Thursday, September 14, 2023

Miami Hurricane’s First Acts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Do the first three weeks of a season give you much of an indication of what type of team you are?

In many instances, major programs schedule weaker schools in what figures to be winnable games, plus a large payday for the smaller schools. These paydays enable smaller schools to pump revenue into their athletic department. There are times when the smaller school pulls off an upset.

What have we seen thus far in the opening weeks of the 2023 Season for the Miami Hurricanes?

On September 1, 2023, I felt that I was seeing double when the Hurricanes faced the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. Two Miami schools facing off in the opener.

As I was driving to the game, I actually had vibes that this game would be close since the Redhawks play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). When you talk about one of the best mid-major conferences in the country, this one is it. Very seldom are teams looking to leave the conference like others are around the conference. The MAC has its own championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

Any thoughts of this match-up being close were eliminated early as the Canes jumped out to a 16-0 first half lead and never looked back. 

The Hurricanes set the tone early with an impressive first drive that was three plays for 56 yards and lasted 1:25. QB Tyler Van Dyke connected with Colbie Young for a 44-yard touchdown. Young would amass four receptions for 79 yards.

Kicker Andy Borregales added three field goals of 34, 32 and 43 yards to finish the first half.

In the second half, the Hurricanes road to pay dirt was with the running attack. In the third quarter, Mark Fletcher rushed for a 26-yard touchdown. The Hurricanes got a pair of rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter from Henry Parrish for 12-yards and Donald Chaney had a 20-yard scamper.

Parrish led the Miami rushing attack with nine carries for 90 yards.

Van Dyke looked solid by completing 17-22 for 201 yards, one touchdown and one interception as the Canes rolled to a 38-3 win.

There was one major teaching moment and I asked Coach Mario Cristobal about it during the post-game press conference. It occurred when Leonard Taylor committed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty with Miami (Ohio) pinned at its own 4-yard line that moved the ball to the 19-yard line.

You can see that answer in the video inserted in this story.

The numbers don’t lie in this game, as the Hurricanes dominated offensively holding a 493-215 advantage. The Hurricanes out rushed Miami (Ohio) 250-51 and as I mentioned earlier, they had three rushing touchdowns. Defensively, the Canes made life difficult for Redhawks QB Brett Gabbert, sacking his three times.

The Hurricanes entered the game as 16.5 point favorites and they lived up to that prediction to start the season 1-0.

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Eight days later the No.23 Texas A&M Aggies came to town as 3 point favorites and the over-under was 50.5 points. 

In their previous match-up on September 17, 2022, Aggies Coach Jimbo Fisher and his team defeated the Hurricanes at home 17-9. This year, the oddsmakers gave the Hurricanes a 56% chance to win.

Before the game, I paid close attention to ESPN’s College Game Day Crew to gauge what they thought of this early signature contest for the Hurricanes.

Pat McAfee, Kirk Herbstreit, Joe Namath and Desmond Howard had the Aggies winning the contest. The senior member of the crew Lee Corso picked the Hurricanes.

The Aggies jumped out to a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Miami’s lone score was a Van Dyke touchdown pass for three yards to Young.

Texas A&M stretched its lead to 17-7 as Amari Daniels rushed for a nine-yard touchdown. But the Hurricanes closed out the first half by scoring 14 unanswered points as Van Dyke hit Isaiah Horton for a 52-yard touchdown with 11:08 left in the quarter. The Hurricanes struck again with 13 seconds left as Van Dyke Jacolby George for an 11-yard touchdown.

Early in the game, the Hurricanes had two major penalties and had a punt blocked. One of those penalties was for unnecessary roughness. Miami had a defensive holding penalty that paved the way for Texas A&M to take a 10-0 lead.

The Aggies got the ball in the second half and at the 9:09 mark, Randy Bond kicked a 28-yard field goal to trim the Canes lead to 21-20.

In the first half, special teams wasn’t the Hurricanes friend as a muffed punt by Davonte Brown at the Miami seven, led to a two plays, nine yard drive that gave the Aggies a 17-7 lead.

Special teams became the Hurricanes friend in the second half as Brashard Smith had an answer for Bond’s field goal by taking the ensuing kick-off 98-yards giving Miami a 28-20 lead at the 8:55 mark. Borregales proceeded to add a 34-yard field field and Miami extended its lead to 31-20 at the 5:42 mark.

The Aggies didn’t quit as they rounded out the scoring in the third quarter as Connor Weigman threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Earnest Crownover to cut the deficit to 31-26. The two point conversion failed.

The Hurricanes poured it on in the fourth quarter as Van Dyke threw for two touchdown passes. Both were to George for three and 64-yards. Borregales added a 50-yard field goal between the pair of touchdowns.

After the game, I asked Xavier Restrepo, who plays offense and special teams what he thought about the overall unit’s performance.

I also asked Van Dyke that with Miami’s 48-33 win, did this win send a message to college football fans that the Hurricanes should be taken seriously in 2023. We also talked about that if this signature victory will enable the Hurricanes draw higher crowds as the season progresses. Miami drew 49,024 vs Miami (Ohio) and 48,792 against Texas A&M.

You can see those videos in this story.

When you break down this contest by the numbers, Texas A&M held the first down advantage 26-16 and led time of possession 32:05-27:55. The Hurricanes led in total yards 451-433 but self destructed by amassing 10 penalties for 115 yards.

Individually, Van Dyke was 21-30-374 yards and five touchdowns. He didn’t throw any interceptions for a passer rating of 229.7.

George had five receptions for 94 yards and three touchdowns.

There was one moment at the 1:58 mark of the fourth quarter that looked worse than it subsequently became. Kam Kinchens was carted off the field due to a serious injury. 

He was taken to the hospital but during the post-game press conference, Cristobal became more upbeat that the injury wasn’t as serious as it looked. The Hurricanes Medical staff did a great job taking precautionary measures as both teams looked at Kinchens with deep concern.

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Cristobal was still excited about the win against a top caliber opponent and going into tonight’s contest against vs Bethune Cookman 1-1), Miami is now ranked 22 in the polls. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s expected to occur tonight.

On September 3, 2022, the Hurricanes crushed the Wildcats 70-13 at Hard Rock Stadium.

I’m not expecting much different in this contest. All Miami can hope for is keeping the key players sharp and seeing others get playing time for depth purposes. 

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can see his broadcasts on the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel. There is no cost to Subscribe.




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