MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – As Saturday night greeted Sunday morning deep beneath Hard Rock Stadium here, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz paused to find the right words. Diaz is the son of a former Miami mayor, and he grew up here in the heyday of swagger, national titles and an endless parade of All-Americans.
Before the start of the season, Diaz came up with a goofy gimmick to attempt to incentivize his team to force more turnovers. His idea of a “Turnover Chain” to coronate the defender who delivers a takeaway unintentionally spawned a 36-inch, five-pound emblem of Miami’s resurgence. “I saw something tonight I’ve never seen before,” he said, pausing for a moment. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd react to a turnover like that, at any game I’ve ever been to.”
On the second play of No. 7 Miami’s 41-8 blowout of No. 3 Notre Dame, a tipped Brandon Wimbush pass wobbled in the air in the Miami secondary. As it hung, an inhale of collective anticipation enveloped the stadium – the possibility of a turnover putting the entire crowd of 65,303 on the precipice of eruption. The ball landed on the ground to an exhale of disappointment.
But that moment foreshadowed a night that may well become a hallmark of this Miami revival, as Miami’s four turnovers prompted louder, lengthier and more elaborate serenades of cheers from the fans than any of Miami’s four offensive touchdowns. Aside from the turnovers, the box score details of Miami’s blowout are mostly inconsequential. This will be remembered as the night Miami’s Turnover Chain went form a viral sensation to a visceral feeling, the link between Miami’s swaggery past and precocious present. “I know! I know!” Diaz said when asked about the veracity of the turnover celebrations. “That’s the part we never could have imagined. What we didn’t predict was the connection between that and the community. How people could relate to that is beyond our expectations.”
Diaz drove to the heart of this night for Miami, which may well be remembered as the night the Hurricanes formally announced to the college football world that they’re back. This wasn’t about Miami looking like Miami of old – limiting star Notre Dame tailback Josh Adams to 40 yards on 16 carries, mauling the Irish’s vaunted offensive line and likely launching the Hurricanes into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings this week.