Miami football: Close not good enough for Hurricanes
Good enough to lead unbeaten and 4th-ranked Florida State during the 3rd quarter.
Good enough to lead the 9th-ranked Louisville Cardinals in the 3rd quarter.
Good enough to have a chance to tie the score during the final couple of minutes against both of those teams … if they could just make … 1 … more … play.
But, ultimately, not good enough to make that play.
That’s where the Miami Hurricanes are at right now. After losing 27-20 at Florida State on Nov. 11, the Canes dropped another 1-score game Saturday, falling 38-31 to Louisville.
“Close isn’t good enough,” Canes coach Mario Cristobal said.
In a sense, it’s more frustrating to lose by 1 score as opposed to getting blown out every game.
The Hurricanes (6-5 overall, 2-5 ACC) could be seen as relatively close to success, but that doesn’t help them this year, and it’s arguable how much it will assist them next season because of the transitory nature of today’s college football. Your best players often bolt early for the NFL. Others flee for the transfer portal, and then you have the guys who run out eligibility.
Add it all up, and most coaches essentially are starting over again every spring.
Miami did some good things Saturday.
First of all, Louisville had allowed just 7 points during the 1st quarter all season (10 games). On Saturday, Miami put up 14 points during the 1st quarter against the Cardinals.
Fast forward to the 4th quarter. Trailing 38-31, Miami had a 1st-and-goal at the Louisville 4. But 1 run for a yard and then 3 straight incompletions turned the ball over on downs.
Miami had 1 more chance on the game’s final play as a “Hail Mary” was answered … sort of.
Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke’s pass into the end zone was caught by Xavier Restrepo … but only after it had been batted out the end zone and back into the field of play. Restrepo caught the ball at the Louisville 5-yard line, but he was tackled immediately, and time ran out on the Canes.
Here’s a closer look at the game and where the Canes go from here:
Offensive MVP: Slot receiver Restrepo was targeted 10 times and was incredibly productive, catching 8 passes for a career-high 193 yards and a score. For the season, Restrepo leads Miami in catches (68) and reception yards (876). That’s more catches and more yards than during his first 3 seasons combined. His 5 TD catches also are more than the 4 he scored in his first 3 years, during which he battled some injuries.
Defensive MVP: All-American safety Kam Kinchens saved a would-be touchdown by making a great read and a terrific break on a pass, resulting in his 5th interception of the year. Coupled with his 6 picks last year, Kinchens now has 11 interceptions while at Miami. That’s the most career interceptions by a Hurricanes player since the late and great Sean Taylor had 14 from 2001 to 2003.
Special teams MVP: Andres Borregales booted a 51-yard field goal with plenty to spare as the ball landed high up on the net. Borregales also saved a possible touchdown with his tackle on a kickoff return, driving the returner into the ground with a bit of old-time Hurricanes attitude.
Top freshman: Running back Mark Fletcher Jr. had 17 carries for a career-high 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fletcher is among the main players Miami will try to build around in 2024. He showed his speed and balance as he tight-roped down the sideline for a 54-yard run, nearly scoring. He showed his power on a 1-yard run as he initially ran into his own blockers before bouncing off and then breaking 2 tackles to reach the end zone. With his size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), speed and elusiveness, he has the look of an NFL running back.
Breakthrough performance: Van Dyke completed 24 of 39 passes for 327 yards and a touchdown. He threw no interceptions. He had no fumbles even though he took some massive hits. And he was decisive from his 1st play of the game, running for 7 yards when no passing lanes were open.
This was the Van Dyke of old. Had he played like this all year, Miami’s record would be better without a doubt.
This probably was the best Van Dyke has looked since Sept. 9, when he passed for 374 yards, 5 TDs and no picks.
But things fell apart for Van Dyke during a 5-game span during when Miami went 2-3. Starting with a horrid home loss to Georgia Tech during which Van Dyke threw 3 interceptions, it seemed like TVD lost his confidence. During those 5 games, he passed for 6 TDs with a horrific 11 picks, leading to him getting benched in favor of freshman Emory Williams in Miami’s biggest game of the year, against Florida State.
The only reason why Van Dyke got back into the starting lineup was because of an injury to Williams.
What’s next: Miami will visit Boston College (6-5, 3-4) on Friday for a post-Thanksgiving regular-season finale. Miami’s defense will look to bounce back after Saturday’s performance that included no sacks and only 3 tackles for loss.