MIAMI — Every rationalization that rolled through your mind since, well, even last New Year’s Eve? This was the moment that made you stop to slap yourself and say, “What were you thinking?”
The meltdown loss to LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was just a bad night. Right. This season’s opener against Jacksonville State was just first-week jitters. Of course. And last week against Clemson when they looked like a new stage production, “The Dancing Sybils”? Come on, they won, didn’t they?
But when Georgia Tech comes to Miami to play one of its most important games of the season and loses, 33-17 — in fact, not just loses but seemingly drifts in and out of consciousness from the opening kickoff, for all the ESPN-watching nation to see — it’s easy to recall what coach Paul Johnson spent the entire off-season trying to hammer home to his players and fans and media.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he kept saying.
There was good news Thursday night. Johnson won’t have to say that again. Miami tattooed the quote on everybody’s forehead. The Hurricanes scored on five of their first six offensive possessions and did it so effortlessly that you half-wondered if the Jackets believed they had some sense of entitlement to a top-20 ranking.
“Inexcusable,” linebacker Sedric Griffin said. “You can’t come here and lay an egg, and we laid an egg. It’s embarrassing. Not good.”
That about covers it.
Let’s be clear: This was a good team Georgia Tech lost to. But to be so dominated by a school you had beaten in four straight meetings and pancaked last season for 472 yards rushing indicates something is seriously wrong. The Jackets got smacked early and soon became unraveled. The offensive line couldn’t block, Jonathan Dwyer couldn’t run (again) and the defense wasn’t even a good rumor.
“Enough blame to go around,” Johnson said.
At 2-1, the season is not over. It’s just significantly in question. Yes, the Jackets were playing their third game in 13 days. But that doesn’t explain coming out so flat, mentally and physically. It doesn’t explain Miami scoring on its first three possessions (two touchdowns and a field goal). It doesn’t explain being manhandled on both the offensive and defensive lines, so early and so thoroughly, in a game that meant so much.
Asked about his players’ seeming lack of energy, Johnson responded: “With this team, honestly, I can never tell. I thought we were ready to play, but clearly we weren’t. I hope we can play harder than that.”
Miami receivers ran wide open. Quarterback Jacory Harris roamed untouched. The Hurricanes didn’t have any trouble finding the path of least resistance because it pretty much was everywhere.
Against Jacksonville State, they dominated early and were sloppy late. But isn’t everybody entitled to drift against Jacksonville State? Against Clemson, they built a 24-0 lead, then just seemed to stop playing. But even that was overlooked to a degree because they showed some resolve in coming back to win. And, well, isn’t it possible Clemson was better than anybody realized?
But rationalizations can’t exist anymore. Everything looks different now. The problems are real, and Johnson was right: They haven’t done anything yet.