''The Goal Now is to Go 1-0 This Week''

''The Goal Now is to Go 1-0 This Week''

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The day after the Hurricanes’ win over Texas A&M, Tyler Van Dyke gave himself a bit of time to reflect on the magnitude of what had just happened.

He and his teammates had just beaten a ranked opponent that, a year ago, handed them a tough loss in College Station.

His receivers had put together an impressive showing in the win, catching 21 of the 30 passes he’d thrown and scoring five touchdowns. Miami’s offensive line had kept him clean all afternoon, allowing him to operate efficiently and helping him make history as the first Hurricanes quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against an opponent ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

And Miami’s defense had forced three key turnovers and consistently pressured his counterpart on the other side of the field.

All of that helped the Hurricanes leave Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday with a 48-33 win over the Aggies that not only showed the kind of progress Miami made during the offseason but also catapulted the Hurricanes into both the AP Top 25 and the US LBM Coaches Poll on Sunday.

But as proud as Van Dyke was of the Hurricanes’ effort, he knows the season is far from over.

Miami’s work is far from over.

“After the game and the day after, I was like, ‘Wow. That’s such a huge win for us, confidence-wise, for the rest of the season.’ But obviously, we have to handle success like we would handle a failure. We have to move on from it,” Van Dyke said. “It was definitely huge for the program, after all the work we put in this offseason, all the hard work we put in on Greentree and in the weight room. But that is only the beginning. …

“When we came in on Sunday, you could tell we won, but it was very professional in the way we moved on from it. Obviously, it feels really good to get in there with a win and everybody was in a good, positive mood. But nobody was like, ‘Okay, let’s go, season’s over. We just won the national championship.’ It wasn’t like that at all. We know we have 10 games left, plus hopefully a couple more. We know we have to focus on the next game at hand, the next practice at hand. So, I think a lot of the guys handled their business as a professional would.”

The next game at hand is here, with Miami – operating on a short week – set to host Bethune-Cookman on Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium to cap a three-game, season-opening homestand.

The 22nd-ranked Hurricanes and Wildcats have met in six previous matchups, with Miami winning each, typically in dominant fashion.

Still, Van Dyke hasn’t been the only one impressed with how the Hurricanes have approached preparing for Thursday’s game.

Miami head coach Mario Cristobal, who has worked to instill a culture of hard work and competition since returning to his alma mater last season, has been encouraged by how his team has operated in the days since its big win and how it has focused on improving ahead of Thursday’s game against Bethune-Cookman (1-1).

“We made a decision that as the season goes on, we’re just going to keep getting better and better and better,” Cristobal said. “That means we’re going to have to push. The schedule changes, but it doesn’t matter. [The] ball’s going to be placed on the tee Thursday night and kicked off. The approach has been simple. It’s been identifying those things that are hurting us, the ways we’re hurting ourselves, things we can get better at, things we’re really close at being really good at as well.

“It’s a complete assault on improvement and [getting] better. There’s certainly a strong appetite for betterment and improvement. That’s how we’re approaching it.”

One area where the Hurricanes (2-0) have worked to improve this week is special teams.

While Brashard Smith returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and Andres Borregales converted on two of his three field goal attempts, the Hurricanes muffed a punt and had another one blocked.

Both of those miscues led to short fields for Texas A&M and ultimately, two Aggies touchdowns.

The Hurricanes know they can’t let mistakes like those happen again.

“We were bad. We were really bad, and we have to take that right between the eyes as coaches. … We’ve got to coach it better, we’ve got to execute it better,” Cristobal said. “That first block was about as bad as it gets from an execution standpoint. We have to teach routine better. If routine got us beat, well, then it’s on us. We’ve got to teach it better, coach it better. Muffing that particular punt is inexcusable. … I don’t know if it was nervous energy that got us early. Put it all on me. I need to do a better job to get us on point in that particular phase, because we have been good on special teams … We have to fix it.”

Along with correcting the mistakes they saw on their Texas A&M film, the Hurricanes know they’ll have to contend with a Bethune-Cookman team that totaled nearly 400 yards of offense in its win last week over Savannah State.

Quarterback Luke Sprague completed 23 of 29 passes, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns, while the Wildcats defense held Savannah State to just 80 rushing yards.

“Their quarterback’s completion percentage, he’s throwing passes and completing them at a high clip. We see speed, disruptiveness up front. … They bring pressure. They bring it from all sorts of places,” Cristobal said. “They bring it from the edges, internally, they’re really athletic … They force a lot of bad plays … They’re thick in the interior, their linebackers run really well … impressive about their secondary, they play man, and they play man very effectively. On offense, they’re really fast, a lot of guys that run well. So, they stretch you horizontally, they stretch you vertically, we talked about the quarterback. And they have two dangerous returners in the kicking game.”

Remaining focused, the Hurricanes said, and continuing to grow will be key.

“We’re trying to win every week, but once that week’s over, we’re 0-0 and the goal now is to go 1-0 this week,” said Miami defensive back Jaden Davis. “Bethune-Cookman is a remarkable opponent. … They have a great team. They have a great group of receivers coming in here and for me, playing the defensive back position, that’s what I’m worried about. But their receivers, their quarterback, their running backs, and offensive line, they do a great job with their schematics and how they do everything. So, we’ve been coming in here every day, working towards that. With it being a short week, we know we had to get up on the game plan, do extra film and extra work. I’m just happy to get back on that field this week.”