Just minutes after Miami ended its first losing season since 2007 with a disappointing 24-21 loss to South Carolina in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, the future of Hurricanes football said with conviction that he refused to give up hope.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya, who finished the year with 3,198 yards through the air for seventh all-time on UM’s single-season list — implored his teammates to pick up their heads and charge forward with conviction.
“I talked to a lot of guys after the game,’’ said Kaaya, 19, a rising sophomore. “I went to the defense and offense. I talked to the young guys and said, ‘You know, we have an opportunity to be really good next season.’
“Not just giving people false hope. I say that because I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I really think that with all the guys we have coming back, we can really be a factor next year in college football.
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“I went to the guys on offense — I talked to Joe [Yearby] and Gus [Edwards] and all the receiving corps. I talked to Deon Bush and [Raphael] Kirby.’’
Kaaya completed 19 of 33 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown Saturday, eclipsing the single-season marks of Stephen Morris (3,028 yards in 2013), Gino Torretta (3,060 in ’92 and 3,095 in ’91) and Steve Walsh (3,115 in ’88).
But Kaaya also had a costly interception Saturday that led to a field goal. He was sacked twice.
Kaaya was asked about the lacking vertical game against the Gamecocks, though tight end Standish Dobard caught a nice 32-yard pass toward the end of the game.
“There were a lot of times where they dropped about eight guys in coverage,’’ Kaaya replied. “We had seen that on film, too. That’s when a few of our runs started working, when they started dropping guys back.’’
Kaaya was asked what the mood was like in the locker room.
“We all hate losing,’’ he said. “I hate losing. It’s tough to go out like that.
“Our seniors basically told us, ‘Hold it down next year.’ For the young guys, of course it’s a loss, but we all know what we have to do to get better, and we’re all ready to get back to work. Next month, Jan. 11, is when we get back.’’
Be assured that even with no coaches to supervise, Kaaya will be gathering his teammates on Greentree Field as soon as possible.
He told his teammates Saturday, “Hey, [let’s] have our own practices. It doesn’t matter if it’s spring ball yet or not, we can still put in work on our own and get better.
“That’s what I plan to do, yeah.’’