Penalties and turnovers haunt ‘Canes

The Hurricanes’ 10-6 loss to Tennessee was frustrating for everyone involved, and several Miami weaknesses were exposed to the nation by the Volunteers.

A recurring theme that must aggravate Head Coach Larry Coker is penalties. Throughout the season, the ‘Canes have committed costly penalties, a problem that hasn’t gone away at any point. In Saturday’s defeat, UM was called for 12 infractions that cost the team a total of 121 yards, while Tennessee was only penalized six times for 60 yards. Several of the ‘Canes’ penalties were especially beneficial for the Volunteers, including a questionable roughing the kicker call that kept UT’s only touchdown drive alive, a Kellen Winslow taunting penalty that cost the Hurricanes 15 yards in field position, and two Vince Wilfork personal fouls that gave the Volunteers first downs.

“It [receiving penalties] destroyed us today as it did last week and it’s something where…we don’t give ourselves a chance to win,” Coker said.

Offensive Woes

The offensive unit out gained Tennessee 321 yards to 170, but the team’s inability to convert in the red zone for a touchdown will be what haunts Hurricane fans for weeks to come. The team was in the red zone three times on Saturday and only managed two field goals. On their final drive late in the fourth quarter, the ‘Canes were flirting with a go-ahead touchdown until Brock Berlin was picked off by Gibril Wilson at the seven yard-line.

The Hurricanes converted eight out of 14 third downs but lost the time of possession battle 32:44 to 27:16. The running game was a non-factor as well, with Jarrett Payton gaining 91 yards on 15 carries, 40 of those yards coming on one run. Jason Geathers was only able to contribute 13 yards on five carries. The Volunteers out rushed the ‘Canes 124-115.

Oddities from the Game

The Hurricanes were held without a touchdown by the Volunteers, the first time an opponent has held UM without a touchdown at home since a 38-3 loss to Florida State on September 22, 1984. The ‘Canes were last kept out of the end zone on October 4, 1997 in a 47-0 loss to FSU. The last time the Hurricanes were held without an offensive touchdown was on November 10, 2001 in an 18-7 win over Boston College.

The loss snapped Miami’s home winning streak at 26 games. The streak dated back to a 28-20 win over West Virginia on October 30, 1999. The Hurricanes’ last home loss was to then second-ranked Penn State, 27-23, on September 18, 1999.

All is not Lost

Despite the furor that the loss has caused, the Hurricanes still have incentive to finish out the season with wins over Syracuse, Rutgers, and Pittsburgh. The ‘Canes can still win the Big East, with the only undefeated team in the conference being Pittsburgh, and the Hurricanes will get their shot at Larry Fitzgerald and the Panthers. Virginia Tech’s loss to Pitt put the Hokies behind the ‘Canes with two conference losses. West Virginia has only one conference loss, but that was to Miami, so UM would hold the tiebreaker over the Mountaineers.

If the Hurricanes win their last three conference games, they will have a great chance to earn the conference’s BCS bid. The loss to Tennessee does not affect the conference standings.