Struggling Hurricanes upset by Michigan State 38-17 at home

Head coach Manny Diaz, during the singing of the alma matter after Miami’s 38-17 loss to Michigan State at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 18, 2021.
Head coach Manny Diaz during the singing of the alma matter after Miami’s 38-17 loss to Michigan State at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

On two separate occasions, Hurricanes graduate quarterback D’Eriq King found Oklahoma transfer wide receiver Charleston Rambo in the end zone. Rambo collected a single-game-high 12 receptions for 156 receiving yards in only his third game as a Hurricane.

But Rambo’s standout performance was one of the only positive takeaways from Miami’s 38-17 loss to unranked Michigan State.

Trailing by one touchdown with eight minutes remaining, a comeback appeared to be in reach for No. 24 Miami. But a week after a game-winning field goal lifted the Hurricanes to a narrow victory, the Michigan State Spartans delivered multiple daggers late at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday.

“Obviously, we are disappointed in our performance and disappointed in the outcome,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. “I have to give credit to Michigan State. Turnovers and the red zone told the story today. Missing opportunities and not creating any turnovers hurt – they won basically all the critical moments of the game.”

Following freshman kicker Andres Borregales’ career-long 55-yard field goal, Michigan State (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) completed each of its final drives with a touchdown to silence Miami (1-2). Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jalen Nailor and wide receiver Jayden Reed capped off the humid and overcast afternoon with an 8-yard rushing touchdown.

The Hurricanes have now lost four of their last five games dating back to last season.

“There’s still a long way to go in the season, this is a temporary situation,” Diaz said. “We still have the ACC to play for and we have the Coastal to play for, so we have to take a look at our personnel. We have to make the decisions on who is getting what opportunities out there because there have been some surprises.”

Despite nearing the red zone on the game’s first drive, UM turned the ball over when King fumbled on Miami’s first drive at the MSU 29-yard line. That play seemed like it set the offensive tone for the rest of the day. With an uncountable number of drops, plenty of costly penalties, negative plays at the worst times and crucial turnovers, the offense only scored two touchdowns and a field goal.

After a scoreless first quarter, King and the offense marched down the field to the 3-yard line. King fired a 3-yard pass to a wide-open, stationary Rambo for a 7-3 lead on fourth down.

Charleston Rambo (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half of Miami's game against Michigan State on Sept. 18 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Charleston Rambo (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second half of Miami’s game against Michigan State on Sept. 18 at Hard Rock Stadium. Photo credit: Josh Halper

After a missed Borregales field goal try and a turnover on downs, the Canes trailed 10-7 at the end of the first half. Defense on third downs kept the Hurricanes in the game, though keeping the Spartans behind the line of scrimmage didn’t last long.

In the second half, the Canes struggled to keep an even score after trading touchdowns in the third quarter. After pulling within three, Miami seemed to have a slight sign of life. After forcing an MSU punt, the offense had a chance to take the lead, but King was hit hard from behind and fumbled on third down for his third turnover of the day. It was another miscue by the offensive line and King’s third turnover of the day.

The Spartans needed just three plays to extend the lead to 10 points in under 1:30.

Borregales drilled a 55-yard field goal to keep Miami within a score on Miami’s next drive.

In the Spartans next offensive possession, on 4th-and-1 at Miami’s 40-yard line, Thorne kept it on a QB sneak and gained another first down. On the next play, Thorne hit Nailor for a 39-yard score to all but seal the victory.

King was picked off on the first play of the next drive which resulted in more turmoil for Miami, despite having totaled 29 first downs. Flawed football burned Miami from the start as 10 penalties led to nearly 100 costly yards. The Canes also had four turnovers and plenty of drops, while tackling remained a defensive issue.

“I just have to be better. Taking care of the ball is the quarterback’s job,” King said. “It’s my job to not turn over the ball. I take pride in that. I have to be cautious of the ball and protect the ball at all costs. I’d rather take a sack than throw a pick.”

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III ran for a game-most 172 yards, forcing criticism toward Miami’s inability to tackle in the open field.

“They were running harder through our tackles and we were running harder through contact and that’s on us. It’s very disappointing from where we’ve been throughout this year,” Diaz said. “I don’t know that they completed a pass down the field to a wide receiver until the touchdown on the third down in the red zone after the interception. That will be the point of emphasis this week defensively.”

King, who threw for nearly 400 yards and went back to the locker room at one point in the game because of shoulder issues, stated that he did not experience any discomfort in his throwing shoulder, but will have it looked at.

Miami’s next game is against Central Connecticut State on Saturday. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium.