Playing the blame game

Coach Randy Shannon ponders the events that lead to the 40-37 loss against Clemson.
Coach Randy Shannon ponders the events that lead to the 40-37 loss against Clemson.

The 40-37  overtime loss to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night is going to linger in the heads of the Miami Hurricanes’ coaching staff for a long time.

Everything heading into Saturday’s action seemed promising for the orange and green. Last week’s Georgia Tech win over Virginia Tech allowed Miami to control their own destiny in the ACC.

Extremity injuries had all been healed for the first time this season. Every player listed as probable played and there were no late scratches.

Saturday morning rain ruined tailgate festivities in the Land Shark Stadium parking lot but once kickoff time rolled around, skies cleared and the weather was picture perfect. Rain could not be used as an excuse as these two ACC foes squared off in ideal playing conditions.

Clemson missed a 41 yard field goal on their opening drive to give UM momentum.

But despite all the goodness, the Canes couldn’t capitalize.

Sure the players didn’t execute and Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford and running back C.J. Spiller are electrifying athletes, but the UM coaches did not maximize all the talent on this team and left the Canes in precarious situations.

There were numerous head scratchers head coach Randy Shannon, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and defensive coordinator John Loevett provided throughout a game that featured 12 lead changes.

After Spiller returned a 90-yard kickoff for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 14-10 with less than a minute left in the first half, Miami responded with a quick drive of their own. Running back Graig Cooper scampered 25 yards up the middle to set the Canes up at the Tiger 32-yard line. Shannon called a timeout but on the ensuing play, the Canes were flagged for having too many men on the field with 20 seconds left. The Canes would not score.

The Miami defesne did not blitz enough and couldn’t generate any pressure on quarterback Kyle Parker, a player more known for his skills on the diamond than the gridiron.

After senior Randy Phillips, playing with a torn labrum, picked off Parker in the endzone, UM elected to run the ball three times to attempt to kill the clock instead of pass and go for the kill with less than six minutes remaining.

Running back Damien Berry should have been getting the ball in red zone situations. He rushed for 55 yards on eight carries including a 23-yard touchdown run. He is a bruising back who is the best north-south runner on this team. He should have been getting carries on the goal line in overtime. Instead on 3rd and goal from the five-yard line, Whipple elected to draw up a pass for blocking specialist Tervaris Johnson. Johnson had two catches all season yet he was the intended target on the most crucial play. He ended up running the wrong route.

The coaches have to go back to the drawing board and hope they finish the last five games strong.

This is Shannon’s third year at the helm for UM. In his first year in 2007, UM jumped out to a hot 5-3 start but lost their final four games including getting embarrassed in the last game at the Orange Bowl by Virginia, 48-0. The Canes finished 5-7 and did not make a bowl game for the first time in 10 years.

Similarly, last year the Canes were 6-3 and controlled their own destiny in the ACC but gave up 472 yards on the ground to Goergia Tech, losing on a  Thursday night nationally televised game. The Canes would lose their next three contests ending the season with a loss to California in the Emerald Bowl.

This year similar questions are on the tip of the tongue of Canes fans. Sports talk radio phone lines are ringing and posts on message boards are turning into novels.

Is this team going to fade down the stretch again?

The coaching must preach the fundamentals and keep this team motivated, otherwise it will be another long second half stretch.

Justin Antweil may be contacted at jantweil@themiamihurricane.com.