University of Miami

What Mark Richt told the Hurricanes after their loss, and the players’ impressions

Miami Hurricanes junior offensive lineman Jahair Jones consoles senior receiver Braxton Berrios after UM’s loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes junior offensive lineman Jahair Jones consoles senior receiver Braxton Berrios after UM’s loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Two Miami Hurricanes receivers were still in the locker room well past midnight Saturday after many had departed, just as UM’s season went bye-bye after a 34-24 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin late Saturday.

One receiver, graduated senior Braxton Berrios, represented the past, now that the Canes — 10-3 after their third consecutive loss — had finished their 2017 campaign.

The other receiver, soon-to-be redshirt junior Lawrence Cager, represented the future.

“It’s tough,’’ Braxton Berrios said softly, gathering his bags and getting ready to leave. “It sucks to say the least. But it’s been an incredible year. This team has been through so much. There have been so many ups and downs and magical times. It’s hard to walk away from it.”

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt addresses the media after UM lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 34-24 in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, December 30, 2017.

Cager, seemingly pensive after a career night of four catches for 76 yards and a 38-yard touchdown that put UM within three points of Wisconsin (13-1) in the third quarter, was asked how he felt about next season.

“Great team, great receiving corps,’’ Cager replied. “We’ve got guys coming up. We’re going to build on that and this season. Like Coach Richt said, ‘Go to the ACC Championship and win it this time.’’’

So, what else did Mark Richt say in the locker room?

“He told us, ‘Just stay up,’’ Cager replied. “It may not feel like a great season right now at this moment, but it is, and we’re going to build on it.’’’

Despite the last three losses, Richt told reporters he still viewed the season as “very successful in a lot of ways.’’

“Our program is definitely moving in the direction we want it to move,’’ he said, citing the victory over Florida State and winning the Coastal Division title as big achievements.

“We know we’re hungry for more,’’ Richt said, “and I can tell by looking at the eyes of our team that the guys coming back are going to be excited about taking it one step further next year.’’

▪ Defensive end Chad Thomas, who is a talented musician as well as football player, indicated he’s ready to play football in the NFL.

“I gotta go get ready for the next level,’’ said Thomas, who had UM’s only sack Saturday, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. “God blessed me to go on the next level. I’m trying to go a long time. This is my passion. This is what I love.”

▪ Fellow senior defensive end Trent Harris was asked if he got held by Wisconsin, which officials did not call and caused Richt to be penalized for an uncharacteristic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after he ranted and grabbed head linesman Gus Morris by the arm while complaining.

“Coach Richt, if he thought it was a hold, it was a hold,’’ Harris said. “He just wants the game to be called fair. It’s not an excuse for how the game went down. We missed a lot of opportunities.”

Referee Matt Loeffler said after the game that Richt grabbing the arm of Morris “was not a factor whatsoever’’ in the penalty. “When he came out onto the field to argue the call, and with our new interpretation with the rules the way we handle coaches now when they come out to argue a call, then it’s pretty much an immediate flag.”

▪ Junior cornerback Michael Jackson, who, along with defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, said he would wait to talk with his family and coaching staff about the possibility of entering the NFL Draft early. All he could think about, he said, was the game.

“This was no way to send the seniors out,’’ Jackson said. “We love them. They changed the program around. Chad Thomas, Chris Herndon, Trent Harris, Trevor Darling… They’re legends. Now it’s time for everybody to follow in their footsteps.”

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