So which Miami team are we going to see on Saturday night against No. 9 Notre Dame?
The one that was outmatched and outclassed in a 52-13 loss to Kansas State? Or the one that has pulled out back-to-back come-from-behind victories?
Make no mistake, Miami coach Al Golden believes his team has grown up and matured since that road game in Manhattan in Week 2. That maturation truly began to take shape on the road two weeks ago against Georgia Tech, a seesaw overtime game that saw more swings than a flying trapeze act.
"The last time we played a road game, I think we grew up a lot," Golden said. "Two times ago against Kansas State in Manhattan, we were not ready for that venue. We weren't ready for that challenge. Then we responded at Georgia Tech. I was pleased with that.
"Hopefully we've grown a lot over the last two games to be able to kind of keep our eyes on the prize this week and stay focused and not have any distractions. That's the key going into this Notre Dame game on Saturday night."
If ever there was a game with plenty of distractions, this one would fit the bill. Though nobody on the current Miami roster was born during the heyday of this rivalry, much has been made about the importance of this game, and its meaning in college football history. Notre Dame is ranked, of course, and many more eyes have shifted their attention to the Hurricanes because they are playing a marquee national game.
That said, Miami cannot have another performance like the one at Kansas State, not if it wants to truly show that it has taken steps toward improvement. Nobody is claiming the Hurricanes have played perfectly the past two weeks. There are still problems on defense, and the offense -- while putting together many highlight plays -- has sputtered through quarters without much consistency.
Nobody has to tell Golden all that.
“Anybody that would look at that tape would say if we don’t get multiple areas fixed, it’s going to come back to haunt us, and not down the line -- this week," Golden said. "We need to run the ball better than we did, we need to capitalize on our turnovers gained better than we did. Certainly our field goal operation -- that came out of left field that we missed three. We need to continue to grow in terms of stopping the run and getting a pass rush. I can go on. There’s a lot of things we need to improve on. We’re not a dominant team in any of the three phases right now. We’re growing, we’re winning, we’re improving. ... We’ve got to continue to grow and get some of this tightened down, because it’s going to cost us.”
Given its sometimes shaky play, Miami has dug deep and found ways to win four of its five games this season. Three of those games -- all ACC contests -- turned into shootouts. Miami has proved it can win those types of games. Miami has proved it is fearless, and can play from behind and come from behind to win. Was the Kansas State game an anomaly? It is the one that does not fit with the rest.
There is one way to prove that. Hanging with and beating a ranked team Saturday at Soldier Field.