It’s been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for Mark Richt in his first season as head coach of his alma mater.
After four games, all was well. The Canes were undefeated and ranked No. 10 in the country. He was apparently the answer the program has been looking for since its dominant days in the 1980s.
Then the script got flipped. Three consecutive losses put the Canes right back where they started at the beginning of the season. The questions are popping up again; what is happening with this program and where is it headed?
Here are five takeaways from Richt’s first season at Miami:
1. Canes are tough, particularly in the run game – Richt’s teams at Georgia were notorious for their physicality and ability to run the football. A solid ground game and tough defense were cornerstones of Richt’s Bulldogs. It was a recipe for success there and he has brought that type of mentality with him down to South Florida. The Canes were physically the better team in their first four games this season. It’s an attitude the program must regain if it intends on finishing the season successfully.
2. Victories aren’t guaranteed – Just having Richt as the head coach is an upgrade, but it doesn’t guarantee anything on the football field. That sobering dose of reality had been forgotten through four games. Things were simply too easy. The Canes looked like one of the best teams in the country over that span, but this is a cruel game, and fortunes can turn on a dime. Richt must do his best coaching job to get this program back on track after three consecutive losses.
3. FSU game is still bigger than he is – Richt played quarterback in these games at The U. Perhaps he’s forgotten just how big this rivalry really is. It’s a game that’s absolutely crushed the last few seasons for Miami. Losses to the Seminoles in the last several years have sent the Canes spiraling afterward. This season appears to be no exception, with or without Richt at the helm. Regardless of what the future holds for Richt at Miami, he must control the emotions of the team and not allow it to put all its eggs in that basket.
4. Work to do to build depth – Injuries around college football begin to creep in as the season progresses, and the Canes are not immune. It’s been no secret that depth has been a problem for a Miami program still trying to climb out of the shadows of NCAA sanctions. Building the depth necessary to overcome those bumps and bruises might be the most important stamp that Richt could put on this school.
5. The honeymoon is over – Excitement reached a fever pitch when Richt was announced as the Canes next head coach. A new exhilaration was palpable, as a legitimate name with a history of winning took over the program. Canes Nation became delirious after the first month of his initial season brought nothing but victories. Perhaps he spoiled Canes fans, who may have been blinded by the euphoria of such a fast start. But that’s all behind him now. It’s down to brass tacks and winning football games in the ACC.