Twenty postscripts after another UM-Notre Dame classic, a 30-27 Hurricanes loss in South Bend, Ind.:
• Jamal Carter has had a decent career at UM, if not fully up to expectations. But he will forever be remembered for the fumble recovery that wasn’t, his failed attempt to scoop up a Notre Dame fumble (after a jarring hit by UM linebacker C.J. Perry on tight end Durham Smythe) just outside Miami’s goalline with under two minutes left.
The question that will always be asked: How did Carter not come up with the ball there?
Instead, Notre Dame recovered, ran clock, kicked a 23-yard field goal to go ahead 30-27, leaving Miami with only 30 seconds to try to tie the game, not nearly enough.
Never miss a local story.
Carter, in his defense, recovered an onside kick earlier. But the fumble-recovery-that-wasn’t will be the sad signature moment of his career.
• UM had two timeouts after that fumble recovery but regrettably, didn’t have three because it squandered one unnecessarily on an early third quarter possession. Otherwise, UM would have gotten the ball back with about a minute left.
Brad Kaaya said he couldn’t remember why UM used that timeout early in the second half.
• At least credit UM for a valiant comeback from 20-0 down, with the Michael Jackson TD recovery of a Notre Dame punt-fielding-miscue giving the Canes a 27-20 lead with 6:49 left in the game. But Chad Thomas, among others, missed a tackle on Josh Adams’ 41-yard TD run just 56 seconds later that tied the score.
• Mark Richt, afterward, on WQAM: “We had a hard time getting any stops, had a hard time moving the ball. Looked like it would be an avalanche… Not having many answers at all…
“[After 20-0], we really started to find some answers on defense, moving the ball better on offense and our special teams obviously did some special things. We established a little bit of a run. When you get play-action, it helps. We had a little bit of momentum. Things started turning our way.”
He said the comeback from down 20-0 was “very impressive to me. They turned this thing around, which is very difficult to do. That part, people should be proud of. Wins and losses haven’t been great the last four games, obviously…. Once we got the lead, we went back to not having many answers on either side of the ball. After the [fumbled punt recovery touchdown], we didn’t get much going on either side.”
Richt said: “These guys are fighting their tails off for their university and I appreciate it.”
• The game ended, appropriately, with a Notre Dame sack, its fifth of the day, meaning Kaaya has been sacked 18 times in this ongoing UM four-game losing streak. The Irish entered with just six sacks in their first seven games.
“That’s what happens when you get behind, when you have to chuck the ball down after down, when you don’t establish the run well enough,” Richt said. “The other thing is if you have to drop back and throw it, there are going to be some times you get a sack. When you get behind, when you have to chuck it, there’s not much mystery when the defensive linemen come off the ball.”
Publicly at least, Richt has been more forgiving of the barrage of sacks allowed than his offensive line coach, Stacy Searels, has been. That might be different behind closed doors, presumably.
• This immensely disappointing offensive line shouldn’t be nearly this bad, unless most of their starters were simply overestimated by past UM coaches and Rivals.com.
Rivals rated all five UM starting linemen between 10th and 18th at their positions in their respective recruiting classes, with Tyree St. Louis 10th and Kc McDermott 11th.
WQAM said McDermott was replaced by Tyler Gauthier for at least one series early in the game.
Left tackle Trevor Darling allowed a sack, and center Nick Linder struggled at times. McDermott has had issues at guard all season.
• UM started protecting Kaaya more effectively only after often going to max protection in the second half, using Chris Herndon in a fullback/H-back role as an extra blocker. At times, UM used seven players in pass protection, with fullback Marquez Williams delivering some punishing blocks.
• The poor offensive line play was also evident in the running game, with Mark Walton limited to 45 yards on 18 carries. Joe Yearby had just one yard on six carries.
• Gus Edwards started along with Walton (Edwards’ first career start) and lost three yards on UM’s first play from scrimmage, finishing with minus one yard rushing on three attempts.
Factoring in Kaaya’s 35 lost yards on sacks (as college football does in tabulating running totals), UM closed with 18 yards rushing on 35 attempts. Dismal.
• Kaaya began the game 4 for 11 for 44 yards – including a bad interception --- but played well the rest of the way, closing 26 for 42 for 288 yards, including a two-yard TD pass to Njoku. Walton, with a one-yard run, had UM’s only other offensive touchdown.
But Kaaya is still holding onto the ball too long on some plays, including the last one of the game. “How do you take a sack [there]?” former UM standout offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez said on Twitter afterward.
• Kaaya, afterward: “We thought we had them… Second half, every one cut loose. Offensive line played a little better. Guys finally woke up. Just cut it loose in the second half.”
• Notre Dame, which entered 2-5, outgained UM, 411-306, was 8 for 16 on third downs and averaged 5.1 yards per rush, compared to 0.5 for Miami.
• Defensive highlights? Adrian Colbert dropped an interception but was otherwise very good, including an electrifying tackle on a curious 4th and 1 Notre Dame screen pass, giving UM possession. Trent Harris was very good at times.
But the freshmen linebackers were up-and-down, missing several tackles and having issues, at times, in pass coverage (as did linebacker Darrion Owens).
• Cornerback could be problematic next season, with Corn Elder and Colbert in their final year of eligibility. Ryan Mayes was attacked multiple times and victimized on a 54-yard pass when he filled in for Elder (thumb) early in the game.
• Richt has failed in his mission to make this a more disciplined team. UM had 10 penalties for 86 yards, including four more personal fouls.
• Stacy Coley caught a touchdown out of bounds and committed another key red zone penalty. Where have we heard this before?
Coley keeps having the same game over and over, with seven catches for 81 yards but the usual missteps. He’s the Mario Chalmers of UM football. Coley now has eight penalties in eight games, ridiculous for a receiver.
• A few receiving numbers, beyond Coley: David Njoku caught 4 for 45, Richards 3 for 51, Chris Herndon 5 for 30, Walton 3 for 38, Malcolm Lewis 2 for 12 and Dayall Harris 1 for 14.
• As AP’s Tim Reynolds noted, this is the first four-loss October for UM since 1953.
• The teams meet again on Nov. 11, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium.
• UM, obviously not yet bowl eligible at 4-4 and 1-3 in the ACC, closes with Pittsburgh next Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, then at Virginia, at North Carolina State and home to Duke.