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Coach Al Golden stays calm amid Miami Hurricanes' storm

MIAMI — Before it is over, there will be more bad headlines. The storm is out there. Trouble is coming, and turbulence is here already.

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On the other hand, there is the man with the orange tie.

The administration, it seems, was looking the other way. The athletic director was keeping secrets. The scumbag in prison wouldn't shut up.

For the University of Miami, however, there is the coach bouncing around the sideline.

The program has backslid. The talent has been lessened. There are empty patches throughout the stands.

And despite it all, there is man with the unyielding vision.

He has just arrived, and still, there seems to be something about Al Golden that Miami fans can trust. In all the chaos, he is the anchor. For all of the scandal, he is the man who stands above it. If the Hurricanes are going to get past the controversy, Golden is the man who will lead them there.

Who else?

It was late Saturday evening, and Golden was sprinting across the field at Sun Life Stadium. He seemed energized by the day's success, and he seemed alive with possibilities that seemed a bit brighter than they did a day earlier. Through it all, his team seems to be getting it, and for the moment, it was enough.

This was a keeper moment. The Hurricanes had just battered No. 20 Georgia Tech 24-7, and in doing it, they had looked disciplined, talented, fast, all of the things they had not looked through the first half of this season. Along the way, it should be said, they looked well-coached, too, and it has been a while since anyone said that of Miami.

For goodness sakes, this looked like a coming disaster. Georgia Tech entered second in the nation at 347.9 rushing yards per game. Miami, meanwhile, ranked only 94th in the country against the run. It seemed like a bad mix, to tell you the truth.

Instead, the Hurricanes filled every hole. Tech ended the game with 134 yards on 48 carries, a benign 2.8 per carry. Suddenly, the Tech option attack looked like Barry Switzer's old leftovers, and any coach running it should be in a leisure suit beneath a disco ball.

That comes back to Golden, too. When a team looks better coached than it did against, say, Virginia Tech, it usually is.

And let's face it, Golden has faced tougher obstacles this year than Georgia Tech.

Other coaches would have run. Let's face it. Bobby Petrino would have left skid marks. Nick Saban's agent would have to buy extra telephones. For crying out loud, Golden wasn't even warned about the possibility of an NCAA posse setting up camp nearby, which seems like something that someone in charge might have mentioned along the way. (Nevin Shapiro, the former booster turned squawker, had been threatening to blow up the program for a year.)

Still, Golden has stayed, and he hasn't grumbled about his inheritance. Along the way, he has restored a dash of hope to the program.

"I learned that from the guy in the other room," Golden said, referencing Georgia Tech assistant coach Al Groh, his former boss at Virginia. "You have to have a no-excuse mentality. If you start making excuses, you'll have a team of excuses, and you can't have that."

Even after all of the struggles of recent seasons, it is still jarring to see Miami with three losses in half a season. A tackle against Virginia Tech, another one or two against Maryland, a conversion against Kansas State, and this season could be a lot better.

"You know what's hard is we had a glimpse of what we could be on Aug. 14," Golden said of the scrimmage. "I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Sunday, and we had about 125 plays. We were crisp. We were sharp. We were healthy. The next day, the news broke, and from that point on, it's been upheaval. The story broke, and we had about 4-5 injuries, and it just crushed us."

For the first time all year, however, Golden had all of his suspended players back. The defense looked better. Quarterback Jacory Harris didn't play well, but he was better at game management than he has been. In other words, it looked a little like hope.

Let's be honest. A record barely above .500 won't keep Hurricanes happy for long. Ask Randy Shannon. Ask Larry Coker. But in the middle of a new start, Golden has been impressive.

Who knows what the future holds? The scandal is still in its who-do-you-believe stage, and there will be more controversies ahead. Still, Golden says he still sees excellence in the future.

"No question," Golden, 42, said. "The fun thing is that you're starting to see it take traction. They're starting to get it."

Just a thought, but maybe someone should get a message to Nevin Shapiro.

With any luck, it will ruin his day.

Coach Al Golden stays calm amid Miami Hurricanes' storm 10/22/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 23, 2011 12:28pm]
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