Miami 16, Wake Forest 10 -- The Recap

The critics will diminish it, saying this was a Wake Forest team on the decline, but reality is it was a clutch win for a young Miami team in search of a signature win and figuring out how to finish ballgames. The Deacs were a group of seasoned vets two seasons removed from a BCS appearance, yet were outgutted by a freshman-heavy Miami squad looking to turn the corner down the stretch.

Eventually something had to go the way of the Miami Hurricanes.

After losing heartbreakers to North Carolina and Florida State - but a combined total of six points and with the game in reach in the final moments - it was finally the Canes' turn to experience the thrill of victory after making a few more plays than the other guys.

This wasn't Wake Forest circa 2006. The Deacs were thumped 26-0 by Maryland last week and fell to Navy early in the season, but scored also "W"s in low-scoring affairs against Florida State and Clemson. Close down the stretch, Wake stepped up and pulled away.

Saturday's contest looked like it was scripted in similar fashion.

Down 16-10 with 4:24 on the clock, the Deacs went three-and-out with no theatrics from Riley Skinner. The junior quarterback has a few fourth quarter comebacks on his resume and it almost made sense to mentally prepare for a 17-16 final.

Miami has been the anti-Skinner, giving games away in the waning moments and almost creating new ways to be unclutch. Defensive collapses. The absence of a game winning-type catch. The sense of being in control, instead of reactive and panicking.

It took eight games, but these young Canes are finally learning the meaning of the word 'clutch'.

After their final possession went south, the Demon Deacons punted on a 4th-and-8 from Miami's 44-yard line. With just over three minutes in the game and time outs remaining, Wake had seen this movie before and knew the ending.

Keep it close, take the Canes to the wire and let them self-destruct, effectively willing a win to the other guy.

A coaching staff criticized for conservative play finally took their gloves off and a few peerless freshman stepped up and won a ball game.

A glorified game of keep away ensued, with the Canes nursing a six-point lead the the Deacs one big play away from the comeback.

Miami of last year loses this game, a la NC State. Instead, this squad finally got a signature win.

Robert Marve threw his hat back in the quarterback competition, putting together an 11-of-20 performance for 153 yards with his arm and rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. The even more important stat; no turnovers.

Only given eight attempts last week and sidelined during a stellar outing by Jacory Harris, many were clamoring for the true frosh to assume starting duties - the wrong call proven by Marve's response.

Early in the second, a 43-yard scamper by Marve set up a one-yard touchdown run two plays later. The beginning of the fourth, a 20-yard drive and third down conversion eventually resulting in a 43-yard Matt Bosher field goal and 16-10 lead.

Miami picked up five of their seven third downs with Marve behind center. On the surface, just another notation in a box score, but for a Hurricanes bunch that's been anemic regarding keeping drives alive, it's huge. At the game's most crucial moment, the final two on the final drive secured the win.

On a 3rd-and-10 deep in Miami's territory, Marve rolled left and floated the perfect pass to Thearon Collier. The freshman wideout had Miami at midfield and breathing new life.

The Canes almost non-existent running game remained grounded (102 yards on 33 attempts. 59 on 32 if you take out Marve's long run), with Graig Cooper losing 3-yards on first down. On 2nd-and-13, Marve found Collier again, threading a 12-yard strike between Wake defenders.

It was the confident-type pass Harris was applauded for against Duke, but many said Marve didn't have in the arsenal. The game-winner Marve sent over Kayne Farquharson on the final drive against North Carolina, he hit it Saturday, albeit in less dramatic fashion.

First-and-10 with two minutes and no timeouts, Wake was done while Miami notched back-to-back ACC wins for the first time since 2006.

The pundits will say it's only a Wake Forest team on the decline, but it's a big step forward for a young team.nOne step closer to being 'back'.

5-3 doesn't have the same ring of 6-2 or 7-1 (both of which were within reach), but it feels better than October 20th, 2006.

After an upset of Florida State, Miami sporting an identical record last season, though there was little reason for optimism. An utter beatdown at Oklahoma. A no-show at North Carolina. A second half collapse against Georgia Tech. Instability at quarterback. The same barrage of mistakes made week in and week out. Zero excitement. Watered down talent. Four losses from rock bottom.

Miami went 0-4 down the stretch - losing an OT snoozefest to NC State and suffering a 48-0 drubbing at the hands of Virginia; the Orange Bowl finale, no less. Two final road contests followed, smacked up at Virginia Tech and outlasted by Boston College.

This time around, the Canes head to Virginia, work through a bye and then sport back-to-back Thursday night ESPN games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. The season finale, a post-Thanksgiving road trip to NC State.

Based on the schizophrenic nature of the ACC this year, even Nostradamus is gun shy offering up a down-the-stretch prediction.

The same way he's shaken off any notion of quarterback 'controversy', Randy Shannon isn't playing the revenge card for the final four foes. Different year, different team - as proven the past few weekends. No more wilting down the stretch, the Canes are finishing.

But where does it go from here? Has Miami truly turned a corner, or will the rise in competition knock this green team down a few rungs? Central Florida, Duke and a lesser Wake Forest bunch don't hold a candle to Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State. The Canes first true test is next weekend in Charlottesville.

Shannon may avoid any revenge angle, but someone in that locker room better do his best Ed Reed and remind everyone about last year, just as the former Miami safety did at Florida State in 2001, ("Forty-seven to nuthin!", Reed bellowed in the locker room, recalling the Noles beatdown of the Canes in 1997).

Let these freshman know what it felt like to go out with a thud and embarrass yourselves in front of all those football alum, as well as an entire city.

There's added motivation to stick it to Virginia and it's on the players to muster it up - not on their head coach to fabricate it. Someone get out there and lead by example this weekend. Make another statement. Notch another win.

6-3 sounds a hell of a lot better than 5-4.

Miami is building for the future and the best way to do that is to create some more signature moments and save this year. Win some more ball games. Prove that 5-7 was an aberration and that the road to redemption is closer than the critics think. Show next year's recruits the instant impact they can have on a hungry program ready to get back to winning ways.

A lot remains on the line, ACC title game aside. All the zigging instead of zagging down the stretch last year, get it right this time. Create more moments. Invigorate Miami football.

While many want an instant turnaround, the logical folk realize how bad things had gotten and understand what it takes to right the wrongs. They key to this year was growth. Nurture the new players and get production out of your playmakers. Grow two new quarterbacks from the ground up. Take it a week at a time. Improve on last year. Get to a bowl game. Recruit like hell and get back after it again next fall.

Miami is growing, albeit not fast enough for some. Don't let impatience cloud your vision. Rewatch the last eight quarters of football and be honest with yourselves. This team is starting to turn a corner, though a daunting task awaits with November upon us.

Revel in this win and buckle up as the real season starts on Saturday.


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