The Miami Hurricanes entered Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday afternoon as 25.5-point favorites over Middle Tennessee State and left with a 45-31 loss. Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s shocking defeat.
Much of the blame for Miami’s woes is on head coach Mario Cristobal
Throughout the spring and fall, Cristobal has received credit for bringing in a star-studded staff and a much-needed energy boost to the football program.
Yet, his team looked flat against Middle Tennessee State.
“Everyone’s down. We should have never lost,” safety Kamren Kinchens said after the game.
After gaining 4.9 yards per carry against Texas A&M’s elite defense, Miami only rushed for 60 yards on 38 attempts against MTSU.
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ play calling was questionable and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele did not prepare his defense well for Saturday, but Cristobal is ultimately in charge.
“They coach[ed] better than us, and they played better than us. They were better. We didn’t do a good enough job. There is no excuse,” Cristobal said.
Now, fans must question Cristobal and his staff. Cristobal helped bring these coaches together, and someone who would receive a large share of the credit when things go right should receive a large share of the blame when things go poorly.
Miami might have a quarterback controversy
Starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke may have been the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year in 2021, but you wouldn’t know that from his play on Saturday.
Van Dyke’s first pass was intercepted and his second was even worse – a pick-six. The signal-caller went 16-32 for 138 yards on Saturday and was benched for Jake Garcia in the third quarter.
Immediately after stepping in, Garcia led a touchdown drive to give Miami some life. Overall, Garcia’s passer rating of 127.3 was much better than Van Dyke’s rating of 84.
“[Garcia] provided some big plays,” Cristobal said. “He threw the ball well. He created some opportunities to go down and score. He did a really good job.”
It isn’t obvious whether Van Dyke has seriously regressed or if Gattis and Cristobal’s new offensive system has disrupted his rhythm as a quarterback.
Either way, the Hurricanes are now 2-2 and can’t afford to lose much more if they want to salvage the season and contend for the ACC Coastal title. Miami must figure out which quarterback will give them the best chance to win now.
The Hurricanes’ defense had their first real test this week and failed.
Miami’s defense gave up just over 12 points a game before Saturday, good enough for second in the ACC.
Through the first two games, Miami shut down Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss. However, neither of these teams are anything special offensively. Bethune-Cookman is a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) squad that went just 2-9 last season, while Southern Miss’ 31.2 points per game ranks 68th in the country.
In its only road test, Miami allowed just 17 points to the Aggies, with seven of them coming from a short drive after a Tyrique Stevenson fumble. The Hurricanes were able to get to quarterback Max Johnson a couple of times as well.
On paper, this was an elite performance. In context, however, A&M has had notable offensive struggles this season. The week before playing Miami, the Aggies scored only 14 points at home against Appalachian State, a team that allowed 63 to North Carolina in the first week of the season.
Allowing 45 points to MTSU, one of the worst offensive teams in Conference USA entering Saturday, may signal another tough ride for Miami’s defense in 2022.
The Hurricanes look to fix their issues and bounce back versus North Carolina at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 8 at 4 p.m.