BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
During the past two weeks, it’s been quite challenging for me dealing with the Miami Hurricanes 45-31 loss to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders as I’ve been talking about this team on numerous podcasts.
The Hurricanes defense made Chase Cunningham look like a Heisman Trophy Candidate as he passed for 408 yards and three touchdowns, including a 98-yarder to DJ England-Chisholm.
Middle Tennessee never trailed, forced turnovers on Miami’s first three possessions, stopped the Hurricanes (2-2) on downs on three other occasions, and scored on passes of 69, 71 and 98 yards, and also added another big play of 89 yards as well.
Things got so bad for Miami that QB Tyler Van Dyke, the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie Of The Year last season, was pulled and replaced by Jake Garcia.
There is one that that really drives me crazy and that’s watching a college player being booed when he’s removed from a game.
Van Dyke completed 16-32 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown to Henry Parrish Jr. He also had two interceptions, those coming on Miami’s first and third plays from scrimmage.
Garcia completed 10-19 for 161 yards for the Hurricanes and was greeted with cheers when he entered the game.
Garcia entered the game midway through the third quarter and brought an immediate spark.
He engineered a five-play, 72-yard drive fueled by passes of 39 and 23 yards, Miami’s two biggest plays of the day to that point and got the Hurricanes within 31-17 on a one-yard rush by Thad Franklin, the first of his two scores on the day.
Going into the game MTSU was a 25.5 point underdog and you can only imagine what this did to the oddsmakers.
The contest was 10-0 for MTSU before Miami got on the board, 24-3 early in the second quarter when Cunningham scored on a nine-yard rushing play. The Hurricanes never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
According to SportRadar, the Hurricanes became the first Power 5 school this season to commit three turnovers this season in the first quarter.
The Blue Raiders went to the upper level of College Football, now called FBS, in 1999. Entering this game, they were 0-20 against opponents that were ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll when those games were played and outscored by 585 points, 868-283. They are now 1-21.
Middle Tennessee is now 3-0 all-time against Miami, with the other wins coming in 1931 and 1932.
In the end, 46,713 fans saw a very winnable contest get a way.
Not a great way to enter a bye-week.
As I mentioned before, for the past two weeks, I’ve done numerous podcasts over many networks including my own and had to describe what I saw at Hard Rock/Joe Robbie Stadium.
By the end of this time period, I simply got tired of talking about this game as the Hurricanes had two weeks to prepare for their next opponent, North Carolina (4-1).
On Friday’s Edition of Coffee and Sports, on the Spotlight Sports Network, I decided to pick the Hurricanes again.
I’m anticipating the Canes will be a hungry and determined bunch. Time will tell if I have to defend them again.
One would think that in two weeks, Hurricanes Coach Mario Cristobal has had plenty of time to watch enough video, have spirited practices in an effort to get the Canes back on track.
He’s already gone on record that Van Dyke will get the start against the Tar Heels.
If you want to go into a bye-week and are looking for a teaching moment, there are four statistics that matter.
First, Middle Tennessee State out gained Miami in total yards, 507-367.
Second, Miami amassed more first downs 26-14.
Third, Miami dominated time of possession 33:57-25:49.
Fourth, Miami struggled on third point conversions, going 7-20.
These are numbers that would have any coaching staff spinning their heads and if the Hurricanes have any shot at winning an ACC Title, much less regain the respect of the National Media, there is no doubt that Miami has to come away with a triumph over North Carolina.
The Tar Heels are not Bethune Cookman or the University Southern Mississippi University.
The enclosed videos in this story with Coach Cristobal and his four players tell the story of the difficult loss to Middle Tennessee and what was ahead during the bye-week.
We’ll see if the narrative is considerably different after the Tar Heels contest.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.
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