“We got whipped.” Wide receiver and offensive line struggles prove detrimental to Miami’s success

Wide Receiver Dee Wiggins (8) catches his only pass during the third quarter of Miami's game against Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina on Saturday, October 10. Photo credit: Bart Boatwright/The Clemson Insider/ACC
Wide Receiver Dee Wiggins (8) catches a pass past Clemson defensive back Jalyn Phillips (25) during the 3rd quarter of Miami's game versus Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Caroline on Saturday, October 10.
Wide Receiver Dee Wiggins (8) catches his only pass during the third quarter of Miami's game against Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina on Saturday, October 10. Photo credit: Bart Boatwright/The Clemson Insider/ACC

There is one thing that Miami Hurricanes fans need to acknowledge before coming for the jugular of the players and coaching staff.

Clemson is a phenomenal football team. Travis Etienne is, as Miami defensive coordinator Blake Baker said, “the premier college football player.” You won’t find a better quarterback in college football this year than Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables exposed every possible flaw in Miami’s offense and Clemson’s offense took advantage of Miami’s defensive weaknesses.

There is no getting around the fact that Clemson is the best team in the country and to think that a Miami team that went 6-7 last season is going to turn around and beat a team like Clemson is unreasonable, no matter how many positive changes were made in the offseason. Sports just don’t work like that.

The most disappointing thing is that Miami played just about as badly as they possibly could have. If Miami played as well as they are capable of, the outcome may have been the same, but it would not have been as lopsided.

The Hurricanes are not a bad football team. They played so poorly they didn’t even give themselves a chance in the game. They committed too many penalties and did not have a solid game plan. With that being said, there are some noticeable and troubling problems, specifically with Miami’s wide receiver group and the offensive line.

Wide receivers need to be better, no exception

With the run game almost entirely nonexistent, Miami’s receivers had the chance to step up and make plays. Instead, just five of 16 passes thrown to receivers were caught. Receivers totaled 83 yards of offense, 42 of which came from freshman Keyshawn Smith’s catch in the fourth quarter.

Dee Wiggins played 43 of Miami’s 59 offensive snaps. The junior had seven targets and one reception for 24 yards. Four of his targets were 20 yards past the line of scrimmage and one of his deep targets was intercepted. Despite the ball being slightly underthrown on the interception, Wiggins didn’t even attempt to make a play on the ball.

Senior Mike Harley had five targets and three receptions for 17 yards. He played 42 of 59 offensive snaps. Junior Mark Pope had one target, but did not catch it. He played 29 of 59 offensive snaps.

Miami’s three most targeted receivers are all upperclassmen who have plenty of game experience yet have struggled tremendously. With five talented underclassmen wide receivers on the roster, Diaz said, “We are always included to play whoever we feel like gives us the best chance to win. There is no seniority. That’s not how we make any decisions in terms of who’s on the depth chart.”

However, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee called out his receivers for not winning any one-on-one battles, among other things.

“We had a lot of one-on-one matchups the other night and we didn’t win any of them or make those throws to give us a chance,” Lashlee said. “It wasn’t like we were throwing into double coverage all night. We lost every one-on-one battle there was. We will have to be creative to help our guys free up and get some completions and get some things to get us going.”

“It’s big time college football. When you play a good team like that you have to make plays vertically down the field both with the quarterback and the receivers. There is going to be contested throws and catches and we have not done a good job of making contested throws and catches down the field. You’re not going to have guys wide open the whole time.”

You can’t bring in a quarterback like D’Eriq King and not have receivers that can make plays on the ball. What’s puzzling is that these guys are all upperclassmen who have been in the program for years, so either they are not trying hard enough or they are simply not talented enough to compete with the top talent in the ACC. Either way, Miami must make a change at the receiver position if they want to give themselves a fair shot at winning games.

Offensive line shows true colors

Through the first three games of the season, it appeared that Miami’s offensive line had made tremendous improvements since its horrific performance last season.

Against Clemson, you can mostly credit the lack of offensive rhythm to the offensive line. Clemson’s defensive line completely dominated Miami’s front seven for the entire game. King had no opportunity to get settled in the pocket. He was sacked four times and backup quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who played in the fourth quarter, was sacked once.

UM’s running back core of Cam’Ron Harris, Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney combined for 11 yards on ten carries. For a team of Miami’s caliber, that is unacceptable on all fronts.

And Lashlee recognized that.

“We got whipped in every phase. We got whipped up front. We got whipped on the perimeter. I got whipped. I didn’t do a very good job. So, look, we got our tails kicked.”

The offensive line, along with the receivers, are the biggest part of why Miami lost and the most evident talent gap between Miami and Clemson. Clemson has four new offensive lineman and aside from receiver Amari Rodgers, the rest of the receivers are fresh faces.

If the Hurricanes can’t recruit and develop stronger talent at those two positions, they will never be able to compete with a team like Clemson, no matter how talented they are at other positions.