Even before Duke had clinched the Coastal Division title on Saturday afternoon with its win over North Carolina, Miami coach Al Golden was already looking forward.
With their 41-31 win over Pittsburgh on Friday, the Hurricanes clinched their first nine-win season since 2009. A victory in their upcoming bowl would give Miami its first 10-win season since 2003 and that, now, has become the Hurricanes’ biggest focus, particularly after Miami voluntarily held itself out of bowl games in each of its previous two seasons because of the protracted NCAA investigation.
“We have a chance to get better, to move the program forward and win 10 games, which is obviously a priority,” he said Saturday. “We’re not where we want to be and I don’t make any excuses for that. We’re not where we want to be, but these seniors have been through an awful lot and I’m really proud of how they’ve responded. We’re going to a bowl game for the first time in years. Let’s keep recruiting, let’s keep moving the program forward.”
For now, though, Golden said the plan is to put together a plan that will allow players to focus on academics, especially with the end of semester and final exams looming.
“We try to build in, all semester, opportunities for them not to get behind,” he said. “[During] some of the longer weeks we had…give them days off and call them academic days to the assignments or labs or projects don’t build up.”
*While players will focus on academics, Miami’s coaches will shift their attention to bowl preparations and continue their efforts on the recruiting trail. The Hurricanes currently have one of the nation’s highest-ranked recruiting classes and Golden expects his team’s nine wins have made an impact with potential prospects, many of whom will get a chance to watch the Hurricanes practice ahead of their bowl later this month.
“Nine wins helps, and obviously, you having an opportunity to win 10 helps,” he said. “Being able to go into bowl practice and having kids in South Florida come watch bowl practice and watch us operate…all of those things that we had to forego the last two years. From a quantifiable standpoint, it’s tough to quantify what that penalty is in terms of a sanction…Certainly, all of this helps recruiting. We’re excited about going out and not dealing with the [NCAA] cloud really since we’ve been here.”
*Golden also had high praise for freshman running back Gus Edwards who rushed for 64 yards in Miami’s win over Pittsburgh. It was his biggest output since gaining 113 yards against Savannah State earlier this season.
“He is practicing better and he’s starting to become more comfortable,” Golden said. “He’s continuing to improve and he’s a young man who is going to benefit greatly from the bowl. Gus is a young man that I think is really going to continue to improve.”
Staff writer Iliana Limon contributed to this report.