,” Golden said. “We don’t need a week’s celebration here.”
Understandable, though there were things for the Hurricanes to celebrate on Sunday, such as returning to the AP Top 25 for the first time in nearly three years. Miami (2-0) checked in at No. 15 in this week’s poll, making the Hurricanes just the sixth team in the last decade to go from being unranked one week to at least 15th the next.
It’s also the first time Golden has been the coach of a team ranked in the AP poll.
“It was a good win and everything,” Golden said. “But, hey, we’re already moved on.”
The schedule for the next few weeks looks favorable for Miami. The Hurricanes are off this week, then host Savannah State on Sept. 21 and travel across the state to Tampa for a matchup with South Florida on the following Saturday. Combined, those clubs are 0-4 so far, and Savannah State has given up an almost-unbelievable 143 points in its first two games.
Of course, Golden isn’t participating in any sort of talk about how Miami should be 4-0 entering October. There’s a ton of issues for the Hurricanes to clean up, such as one of the nation’s worst third-down success rates so far, a 5-for-25 effort that ranks Miami 118th out of 124 teams at college football’s highest level to this point.
“We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to fix. ... If we can get one thing from every player this week that they can get better at and get into their toolbox, that would be a successful week for us,” Golden said.
For a welcome change, the talk around Miami football is actually about Miami football. The NCAA investigation into Hurricane athletics is still unresolved, and it could be literally minutes, or days, or weeks, or worse, before a decision comes down about whether Miami will be facing more sanctions because of the scandal involving a former booster and the impermissible benefits that he either provided or arranged.
Even Clemson coach Dabo Swinney – relishing in the fact that an Atlantic Coast Conference school beat another Southeastern Conference foe, like his team did against Georgia in Week 1 – made the “U” symbol with his hands in recognition of the Miami victory over Florida on Saturday. Golden was told of that gesture by Swinney, whose team climbed to No. 3 this week, a couple hours after the final play of Miami’s win.
“I think Dabo’s a class act and obviously he’s excited about his team and he’s confident about his team and he’s excited for the league,” Golden said. “And I share in his excitement. What they’re doing up at Clemson, I think it’s great for the league. You want to have these types of games and have them be meaningful.
“You know, one thing about the ACC, we haven’t shied away from these games, from these intersectional games,” Golden said. “Hopefully we can continue to schedule like this and maybe find a way to work it out where we can continue to have Florida moving forward, even if it’s every third year or something.”
For now, that’s not in the plans.
So Golden will stick to what’s actually in front of the ‘Canes. This week at practice, Miami’s opponent gets to be Miami again, and Golden sounds eager to get back to work.
“There’s a great storied tradition here,” Golden said. “What we have to do now is respect the past, but we have to represent the future. We have to move forward. And the way we help the conference is to become the Miami Hurricanes. That’s the truth – for us to grow up and play like Miami Hurricanes.”