Now come the questions. Tough ones.
After the Hurricanes’ first bowl trip in two seasons ended with an ugly 36-9 loss to No. 18 Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Saturday night, coach Al Golden has a host of issues to sort out, from fixing the defense to disciplining players to ensuring his highly regarded recruiting class stays together.
What to make of UM’s defense, which was praiseworthy only in the sense it was slightly improved from last year? With 20 games left on this year’s bowl schedule, Miami ranks 91st in the nation in yards allowed per game (426.4). It was 120th in 2012.
Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s unit allowed more than 500 yards in five of its final six games (and six of its final eight). Golden, who isn’t expected to meet with reporters again until Jan. 6, said Saturday night that he would evaluate “every coach, every unit, every player” in the coming days.
Players who might not grade out well include Kevin Olsen, Rashawn Scott and Ray Lewis III. Each was not allowed to travel with UM to Orlando.
The most concerning name is Olsen, considered to be UM’s future starting quarterback. Previously, Olsen was criticized by Golden for a lack of discipline during his redshirt season. “He hasn’t owned the process yet,” the coach said in late September.
Scott was the Hurricanes’ second-leading receiver as a sophomore before becoming a non-factor this season, partly because he missed six games with a collarbone injury. Lewis, a cornerback, is the son of UM and NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.
Asked if any players had left the team via dismissal or transfer, UM football spokesman Chris Yandle said “no one has been dismissed.” Sunday evening, those three names remained on the team’s official roster.
One player who might leave the program is junior linebacker Denzel Perryman, who said Saturday he would wait to see his evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board before deciding whether to enter the draft. Tight end Clive Walford, a Glades Central grad, said he will return to school.
With rival recruiters likely became re-energized over UM’s dismal performance in the bowl, Golden’s task of keeping together his incoming class, which includes 29 verbal commitments, could become tougher.
Asked what message the loss sent recruits, Golden said, “I think we’re just building. We need help. … There’s a lot of room to help us.”
After the game, Golden appeared slightly annoyed by a question about a “time table” for the Hurricanes to contend for national titles.
“No. 1, we just won nine games in a season for the third time in a decade. OK? I wish we had won 10. We’re busting our tails to keep moving it. There is no time table,” Golden said.
“Again, I take responsibility for everything in the program. At the end of the day, today wasn’t good enough. … It’s hard for me to give you a time table right now. But I made a commitment to get it done, and we’re going to keep fighting our [butts] off to get it done.”