Barry Jackson

Miami Hurricanes offense again malfunctions

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt on the sidelines as the Hurricanes lose 20-13 to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.
Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt on the sidelines as the Hurricanes lose 20-13 to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Postscripts and reaction from UM’s 20-13 loss to North Carolina at Hard Rock Stadium:

• One UM touchdown in 12 possessions.

That’s not going to cut it, folks, not against high-powered ACC offenses, not when you’re playing at home, not when you’re playing a team that came in allowing 31 points per game and ranked 88th in the country in total defense.

There was plenty of blame to go around.

For the second consecutive week, junior Brad Kaaya served up an uneven performance that won’t help his draft stock.

He didn’t get a ton of help from his receivers or his offensive line late but he wasn’t especially sharp, missing several throws, including what could have been a big play on 4th and 1 to David Njoku if he hadn’t thrown behind him.

Kaaya finished with pedestrian numbers: 16 for 31 for 224 yards.

Ahmmon Richards couldn’t latch onto at least three catchable balls.

At least twice, Stacy Coley wasn’t on the same page with Kaaya. Not only did Coley catch just two passes for 12 yards, but he committed his third costly red zone penalty in the past two games.

In fact, UM receivers caught only four passes – two by Coley and two by Richards for 55 yards.

The offensive line malfunctioned when needed most, with Trevor Darling allowing the strip sack that doomed UM’s final drive with 1:31 left. Kc McDermott had a foolish personal foul penalty early in the game.

And Mark Richt curiously called a couple of unsuccessful running plays on third and 4 and 5.

Third downs remain a problem: UM was 4 for 15; North Carolina, conversely, converted 14 of 23.

Special teams were again an issue, with Malcolm Lewis foolishly fielding the opening kickoff while running out of bounds at the 3 yard line. Michael Badgley hit two field goals but had one blocked from 36 yards.

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 299 yards and the Tar Heels ran for 162 (3.8 per carry), and there were some breakdowns in pass coverage, but you can’t really blame Miami’s defense for this loss, just as you couldn’t blame them for the 20-19 defeat to FSU.

The Hurricanes made enough stops in the second half – including one on its own goal-line -- with Corn Elder and Rashawn Jenkins (14 tackles apiece) and Shaquille Quarterman (11 tackles) playing a terrific game and UM’s defensive line acquitting itself admirably despite injuries to Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson, who did not return.

A few other notes and some reaction:

• This FSU hangover issue is very real. Since 2013, UM is 1-6 in the first two games it played each season after losing to the Seminoles. Miami has been outscored by 120 points in those seven games.

• UM fell to 4-2, and 1-2 in the ACC, at the halfway point of Richt’s first regular season at Miami but remains alive in the race for the Coastal Division title.

• Richt’s comments, from his press conference and on WQAM: “Another heartbreaking loss at home. I’m proud of this team and its effort. We’ve just got to get better. Bottom line, we have to execute better. I have to put them in better position to execute....

“There were some good moments and some moments we didn’t run it too good. There were some positive things to take out of it. There were some good things that happened but obviously not enough defensively.

“Brad did some really good things. I loved what he did on the drive when he broke out of the pocket a couple times and made a play with his wheels. He doesn’t do that very often. We’ll have to watch tape to look at every detail. There were a couple I’m sure he would like to have back. There were a couple he put on the money [that weren’t caught]. Overall, we protected well....

“Phenomenal job [by the defense on the goal-line stand]. A bunch of guys cared enough to get that done. That was huge. You look at the third down conversions and they got over half of them. [So] they got more plays.”

UM plays at Virginia Tech on Thursday and Richt said his players are “buying in. I don’t have to worry about keeping them together. They’re already together. They’re unified. They have trust for each other.”

• Center Nick Linder, on WQAM: “We came out too slow. We need to keep running the ball and establishing our dominance up front. We’ve got to get better at that. Physical play is what we need. We can’t have three and outs. That can stall a whole quarter. That last [strip sack] defines us, will screw the whole deal.”

• On the defensive injuries to Thomas and Jackson, coordinator Manny Diaz said: “We practice not feeling sorry for ourselves.”... Richt: “We’re pretty thin at a lot of positions. Our young players have stepped in and done a nice job.”

• Kaaya, on the late strip sack: “The guy hit me from behind. The ball was slippery.”... Kaaya said “I could have gotten [Njoku] more times.”... Kaaya, on WQAM: “Guys have to do the right thing when it matters. It starts with me. You can’t have guys doing their own things. Guys have to know the route and the protection and the signal. It starts with me. [The defense] is playing their hearts out. We have to come through for them.”

• I asked Richt on Tuesday if he needed to do more to maximize David Njoku. Richt said no at the time, but he was clearly a bigger part of the game plan today.

He was targeted at least six times in the first half and finished with 82 yards on four catches, all before intermission.

• Final running back numbers: Mark Walton 24 for 82 and Joe Yearby 10 for 74.

For some scathing comments by network analysts on the state of the Dolphins, please click here. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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