After flying high off a three-game win streak that had people talking about playing in the Orange Bowl, the Miami Hurricanes season has come to a screeching end.
Following the 14-0 loss to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the Independence Bowl, Miami (6-7, 4-4 ACC) recorded its first losing season since 2014. Not only that, but this game marks the third time this century that the Hurricanes have been shut out. The last time Miami suffered a shutout loss was the 58-0 loss to Clemson in 2015, which led to the firing of former coach Al Golden.
In the 44-year history of the Independence Bowl, no team has ever ended the game without scoring any points, until now.
“The version we saw tonight can’t take part in 2020 and that’s up to me to fix,” head coach Manny Diaz said after the game. “They obviously just made more plays than we did. I can’t fault the effort of our players. Obviously our execution on offense and our inability to sustain drives on offense gave us no chance to win this football game.”
Thursday’s game was undoubtedly Miami’s poorest offensive performance of the season. The team generated just 227 total yards of offense, 74 rushing yards and 153 passing yards.
“I think it just came down to execution,” senior receiver KJ Osborn said. “We weren’t able to executive and get it going, creating spark plays and things like that.”
Jarren Williams started the game at quarterback for Miami and struggled for the third consecutive game. The redshirt freshman completed 9 of 20 passes with 94 yards and one interception. Williams was pulled from the game with a little over seven minutes to go in the second quarter and was replaced by Tate Martell.
Martell, a redshirt sophomore transfer, played one series and took six total snaps, which consisted of a seven-yard pass to receiver KJ Osborn, in addition to two sacks and three plays where he was forced to run for short or no gain.
Williams came back in for the last two drives of the half and played all of the third quarter before he was replaced by N’Kosi Perry, who took over at quarterback for the remainder of the game.
Perry, a redshirt sophomore, finished the game completing 5 of 13 passes with 52 passing yards and one interception.
“We talked about this 12 months ago, about what it takes to be a quarterback at Miami and all the different patterns of behavior,” Diaz said. “And we wanted to make sure that our guys were still competing and felt that urgency to do everything right in that manner. Jarren in the last two weeks gave us the best chance to win by his performance, and it wasn’t reflected by the play today.”
Despite giving up a touchdown early in the second quarter, Miami’s defense is what kept the score close throughout the game. Redshirt freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau recorded 1.5 sacks in the game and brought his season total to 15.5 sacks, which ranks second place in the nation, just behind Ohio State’s Chase Young (16.5).
Freshman linebacker Sam Brooks, who started in place of Michael Pinckney, finished the game with 12 total tackles, including six solo tackles. Brooks made his first start of the season after Pinckney announced that he would not be playing in Miami’s final game in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.
“Sam’s first start to me was immaculate,” said senior linebacker Shaq Quarterman. “He didn’t know until [Pinckney] made his decision that he would be the guy. I think he came in a played great.”
Quarterman, the leader of Miami’s defense, made his 52nd career start in the game. The linebacker has started every single game since he became a Hurricane as a freshman four years ago.
“I don’t think y’all understand that that’s my guy,” Quarterman said on Diaz after the game. “Through it all, the ups and downs. I don’t regret nothing. I’m a Cane for life.”
The Bulldogs scored their first touchdown halfway through the second quarter on a 26-yard pass from quarterback J’Mar Smith to receiver Israel Tucker. Smith finished with 163 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. At the half, Miami, trailing 7-0, had generated a total of 153 yards of offense.
Miami appeared to gain some momentum when Gilbert Frierson intercepted Smith’s pass and ran to Louisiana Tech’s 45-yard line. Frierson attempted to lateral the ball to Te’Cory Couch on the return, but it was ruled an illegal forward pass, which forced Miami to start the drive at midfield instead of the Bulldog’s 29-yard line and ultimately the Canes had to punt the ball away on the drive.
“The key of the whole game was after Frierson’s interception,” Diaz said. “All the momentum, all the juice, but again for us to not be able to capitalize and all of a sudden have the momentum in a 7-7 game. We just couldn’t make one drive from half court to give us the chance to win the game.”
“When you come to a point like this there is a lesson to be learned on it. It’s a responsibility to correct the mistakes and fix what needs to be fixed and that will be our bridge into 2020.”