Yes, the blocked PAT with 1:38 left proved decisive, a stunning development considering Michael Badgley was 72 for 72 on extra points before that block that doomed UM in an excruciating 20-19 loss to FSU.
But let’s be clear: UM’s underwhelming offense lost this game, mustering just 276 yards and repeatedly self-destructing.
More was necessary from Miami’s offense, and frankly, more should have been expected, considering UM has a projected first-round pick at quarterback in Brad Kaaya and was playing against an FSU defense that entered allowing 509 yards and 35.4 points per game and was blitzed by a North Carolina team that scored three points in a 31-point loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Everything changed after Kaaya lost a tooth when he was illegally targeted by FSU’s Matthew Thomas early in the third quarter. A few plays later, Kaaya threw a pick with UM potentially on the verge of going in for a 20-3 lead.
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Here’s what the Hurricanes did in their next three series (a whole lot of nothing), while FSU was erasing a 13-point lead:
• Kaaya’s pass bounced off Standish Dobard’s hands and Kaaya and Stacy Coley weren’t on the same page on a 3rd and 8 throw, with FSU pressuring despite rushing only three.
• A Tyree St. Louis holding penalty negated a scintillating Mark Walton touchdown, an unnecessary infraction because it had nothing to do with Walton’s run.
“One of the best runs I’ve seen in college football in a while,” Mark Richt said.
Faced with a 1st and 20, Richt called two runs for Joe Yearby, which netted only five yards. FSU again rushed only three on third down but still forced Kaaya into a hasty throw, which was incomplete, on 3rd and 15.
• UM’s next drive was undone by sacks against Nick Linder and Trevor Darling.
Credit Kaaya for recovering from a poor second half to throw the fourth down 11-yard touchdown to Coley with 1:38 left.
“I was trying to run it to get the first down on three runs,” Richt said. “It worked out well. Just a beautiful throw, great route. Great job of protecting.”
But beyond the missed extra point, UM couldn’t overcome a poor performance from the offensive line, a tepid running game that didn’t get many opportunities early and erratic play from Kaaya.
Kaaya’s numbers were underwhelming: 19 for 32 for 214 yards, the one touchdown and the one pick.
He averaged 6.7 yards per pass attempt against a team that came in allowing more than nine yards per pass attempt, second-worst in the country.
Kaaya already has thrown four picks this season. He threw five all of last year.
Here’s what NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said about Kaaya during the summer:
“Kaaya is very smooth and has plenty of arm talent. I'll be looking for him to show more poise under pressure this fall. If he can clean that up, he will take his game to a new level. He also needs to work on connecting his feet to his eyes. He quickly works through progressions with his eyes but sometimes his feet fail to catch up, which causes some balls to sail.
“His deep-ball accuracy is another area that needs improvement. It will be interesting to see how he functions in Mark Richt's system. I see some similarities to Jared Goff and Teddy Bridgewater. They share similar physical builds and arm talent, but I thought Goff and Bridgewater performed better under duress. [Kaaya] is at his best on quick-rhythm throws. The ball comes out quickly and accurately. He isn't much of a threat as a runner but he will occasionally escape and buy time.”
• UM averaged only 2.2 yards per carry (remember, sacks are counted in rushing stats in college football), with Yearby running 10 times for 39 yards and Walton 14 for 39 (2.8).
Among UM’s offensive players, only receivers Coley (7 for 80) and Ahmmon Richards (4 for 58) played especially well, and Coley had a silly offsides penalty before Kaaya’s pick early in the third. Coley, incidentally, had two TDs tonight (from 21 and 11 yards) and already has six touchdown receptions this season.
Meanwhile, Dalvin Cook continued his career of tormenting UM (and a bunch of other teams), with a 59-yard TD reception (Mike Pinckney – who was excellent otherwise - appeared to slip on the play) and rushing for 150 yards on 27 carries.
Meanwhile, FSU quarterback DeAndre Francois was 11 for 13 for 152 yards and two touchdowns after halftime, closing 20 for 31 for 234.
Nevertheless, I don’t blame the defense for this loss. In sum, allowing 20 points is a noble effort against an FSU team that entered averaging 41.4 points per game.
UM has now lost seven in a row, and 10 of 12, in this series. And UM hasn’t beaten FSU in South Florida since 2004, a Seminoles streak that has now stretched to six games. Ouch.
Some postgame reaction:
• Richt on WQAM and at the stadium: “Our guys fought. It was not an issue of fighting. It was an issue of execution on offense. The extra point, there’s no excuse for that. It’s a shame it comes down to an extra point, but that’s part of football. It would have been fun [to still be] playing…
“I’m very proud of our players’ effort overall. I’m sure there are some moments where it wasn’t just perfect. But I saw guys fighting their guts out. The defense played extremely well most of the game. Very few times did they struggle. They gave up a big play on the long touchdown pass, but other than that played extremely well.
“Offensively, just very inconsistent. We had a couple of bright moments, but just not good enough tonight to win, offensively. Special teams overall did pretty good. That return by [Braxton] Berrios was outstanding and gave us a lot of excitement and a lot of life. It gave us an opportunity to have a really short field to go ahead and get the touchdown. You turn it over deep in their territory like we did, had the one touchdown called back which hurt, obviously…those kinds of things, you can’t do. I told the guys the margin for error is going to get less and less as we go. You can’t make those types of mistakes and still win. It definitely starts with me. Just didn’t do a good enough job as the head coach. We’re just going to have to get it better.
“It was gratifying to see the guys turn the momentum around when it turned against us… We made too many mistakes to win a game like this.”
On going 4 for 13 on third down: “That’s not good enough. Had opportunities we didn’t cash in on.”
More Richt: “I thank the fan base for mass hysteria when we entered the place. Fans were just ready to go. We appreciate the support.”
In his WQAM interview, Richt didn’t mention fans throwing bottles on the field after the Jamal Carter targeting penalty that prolonged a late FSU drive that preceded the Kaaya touchdown to Coley.
• Kaaya: “Emotionally, it’s tough. We have to keep fighting. We can’t let this loss define us.... Took some hits to the head, which I wasn’t a fan of.”
• Mark Walton: “A loss is a loss. You take it like a man. It’s a bad feeling. We weren’t expecting this.”
• Kendrick Norton: “A couple times they squirted out and got some big runs.”
• News note: The ACC announced late tonight that Saturday’s North Carolina-at-UM game at 3:30 p.m. will be televised in part of the country on ABC and in ESPN2 in other markets.