CORAL GABLES — Mark Richt earned a rep in the SEC as having the lowest resting pulse among that league’s coaches. But he admitted he gets hot under the collar, despite what you may see.
“I think everybody plays better when they’re angry,” he said. “I think I coach better when I’m mad. I think I get my point across better when I’m mad.”
Does he often coach mad?
“Yeah, sometimes I’m mad and no one knows I’m mad,” he said. “Guys on the headset know I’m mad. People will see a certain image of me looking calm and all that. They don’t necessarily hear everything I say or everything I think. I try to choose my words, because the words of a head coach are pretty powerful. If you say something to a kid in anger, it can set him back a minute. Some guys, it’ll roll off their back. Some guys, it’s, ‘Woah, the head coach just said that.’ I’ve learned over the years, you have to choose your words wisely.”
He’s not the only Hurricane who’s salty after last week’s loss at Pittsburgh. It was UM’s first after a 15-game winning streak. It dropped Miami (10-1, 7-1 ACC) out of the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday. UM checked in at No. 7. They’ll face newly No. 1 Clemson (11-1, 7-1) in the ACC Championship in Charlotte on Saturday (8 p.m., ABC).
For Miami to win, it’ll have a be a lot sharper than it was last time out.
“We sucked,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said of his team’s 14-point performance last Friday, pointing specifically to missed opportunities on first and second downs that led to third-and-longs. Miami was 4 for 15 on third down against Pitt; seven of those attempts were longer than 10 yards. Only four were three yards or shorter.
Brown was encouraged UM could find its game against Clemson, even though the Tigers’ defense is allowing the fourth-fewest points (13.8) and yards per play (4.34) in the nation. Sunday night was “our best night as an offense,” and Tuesday was “one of our best Tuesdays all year.” He said quarterback Malik Rosier, who struggled at Pitt, was “taking charge and pushing the tempo.”
“For whatever reason, we don’t respond well when we have success, and nobody’s talking bad about us,” Brown said. “We do respond for whatever reason when it’s prime time, so far.”
Why does this team seem to play better when the lights are brighter?
“I don’t know,” Richt said. “I’m glad we do. The lights will be as bright as they can be, for sure. So far we have, I don’t know, I guess the word is ’embrace.’ We’ve embraced the moment, the importance of a game, how much hype goes into a game. We’ve gotten excited. That’s good. … All I ask for them is every ounce of their competitive spirit. Turn it loose. We’ll see where we wind up in the end.”
Richt, 57, spent 15 successful years at Georgia before the marriage grew stale and he was fired. When he decided to continue coaching, wherever it was, he wanted to make a change that would help him rediscover his fire. For his last eight years at UGA, he turned over play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator. Looking back, that was a mistake.
The change at UM has worked wonders. Richt, 15-5 at his alma mater since taking over in 2016, was named ACC Coach of the Year on Tuesday. He won in a landslide vote (41 of 59 tallies, from media members and the league’s 14 head coaches). He didn’t speak on the honor, which was announced after his press conference. A UM spokesperson said he wasn’t interested in commenting on an individual honor.
He did, however, take a moment out of his 15-minute press conference to make a sarcastic dig at those who voted just one of his players first-team All-ACC.
After announcing the week’s captains, Richt said he wanted to read a list of his team’s All-ACC selections.
Those close to Richt expected the Miami job to rejuvenate him. Clearly, it has. Just ask his assistants, who have heard Angry Mark Richt during their in-game communication more than a few times.
“Because I’m coaching every snap, coaching quarterbacks, calling plays, right in the middle of everything, I do that more,” he said. “Just the passion of the game and the excitement of the game, for me personally, and I think everybody kind of gets it. When you’re the CEO and you’re watching everything, when you jump something or jump somebody, especially some of these kids, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ … You’ve got to be careful sometimes.
“It’s kind of like the Las Vegas thing: What’s said in Vegas stays in Vegas. It’s kind of like that with headsets. What’s said on the headset stays on the headset. But I try to not get too riled up.”
Other hits from his Tuesday press conference, in advance of the Hurricanes’ date with Clemson in the ACC Championship (8 p.m. Saturday, ABC):
* Richt isn’t out on the road recruiting this week. “I thanked the team today that I’m coaching and not on the road recruiting. I love recruiting, but it’s nice to be preparing for a game,” he said. “I think our recruits will understand why we’re not on the road this week.”
* Richt on Michael Irvin II: “He’s played in big games,” and “gets a ton of reps in practice. … He knows what to do, he knows how to do it, he’s just got to do it. There’s hardly been a player that didn’t raise his level of play when he became a starter.” Richt added UM “thought about” holding back on several plays without the injured Chris Herndon, but he plans to “do what we do. We’ve hardly run a snap in two years without a tight end. It’s very important to our offense.”
Brown said Brian Polendey and Scott Patchan are “still competing” for the backup job behind Irvin.
* How has Malik Rosier responded to being yanked against Pitt? Well, Richt said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt he gives us the best chance to win.” He said he doesn’t fault Rosier’s decision-making. Against Pitt, “he missed open receivers. Too often. Why he did that, I couldn’t sit there and watch the film and see” mechanical flaws.
* Chad Thomas, Jaquan Johnson, Braxton Berrios and Michael Badgley are coach-vote captains for this game. Permanent 2017 captains, per player vote, will be announced at UM’s year-end banquet.
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