With a glimpse inside coach Larry Coker's office, the expectations for Miami's team become instantly clear. Plaques and trophies from championship seasons adorn the walls. Directly behind Coker's desk...
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — With a glimpse inside coach Larry Coker’s office, the expectations for Miami’s team become instantly clear.
Plaques and trophies from championship seasons adorn the walls. Directly behind Coker’s desk is the pedestal holding a crystal football, one the Hurricanes were awarded for winning the 2001 national title.
The collection will not grow this year. For the first time in Coker’s four seasons at the school, Miami is in a slump.
The Hurricanes lost three of their final five games to finish 8-3, a tumble that kept them from winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title and snapped a four-year run of reaching a Bowl Championship Series game.
Today, Coker and the Hurricanes travel to Atlanta for Friday’s Peach Bowl matchup with Florida. Coker is saying all the right things, such as how Miami can sweep its state rivals with a win — having beaten Florida State 16-10 in overtime in the opener — and how he expects the matchup to be another classic between the Hurricanes and Gators. Deep down, though, he is pained by the passing of another year in which the ultimate goal wasn’t realized.
“We’ve set the bar pretty high here, not just me, but a lot of coaches before me,” Coker said. “It doesn’t take long for that to happen. And we want to keep it high. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not happy with 8-3. I don’t think our staff is and I don’t think our players are.”
Miami clearly isn’t where it was a few seasons ago. Yet when a coach starts 12-0 and becomes the first sideline rookie in 53 years to win a national title, how do the numbers not eventually go down?
“There’s no doubt in my mind that coach Coker is going to be here for a long time,” senior offensive lineman Chris Myers said. “For him to have the success that he does, for our down season to be 8-3, for us to be going to a bowl game that a lot of teams would die to go to, it’s pretty ridiculous.”
Miami lost one game in Coker’s second season, a 31-24 double-overtime setback against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl — the 2002 season’s national-title game. The Hurricanes lost twice last season, yet managed to win the Big East and then knock off Florida State in the Orange Bowl. This season, the loss total climbed by one again.
“To say it doesn’t bother you is a big understatement,” said Coker, who has a 43-6 career record. “Sure, it bothers you. All coaches will tell you that the losses stand out more than the wins. That part of it takes a toll, but as far as emotionally and physically, I don’t think it takes a toll.”
Perhaps past Miami success doomed this season’s team.
Buffalo running back Willis McGahee, Washington safety Sean Taylor, New England lineman Vince Wilfork and Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow all would have been seniors on this year’s Miami squad, had the lure of NFL millions not brought them into the 2004 draft.
Miami had six players taken in the first round of that draft. This year, only cornerback Antrel Rolle seems a sure first-round pick. The lone player who might leave early is running back Frank Gore, who hasn’t announced his decision.
“It will be a little more pleasurable not losing so many players, let’s put it that way,” Coker said.
|Date||Bowl||Site||Matchup, score||Time (TV)|
|Dec. 14||New Orleans Bowl||New Orleans||Southern Mississippi 31, North Texas 10|
|Dec. 21||Champs Sports Bowl||Orlando, Fla.||Georgia Tech 51, Syracuse 14|
|Dec. 22||GMAC Bowl||Mobile, Ala.||Bowling Green 52, Memphis 35|
|Dec. 23||Fort Worth Bowl||Fort Worth, Texas||Cincinnati 32, Marshall 14|
|Dec. 23||Las Vegas Bowl||Las Vegas||Wyoming 24, UCLA 21|
|Dec. 24||Hawaii Bowl||Honolulu||Hawaii 59, Alabama-Birmingham 40|
|Dec. 27||MPC Computers Bowl||Boise, Idaho||Fresno State (8-3) vs. Virginia (8-3)||11 a.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 27||Motor City Bowl||Detroit||Toledo (9-3) vs. Connecticut (7-4)||2:30 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 28||Independence Bowl||Shreveport, La.||Iowa State (6-5) vs. Miami (Ohio) (8-4)||3:30 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 28||Insight Bowl||Phoenix||Oregon State (6-5) vs. Notre Dame (6-5)||6:45 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 29||Houston Bowl||Houston||Texas-El Paso (8-3) vs. Colorado (7-5)||1:30 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 29||Alamo Bowl||San Antonio||Ohio State (7-4) vs. Oklahoma State (7-4)||5 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 30||Continental Tire Bowl||Charlotte, N.C.||Boston College (8-3) vs. North Carolina (6-5)||10 a.m. (ESPN2)|
|Dec. 30||Emerald Bowl||San Francisco||New Mexico (7-4) vs. Navy (9-2)||1:30 p.m. (ESPN2)|
|Dec. 30||Holiday Bowl||San Diego||California (10-1) vs. Texas Tech (7-4)||5 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 30||Silicon Valley Classic||San Jose, Calif.||Troy (7-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-3)||8 p.m. (ESPN2)|
|Dec. 31||Music City Bowl||Nashville, Tenn.||Alabama (6-5) vs. Minnesota (6-5)||9 a.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 31||Sun Bowl||El Paso, Texas||Purdue (7-4) vs. Arizona State (8-3)||11 a.m. (CBS)|
|Dec. 31||Liberty Bowl||Memphis, Tenn.||Boise State (11-0) vs. Louisville (10-1)||12:30 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Dec. 31||Peach Bowl||Atlanta||Miami (8-3) vs. Florida (7-4)||4:30 p.m. (ESPN)|
|Jan. 1||Cotton Bowl||Dallas||Tennessee (9-3) vs. Texas A&M (7-4)||8 a.m. (FOX)|
|Jan. 1||Outback Bowl||Tampa, Fla.||Wisconsin (9-2) vs. Georgia (9-2)||8 a.m. (ESPN)|
|Jan. 1||Gator Bowl||Jacksonville, Fla.||Florida State (8-3) vs. West Virginia (8-3)||9:30 a.m. (NBC)|
|Jan. 1||Capital One Bowl||Orlando, Fla.||Iowa (9-2) vs. Louisiana State (9-2)||10 a.m. (ABC)|
|Jan. 1||Rose Bowl||Pasadena, Calif.||Michigan (9-2) vs. Texas (10-1)||2 p.m. (ABC)|
|Jan. 1||Fiesta Bowl||Tempe, Ariz.||Utah (11-0) vs. Pittsburgh (8-3)||5:30 p.m. (ABC)|
|Jan. 3||Sugar Bowl||New Orleans||Auburn (12-0) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2)||5 p.m. (ABC)|
|Jan. 4||Orange Bowl||Miami||USC (12-0) vs. Oklahoma (12-0)||5 p.m. (ABC)|