sports psychologist & clinical psychology

Damn The Torpedoes This Saturday!

MIND GAMES

Damn the Torpedoes this Saturday

By John F Murray, PhD

 It was a decisive and welcome victory, but far from pretty any way you looked at it last Saturday. Brad Kaaya’s four touchdown passes and Phillip Dorsett’s stellar 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns led the charge in defeating an Arkansas State team that deserved to be beaten. What I liked most about this game was the way Kaaya handled himself and progressed. It’s never easy starting out and he is growing up fast. UM took care of business, made big plays, and did well enough in big moments to get to 2-1.

Despite the smiles and accolades, if you think I am happy, you are wrong. There were plenty of frowns to go around as well. I am not going to sugar coat anything in saying that this was actually a bland performance from UM standards. It was a below average showing that will succeed against the Arkansas State programs of the universe, but fail miserably against true talent.  With Nebraska looming in a few days, the grit and core of UM players, coaches, and faithful fans will tested like never before.  As a columnist and sports psychologist who loves the Canes and thinks big, I say “bring ‘em on” because we have a proud history on our side and anything can happen in this massively emotional sport where teamwork, momentum and turnovers often convert raw straw into pure gold.

Yet before we charge blindly ahead with the fervor and optimism of “nothing to lose” faith against a national powerhouse, let’s look at what this Hurricanes team actually accomplished last week and do so by staring straight into the truth serum of MPI statistics.  When you look at the numbers below showing “actual performance” throughout the entire game, you’ll wake quickly from your delusions of grandeur, tighten your belt, move to the edge of your seat, and prepare for nothing short of Armageddon against the Cornhuskers.

Here are the numbers:

Miami            Ark State

Total MPI                   .497               .459

Offense                       .482               .478

Defense                       .523               .446

Special Teams           .400               .397

Pressure Offense       .450               .479

Pressure Defense       .531               .550

Total Pressure            .507               .459

 

The final score was again meaningless in allowing us to understand the actual performance in this game.  The statistics above tell a story of relative mediocrity rather than strength. Sure there were exciting touchdown passes and catches, Duke Johnson runs, jarring tackles, and more, but if I wanted fancy artistry, sleight of hand, or fireworks I’d attend a Chris Angel show in Las Vegas or space mountain at Disney. I’m more interested in winning games and this team’s overall performance was below average at .497.  The nitty gritty play-by-play analysis revealed a sloppy achievement at best and one that will not go over well against big corn fed boys from the Midwest.

Miami’s win last week was also in large part a result of the opponent’s own inept play. While Miami was horrible on special teams (.400), Arkansas State stooped even lower (.397).  While Miami’s defense was better than the offense and should be given credit, the defense in pressure moments was slightly better than last week and miserably short of the goal of .650 set in this column last week. Good luck with that against a Nebraska team that knows how to score.

The Hurricanes need to protect the ball better Saturday, force turnovers, and avoid penalties and other mental errors. Two turnovers and 11 penalties will rarely get the job done against better opponents. Miami controlled the line of scrimmage better in amassing 488 yards and yielding only 329, but the runs and throws were achieved in spurts. I would like to see more consistent and dominating play throughout the game.

Folks, we have our hands, feet, teeth, bodies, and minds full facing the 9th ranked rushing attack in the nation. Players need to dig deep and find a fiery source of toughness and resilience that can transform a 2-1 average team into the talk of the college football nation. Come on!

This is a huge opportunity and I am excited but will remain objective in calling it the way it is. That is the only path to success. The honesty inherent in MPI numbers will simply expose our  reasons for celebration or despair. There is no easy way in sport. If you want to savor the rich spoils of a hard fought battle you must first risk the pain and utter horror of an agonizing defeat.

Good Luck UM! And yes coach, you can use this as your speech to the team before the game!

John F Murray

Dr. John F. Murray, described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, is a South Florida native and licensed clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach. He provides mental coaching and sports psychology services, counseling, speeches and seminars. He recently authored his second book, “The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History,” destroying stigmas about the mental game in sports and showing football teams how to perform better and win more games by enhancing team performance assessments and training. For further information call Dr. Murray at 561-596-9898, visit johnfmurray.com or email johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

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