The Miami Hurricanes gave Zion Nelson a minute to regroup after one of the most blatant gaffes of his young career. Miami took a timeout to stop the clock and regroup after Sean Adesanya burned past the left tackle at the line of scrimmage to drop Jarren Williams for a crushing sack late in the second quarter of a tight game.
Nelson trotted right back to his left tackle spot after the break, got into his stance and stared down Adesanya again.
It was deja vu. Adesanya blew right past the offensive lineman again and this time he did more than sack Williams with a blind-side hit. The ball flew out of the quarterback’s hands. Jacques Bristol pounced on the loose ball for the Central Michigan Chippewas. A fifth straight drive ended without points for the Hurricanes.
Miami’s offensive line has been its most glaring weakness all season and, against a theoretically overmatched opponent, the group played perhaps its worst game of the year Saturday. Although the they eventually pulled out a 17-12 win against Central Michigan, the Hurricanes went into halftime leading 7-2 and managed just 21 yards of total offenses in a particularly gruesome second quarter.
It was even more gruesome for the offensive line. Miami (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) spent the third quarter shuffling bodies around the uncertain unit after it gave up three sacks in the first half and three more tackles for loss. The Hurricanes briefly benched Nelson in favor of fellow offensive lineman John Campbell. They then put Nelson back and slid Campbell, who began the season as the right tackle before being benched after one game, over to right tackle, kicking DJ Scaife Jr. inside to right guard and benching fellow offensive lineman Jakai Clark.
Miami’s offensive line roulette never hit on a winning combination. The Hurricanes gave up four sacks and nine tackles for loss. They managed just 51 yards on 34 carries. Miami finished with only 301 total yards — 289 fewer than it piled up in a rout of the FCS Bethune-Cookman Wildcats last Saturday and 7 fewer than it managed in a loss to the then-No. 8 Florida Gators last month.
All three of the Chippewas’ first-half sacks came in the second quarter. One of those led to a takeaway. Another gave Central Michigan (2-2) points.
The Hurricanes started their fourth drive backed up at their own 7-yard line, which meant Williams passing out of his own end zone and he quickly had to panic. Defensive lineman Robi Stuart breezed past freshman offensive lineman Jakai Clark, making his third straight start at right guard, with a swim move and crashed into Williams as he threw. The ball bounced around in the end zone and Miami recovered for a safety — until replay review deemed it an incomplete pass.
The Hurricanes could exhale, but only for a moment. Two plays later, Bristol bullied his way past junior offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson, starting at left guard, and dropped Williams in the end zone. This time, the redshirt freshman couldn’t sneak away a throw before he crumpled to the Hard Rock Stadium turf.
Miami’s next drive stalled out near midfield after a first-down run went backward the second-down snap was fumbled. The drive after lasted just three plays with the two sacks and turnover, and the Hurricanes’ scoreless drought extended to six straight drives when the half ended in the middle of Miami’s next possession.
The Hurricanes finally found a rhythm to start the second half, marching down the field for an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
It wouldn’t last. The four plays on Miami’s next drive: incomplete pass with a quarterback hurry, run for a loss, incomplete pass, punt. The Hurricanes only scored three more points the rest of the way.
Central Michigan won one game a year ago. On Saturday, the Chippewas made Miami’s greatest weakness even more glaring.