Just a season ago, the Miami Hurricanes were on their way to making an Orange Bowl appearance for the first time since 2003 and a No. 2 national ranking.
Fast forward less than one year later and Miami finds itself in desperate times.
The Hurricanes couldn’t weather the storm on a sloppy and muddy evening at Hard Rock Stadium, falling 20-12 against the Duke Blue Devils.
With Miami’s third consecutive loss, the Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3 ACC) are still in search of answers as fans begin to grow restless.
Richt still doesn’t know who his “guy” is
Some may have thought we had seen the last of N’Kosi Perry for now – at least early in games – but head coach Mark Richt threw another curveball.
Fifth-year senior Malik Rosier started and played two unsuccessful drives, which led to a punt and then a failed fourth-down conversion. And with 7:28 left in the first quarter, fans saw Perry under center once again.
The redshirt freshman also failed to score in two drives.
And if you thought that was the end of it – Rosier came back in with 13:23 left in the second quarter. By that point, it was nearly impossible to get a read for either quarterback as both teams primarily ran the ball because of ongoing, pouring rain.
“You’d love to have one quarterback who’s playing his tail off and there’s no question who the guy is,” Richt said. “I think it would be in our best interest if one guy steps up and balls out and plays great. We’re still trying to find that answer.”
Then for the majority of the fourth quarter, it was Perry again leading Miami under center, only to heavily struggle with both ball security and accuracy throwing the football.
Rosier, who played 10 possessions, completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 76 yards while Perry finished five of 16 for 35 yards on six drives.
“The performance I had tonight is definitely not acceptable,” Perry said. “I feel like we’re not executing when we have to. Sometimes the quarterback will mess up or the receiver, something like that. For the most part, we just have to execute.”
With the loss, the Hurricanes are likely out of the running for their second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title, and the quarterback competition between Rosier and Perry is more uncertain and confusing than ever.
At this point, even true freshman Jarren Williams could see some playing time.
“I think anything is possible at this point,” Richt said. “Obviously, the redshirt rule would allow him to play a bit. So, I’m not saying that couldn’t happen.
3rd down continues to be major issue
The Hurricanes went 3-14 on third down, granted in a rain filled contest, but the statistics don’t even tell the whole story. Miami, even when the field was dry, truly doesn’t know what its identity is on third-and-short situations.
This was evidenced during the Canes’ second offensive drive when they had the ball on their own 49-yard line on a 3rd-and-2 situation. UM ran the ball up the middle – like we have seen often in these scenarios this season – with Travis Homer for no gain.
The question is whether Richt is doing this because of his utmost trust in his running backs or his lack of it in his quarterbacks.
Either way, this issue has plagued the Canes all season.
Gerald Willis III has first-round pick potential
The redshirt senior defensive end tallied two tackles for loss, which makes 16 total on the season.
The proof is in the pudding. Willis’ stats look good – he leads the team in tackles for loss on the season and is first with 45 total tackles among defensive linemen – but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Willis flat out jumps off the screen when you watch him and clearly passes the eye test. He is explosive and is often the first one off the line.
NFL teams will want that talent, and as long as he can keep his off-the-field issues in line, the rest will take care of itself.
“I told them boys at the hotel, I wish I had more games to play, but I have three more games left in a Miami uniform and a possibility of four,” Willis said. “I just told them I just want you all to keep having my back and keep going strong and just keep fighting and take it one game at a time.”