MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The old adage that one cannot run away from his problems certainly proved true for the University of Miami on Saturday. The Hurricanes scraped up just 40 yards on the ground as their offensive line struggled mightily in a 52-13 road loss to No. 21 Kansas State.
UM had confidence in its ability to run the ball coming off a 41-32 victory over Boston College in which the Canes racked up 208 yards rushing. This week, the bubble burst. The Canes had negative or single-digit rushing yards for much of the first half, and they never sustained a rhythm offensively.
UM coach Al Golden said the Wildcats did not do anything surprising based on what the team saw on game tape, but apparently knowing in advance what Kansas State would do did not help UM much.
“Everything we saw we expected,” Golden said. “They played better than us. We weren’t good enough in the red zone. We didn’t convert enough on third down, didn’t make enough plays, never got a running game going. That’s it. Simple as that.”
With 17 returning starters, the veteran Wildcats quickly exposed the youth and inexperience on the Canes’ offensive line, which comprises three redshirt sophomores and one junior.
After an encouraging come-from-behind victory last week, Saturday’s blowout loss was a rude awakening for UM.
“We knew Kansas State was a tough team,” center Shane McDermott said, “and we knew that they were going to be a good pass-rush team, but at the end of the day, we just left too many plays on the field.”
True freshman Duke Johnson, whose highlight-reel 135-yard performance last week landed him in the ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, was limited to just 19 yards on six carries against the Wildcats. Senior Mike James, who starts in front of Johnson, did not do much better, with just 27 yards on nine attempts.
“We didn’t run the ball effectively enough,” Golden said. “I thought they did a nice job early, and then kind of the game got away, so we had to abandon the run a little bit. It was a combination of that.”
When Morris threw, he did so fairly well, completing 19 of 26 passes for 215 yards. Indeed, the Canes passed almost exclusively on the two drives on which UM scored in the first half.
However, constant harassment from the Kansas State defensive line made it difficult for Morris to get rid of the ball, and he took five sacks in the game.
“They’re a great team up front and all around,” left guard Jonathan Feliciano said. “They just really executed what they wanted to do. You’ve got to give hats off to them.”
Because of their inability to establish a running game, the Canes had trouble finishing drives throughout the game. They converted only five of 13 third-down opportunities, and in four trips to the red zone they scored a touchdown just once.
Though the offensive line certainly struggled, Morris took responsibility for the problems.
“I think the line did a great job,” he said. “A couple of times I should have thrown the ball out quicker. That’s not on the line. You could definitely put that blame on me. The O-line expects me to get the ball out at a certain time, and at the end of the day you as a quarterback have to do that.”