For the first time this season, the once-undefeated Miami Hurricanes’ play style finally caught up to them, at the most inopportune time.
In UM’s regular season finale, starting quarterback Malik Rosier completed just 44 percent of his passes, the run game managed only 45 yards on the ground and the defense simply ran out of gas at the end.
Led by freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, who had just three games of experience under his belt, the Pittsburgh Panthers pulled off the upset against the No. 2 Hurricanes in a 24-14 victory Friday afternoon at Heinz Field.
Pickett totaled 253 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, helping the Panthers (5-7, 3-5 ACC) control the pace for nearly the entire contest. Pittsburgh went 8-17 on third-down conversions and carried a 13-minute advantage in time of possession.
Time after time this year, Miami (10-1, 7-1 ACC) cut it close against unranked opponents, struggling to find momentum offensively until the second half or waiting until the final seconds to seal the victory.
For most of the season, it worked, and UM found itself with a record of 10-0 and on the brink of its first undefeated regular season since 2002, when the team went 12-0 and won the national championship.
But there was no comeback this game. There was no miracle. The Canes had finally dug themselves into too deep a hole and just could not recover.
The loss will almost certainly drop Miami out of the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings and will hurt the team’s chances to play for a national championship, even if it gets a win over No. 3 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game Dec. 2.
Rosier will undoubtedly shoulder the majority of the blame for the offense’s woes. The redshirt junior struggled immensely to make accurate throws to open receivers, specifically with the deep pass. He overthrew wide-open receivers, such as Ahmmon Richards and Jeff Thomas, on a handful of plays that would have resulted in touchdowns.
The Canes recorded just 232 yards of total offense, and a good chunk of that came with the result already decided in the game’s closing minutes.
Rosier finished with 187 yards passing and two touchdowns, along with 31 yards rushing.
The Hurricanes’ run game couldn’t gather any momentum, failing to find holes against the Panthers’ defensive line, which had one of its best overall performances of the year.
Miami’s defense put forth a valiant effort, forcing two turnovers and giving the Canes’ offense every opportunity to put points on the board. But it wasn’t enough, and toward the end of the final quarter, the defense had nothing left to give. It could no longer carry the team.
Junior safety Sheldrick Redwine led UM’s defense with 12 total tackles, one pass breakup and a forced fumble.
Pittsburgh was a team that had struggled on offense all year, coming into the matchup with just 11 touchdown passes on the season – the second fewest in the ACC behind Georgia Tech’s nine.
The Panthers also came into Friday afternoon without a clear starting quarterback. Sophomore Ben DiNucci was the starter until he was pulled in favor of Pickett against Virginia Tech Nov. 18.
Pickett did all he could to prove to coaches they made the right choice. It’s safe to say, he did just that in the team’s last game of the season.
UM head coach Mark Richt will have to wait for that elusive undefeated season, which he has never obtained in his 17 years as a head coach.
Miami will not have much time to mourn the loss. Kickoff against Clemson is set for 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an ACC title on the line.
– Miami was banged up against Pittsburgh, with All-ACC receiver Ahmmon Richards, three-time 2017 ACC Defensive Back of the Week Jaquan Johnson, starting cornerback Michael Jackson and starting tight end Christopher Herndon IV all getting injured. Only Johnson returned to the game.
– The loss snaps the Hurricanes’ 15-game winning streak dating back to last season.
– This marks the fourth-straight year Pittsburgh has beaten a top-three ranked team.