Diaz speaks on Oklahoma State, praises week of practice ahead of bowl

Diaz speaks on Oklahoma State, praises week of practice ahead of bowl

Stefan Adams
Ahead of their Cheez-It Bowl matchup with #21 Oklahoma State tomorrow, Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz praised his team for their week of practice and shared his thoughts on the matchup looming vs. the Cowboys.

“Number 1 is we have to be the most excited team to play,” Diaz said. “And then we have to finish. This is going to be a very difficult game to win, a grind it out affair for both teams. We have to be prepared to go for 60 minutes, because I think that’s what it will take.

"We had some highly spirited practices this past week when it was still a week away from kickoff. How are these guys going to go to work - just based off the evidence there - I was encouraged with what I saw. We've got to get out there Tuesday night and see the energy and passion that we bring, but I suspect based off what we've seen so far that our guys will be ready to play."

Diaz also spoke directly to Canes fans, thanking them for standing behind the team despite the difficult COVID circumstances that have affected everyday life in 2020.

“It’s been a difficult year to support the team. We hope to get some Canes fans out in the stadium on Tuesday night, that would be great for us to have the support of the U family behind us,” Diaz said. “But it’s been a trying year, it just has for everybody. The relationship with our fan base and community is so important to who Miami is… This team has advanced to a level in our program, I’m proud of them for that. We have done everything the right way. We’re building and our players see that. But there’s more to come.”

The Cowboys’ defense has been one of the best at sacking the QB in 2020, averaging 3.2 sacks per game (11th nationally).

“They create negative plays, leverage you into third and long, and in third and long just dominate you,” Diaz said. “Stylistically in a lot of ways, it’s how we want to play defense here. Play a lot of man coverage, there’s not a lot of easy throws. They’re going to force you to execute the ball down the field.”

Diaz also mentioned the emphasis in practice this week has been to stop OSU’s run game, an attack that is #36 nationally with 194.7 ypg, but will also be without leading rusher Chuba Hubbard, who is sitting out the bowl game to prep for the NFL Draft. However, both OSU backups in LD Brown and Dezmon Jackson have had strong games when replacing Hubbard in the past.

“That’s basic football, it’s a lot easier to hand the football off,” Diaz said. “A team like Oklahoma State, I’m impressed with the backs. They have guys that can make big plays happen. They want to control the game with their run game. They have an outstanding defense, want to pound the football and run it. For us, it is an immense challenge for our run defense. We’ve prepared well, know what kind of runs we’ll get. Now do your job and do it physically.”

Diaz mentioned there were no other opt-outs for the bowl game besides the previously announced Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche; he also declined to talk about other specific players possibly opting to go pro or stay at UM after the bowl, but hinted at good news on that front potentially coming soon.

“It’s on them when they choose to announce to the world,” Diaz said. “I think we’ll have other pleasant surprises coming, but that’s their moment.”

The Canes have only won one bowl game in the last 14 years (Russell Athletic Bowl vs. WVU, 2016), and Diaz believes a bowl win serves as a great momentum builder heading into the offseason.

“I think it can certainly serve that effect,” Diaz said. “I do think there’s a kick-on effect. We’re nothing like the team that played in Shreveport a year ago. We would like this to be a bridge to next year, know there will be key additions to the team next year. We’re trying to knock down these things that have gotten us in the past, and a bowl win is staring us right in the face.”

After a solid 8-2 season during a tumultuous year, Diaz feels being in a bowl game should serve as a reward for the team’s hard work in 2020.

“It felt great last night when we all checked into the hotel,” Diaz said. “We know our guys aren’t going to have the amazing bowl experience we’ve experienced in the past. But to get here made it feel more real. You always want players to feel the bowl is a reward for all their hard work. We’re very grateful to be here.”

Diaz also confirmed that starting DT Jared Harrison-Hunte will return from an elbow injury vs. OSU, and he has been a full participant in bowl practices.

Comments (30)

This is going to be a tightly contested game throughout. The team that shows up to play physical, smash mouth football should hold the upper hand. I’m honestly nervous about our rush defense - if McCloud plays anywhere else but at DE, or Jennings for that matter; we’ll be in for a long, long night.
I'm not big into recruiting rankings. But it's clear that our team is vastly superior to this team in terms of talent. I expect the below doesn't count transfers, either, which we've done as good as anyone with:

2016 UM 231.8 OkSU 184.3
2017 UM 248.7 OkSU 194.2
2018 UM 280.9 OkSU 209.9
2019 UM 222.1 OkSU 202.1
2020 UM 254.9 OkSU 195.4

Their rankings compare roughly to Louisville, Virginia and Pitt. We'll somehow make it a nail biter where the game is decided in the final series. But this is a team we should beat handily.
I will be very surprised if we win this game. We will not out coach OSU, so that means in order for us to win we will need to have better athletes across the board. Unfortunately, we don't have the advantage. I'm hoping that Mallory is used more in this game. I think he can give us some mismatch advantages on the offensive side of the ball. Also, would like to possibly see K. Smith get more PT. Wish it was a way Smith and Frierson could get on the field at the same time.
..... and we come out tackling like we are playing flag football.
Because flag football is even more basic than tackle football. While other coaches are trying to play chess, Manny is playing Candy Land.

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