Anytime Miami coach Randy Shannon needs to remind his players about the importance of consistency, he points to last season.
The Hurricanes had a similarly unforgiving start to September -- facing rival Florida State, Coastal Division foe Georgia Tech, and then a road trip to Virginia Tech. Miami had played surprisingly well in a 2-0 start and had once again captured the nation’s attention.
And then it poured in Blacksburg, and Miami’s name was mud in a 31-7 loss to the Hokies.
Shannon said his team is mature enough this year to avoid similar mental pitfalls, including overlooking his first opponent, Florida A&M. The Canes can’t afford a letdown in what should be little more than a dress rehearsal as they travel to Ohio State in Week 2. The Hurricanes defeated the Rattlers 48-16 last season and have combined to outscore FAMU 355 to 49, dating back to 1980.
“From a lot of things we learned last season, I always refer back to last season,” Shannon said. “Our first three games I think we were very, very focused as a football team last season. Going and playing Virginia Tech, we kind of got away from where we needed to be at. I reminded the guys of that situation happening, that the more you are staying focused on what's ahead of you, don't look down the future, then you'll be OK.”
Shannon said the team has had “an unbelievable practice” in August, and he intentionally put the players in adverse situations to make sure he had their focus each day. He didn’t want them looking ahead to scrimmages or time off.
Receiver Travis Benjamin and other team leaders -- particularly offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, quarterback Jacory Harris, cornerback Brandon Harris and defensive end Allen Bailey -- have helped everyone take a one-game-at-a-time approach.
“If you don’t get past this game with a win, the next game won’t really be that important,” Brandon Harris said. “It won’t be nationally publicized and it won’t help your football team if you have a letdown and lose a game like this, so that’s big motivation. This team (Florida A&M) hung in there and gave it all they had for the first half of the football game (last year). They feel like they have a lot to prove. They feel like they should be wearing the uniform we’re wearing. They obviously want to go out and show everybody they’re just as capable of playing college football as we are.”
The question this year is whether or not Miami is capable of playing at a high level through the entire season.