Miami coach goes out a winner
APPEALS NEWS SERVICE
BOISE, Idaho – Miami head coach Larry Coker walked away from the Hurricanes football program a winner.
Coker, who was fired after the Hurricanes defeated Boston College in late November, guided Miami to a 21-20 win against the Wolf Pack at the 10th annual MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
Midway through Miami’s postgame news conference, Larry Maneely, an executive officer of the bowl committee, told Coker this year’s attendance was the highest for a non-Boise team. More than 28,000 people saw the New Year’s Eve game.
“This is a great testament to the Miami football program,” Maneely said.
Because of the coaching transition, Miami was missing two assistant coaches and two graduate assistants.
“With the coaching scenario taking place, we go to work with what we get,” said quarterback Kirby Freeman.
Coker said he was proud of his team.
“The players wanted to win awfully bad,” he said. “We played a good football game.”
Coker praised his seniors, many of whom were recruited by the Oklahoma native.
“I wish our seniors the best. They’ll work out and represent themselves well,” he added.
As for the future, Coker said Miami will benefit from 19 starters returning to the team next season.
Winning a national championship, though, doesn’t necessarily guarantee job security.
After winning the national championship during his first year at Miami, the Hurricanes program slowly declined in number of wins and major bowl appearances. This year’s team finished 6-6, but Coker said the record could have easily been 8-4 or 9-3.
“We had four games decided by a touchdown or less,” he said. “We competed in all those games.”
Now, Coker will be finishing his last trip with Miami when the team leaves Boise for its flight to southern Florida today.
After finishing the news conference, Coker talked to a few Miami fans and several reporters. Although he doesn’t have any plans for the future, he said he would like to coach again.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Coker, though, said he will remember his final game with Miami.
“It was emotional, a sad time for me and some of them. Now it’s over.”
First-time opponents make an impression on Miami. The Hurricanes have now defeated nine consecutive opponents in first-time games and are 14-1 since 1991. When the Hurricanes score first, Miami has posted an 189-19 record since 1983. The last exception happened this season during the Georgia Tech game. After scoring first, the Yellow Jackets came back late in the fourth quarter for a 30-23 win.
The Hurricane’s run defense is the best in the school’s history. Through 12 games during the regular season, the Hurricanes allowed an average of 66 yards.
Despite a 6-6 record coming into the MPC Computers Bowl Miami is probably the best .500 team in any bowl game this season. A difference of seven points or less affected the outcome in seven games. A five-point swing in two losses could have easily given the Hurricanes an 8-4 record.
Miami lost four of five league games on the road.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
The Hurricanes have a storied history. Since 1999 the Hurricanes have had the most returns run back for touchdowns, 13. During the past two seasons, however, Miami has scored only four returns.