The hinge game

Miami’s win on Saturday against Wake Forest was a big step for Randy Shannon’s program.

Not only did it bring the Hurricanes up to .500 in ACC play, but it was also the type of win that can give the Canes momentum for the rest of the season.

It was the first time in Shannon’s tenure that his team had a shot to win a big ACC game and actually followed through.

At this point last season, Miami had just beaten Florida State. The Canes had a very simple path in front of them: win out and play for the ACC championship.

The Canes crumbled under the pressure, starting with a humiliating loss against North Carolina State (as many would call it, Kir-nobyl) on homecoming and ending three losses later against Boston College.

It was the opposite of what we saw on the field against the Deacons.

Miami rose to the challenge. It was not pretty, but it was exactly what was needed.

Miami “out-physicaled” a physical team. Miami recorded zero turnovers against one of the best turnover defenses in football. At the end, after a tough, emotional game, Miami stood and delivered.

In the first half, the team looked typically sluggish. Shades of last year’s homecoming were visible to those who paid close enough attention.

Not only was Wake running the ball on nearly every single play (24 straight to start the game), but they were succeeding.

Miami knew what was coming and could not stop it. To make matters worse, the offense could not move the ball.

And then Miami adjusted.

After halftime, Wake could not move the ball. The defense adjusted, and the offense started playing to win.

Two plays summarize the game for me. The first is a scramble from Robert Marve that ended when he ran over a Wake safety. Marve could have just taken what was there and slid. Instead, he delivered the blow and sent a message to the Deacons.

Marve then delivered the crucial blow on his 25 yard completion late in the fourth quarter to Thearon Collier. This was the play that ended any chance of a Wake comeback.

These two plays showed Miami playing to win instead of simply not to lose. It was refreshing. They were examples of a young team stepping up and getting it done instead of retreating from the pressure.

That is why this game was the type of turning point that Shannon needed. His team adjusted to an unconventional game plan and then shut it down. They smacked the other team in the mouth. And, when it was winning time, his quarterback stepped up and won.

It is nice to be back to .500 in conference. But it is even nicer to step up and win a tough game when the pressure is on.

This is the type of game a season hinges upon.