After the No. 9 Virginia Tech defeated 25-24 in the fourth quarter, Miami coach Manny Diaz said the game was about to be postponed after the Hurricanes were forced to stay in key positions due to problems with the coronavirus.
There weren’t 13 players in Miami on Saturday, one week after 11 players were unavailable for a win at NC State. Although the Hurricanes didn’t immediately give the reasons why so many players left the game, Diaz said they would have to wait for the final coronavirus tests before they could make a final decision on the game.
We were close to [not playing] and the attitude of the players was the most eloquent, Diaz said in his comments after the game. They wanted to play, and we were about to function as a team in certain function groups. Some guys had to get up.
On the offensive line, we were really outnumbered. This makes the training more difficult. That complicates things, but nobody cares, right? Play a game, and there will be no excuses. The players came here to win the game. I told them that I think with their mentality and their attitude to everything we’ve been through this week, they won the competition on Friday.
Diaz said the Hurricanes would gradually lose players as the week progressed. Among the absentees: two starters on the offensive line, linebacker Zack McCloud and several key players on the defensive line. As Miami continued to lose players, Diaz said training became more difficult, citing the inability to get enough input from the coaching staff as a reason.
This is what 2020 is all about, Diaz said. You come to work and find out what you had to face that day. There are no easy days. There’s always something to suit you. It’s the players who have to play and it’s their last time in their career and it’s their next mentality. They’re just soldiers.
With the absence of all players in the last two weeks, Miami’s victory is all the more impressive. The Hurricanes overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter last week and beat NC State 44-41 when D’Eric King scored a 54-yard touchdown on Mike Hurley.
A visit to the Hurricanes this week balanced the 24th to 19th quarter deficit when King Mark Pope met in a 36-yard touchdown. The Miami defense kept Virginia Tech spotless for the last 19 minutes of the game.
In both cases, the Hurricanes had some difficult times at the beginning of the season, but this season Diaz has focused on making Miami the fourth quarter team.
This has not necessarily been the case in recent years for Miami, which has found ways to lose rather than win. But Diaz has worked hard to change that thinking, noting how the Hurricanes are training and working on their energy and climate program, making Miami a fresher team as the game progresses.
I’d say this is the fourth-quarter team, King said. Coach Diaz makes us proud to play in the fourth quarter. Finding a way to win is huge. It was a tough week for us, we didn’t know if we were going to play or not, but we came here and we played. We’ve found a way.
Now Miami enters the season with a 7-1 victory, and his victory broke the program record, four races in a row as the Top 10 of the AP Team.
It’s really a lot of positive energy and a lot of confidence in the locker room at the moment, said defensive player Jahelan Phillips, who had his best game since his arrival from UCLA in Miami with 2.5 bags and 4.5 in the loss stroke. Every week our team gets stronger. All aspects of our team are improving. We feel more together, we feel safer. I’m curious to see how things are going to go between us.