Jon Feliciano has manned the University of Miami’s offensive line for more than three years.
But not until now has he blamed the linemen for a loss.
“We lost the game for our team,” left guard Feliciano said Wednesday, the first day the Hurricanes practiced after losing 31-13 at Louisville on Monday night — and only three days before the home opener against Florida A&M. “That’s the first time since I’ve been here that I think we were the reason we lost.”
The Hurricanes (0-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) gained 244 total yards Monday but only 70 on the ground as the Cardinals stacked the box with eight and nine defenders. True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was hurried several times and sacked twice. The Canes, who averaged 2.4 yards a carry and converted 1 of 13 third-down attempts, knew what was coming, Feliciano and center Shane McDermott said. They just couldn’t stop it.
The two linemen blamed poor communication along the line and some deficient technical skills.
“It needs to be better, obviously,” Feliciano said of the faulty communication that was sometimes not fast enough and other times not echoed properly. “There were times when we were slow and we couldn’t change the protection or we couldn’t get everything communicated out — a couple times while he got hit,” he said of Kaaya. “The whole process has to be faster.”
True freshman receiver Braxton Berrios, one of the bright spots for Miami on Monday, said the entire offense needs to improve. “Everything — you name it,” Berrios said Wednesday. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Berrios said of the offensive line, “They did some good things. They got a lot of things right. But, you know, the four out of the five can get it right and the fifth can get it wrong and it’s a busted play. They’ll get it. I’m not too concerned.”
With 6-6, 322-pound junior Ereck Flowers at left tackle, the left side is dominant. The right side, with sophomore Taylor Gadbois making his first start at right tackle and sophomore Danny Isidora his first start at right guard, is the least experienced. But the starting five at Louisville played the entire game.
“We never got in sync with each other,’’ Feliciano said. “That’s probably why we didn’t sub.”
Feliciano said the adjustments made were minimal because the linemen knew what was coming. “Maybe small ones,” he said. “Nothing too big.’’
Both McDermott and Feliciano said Kaaya, who completed 17 of 29 passes with a touchdown and two interceptions, is not to blame.
“He took a lot of hits and he got right back up and that really impressed me,” McDermott said. “He did a great job communicating with us. I’m not mad at Brad. I’m not blaming Brad at all. It’s on the offensive line for this game.”
When CaneSport.com asked McDermott about offensive line coach Art Kehoe coaching upstairs from the box instead of being on the field, the center said Kehoe relayed information to a graduate assistant “through the headphones.” The GA communicated the information to the players.
McDermott was asked how the line could fix the problems.
“Just going over the film, over-exaggerating communication during practice, making sure we have all our technique down, working with each other a little more, really working on having calls and echoing the calls from the guard to the tackle and stuff like that,” he said.
Technically, the Canes played with their pad level too high, McDermott said.
“We needed to play a little lower,” he said. “We’re going to get that right. We’re going to get on the sled, we’re going to get under the chute. We’re just going to make a big emphasis this week of staying low and hitting low and driving of the ball.
“We need to tighten up and execute better as a unit.”