BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
The road back to respectability for the Miami Hurricanes has taken its share of twists and turns under Coach Mario Cristobal.
Going into their home game vs the Louisville Cardinals on November 18, the Hurricanes entered the contest at 6-4 and qualified for a bowl game.
The Hurricanes were 6-0-1 all-time vs the Cardinals at home. A win for Louisville would give the Cardinals a spot in the ACC Championship Game. Moreover, this was a game where there would be a piece of hardware that would be given to the winner.
That piece of hardware was the Howard Schnellenberger Trophy as the legendary coach masterminded turnarounds for both programs.
The game was played with a temperature of 70 degrees under cloudy skies with winds at 10 MPH and the relative humidity at 79%.
The Cardinals entered the game as the No. 10 team in the country while Miami was unranked and ninth in the ACC.
During the first half, the Hurricanes didn’t look like an unranked opponent as they took a 21-20 lead at half at halftime. They also outscored Louisville 7-3 in the third quarter to take a 28-23 at the end of the stanza.
But the biggest Achilles heel for Miami all-season is not playing well for an entire 60 minutes which resulted in the Cardinals outscoring the Hurricanes 15-3 in the fourth quarter.
In what would turnout to be his last home game, QB Tyler Van Dyke had a strong outing with a 24-39, 327 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Van Dyke entered the transfer portal and will be the signal caller in 2024 for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Running back Mark Fletcher made his presence felt by with 17 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught one pass for 25 yards.
As he’s been all-season, Xavier Restrepo had a monster contest with eight receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Finally, kicker Andres Borregales proved why he’s one of the best kickers in by kicking one field goal for 51-yards and converted all four of his extra point opportunities. Expect to see him in the NFL in the future.
The Hurricanes amassed 486 yards in total offense, but penalties plagued the team as Miami had five for 50-yards.
The end result was a 38-31 Cardinals triumph the loss law Miami drop to 6-5 heading into its final game on the road against Boston College. The Cardinals would face Florida State in the ACC Title Game.
Check out the videos inside to see what Coach Cristobal, Van Dyke along with other players had to say.
How would the Hurricanes fare in New England on Friday, November 24?
Miami rolled to a 45-20 win and led 28-7 at halftime.
In what would turn out to be his final game, Van Dyke was 23-36 for 290 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 149.9.
The touchdowns came all over the place.
Running back Henry Parrish had 11 carries for 111 yards and two scores. Ajax Allen gained 68 yards and had a touchdown. Mark Fletcher’s number included 12 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown, Donald Chaney had three carries for 11 yards also added a touchdown.
After this game, Chaney entered the transfer portal and like Van Dyke wouldn’t play in the Hurricanes Bowl Game.
On this day, Xavier Restrepo had six receptions for 117 yards, Jacolby George had six receptions for 89 yards along with a touchdown. Finally, Colbie Young amassed three carries for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Once again, the Hurricanes rolled to an easy win and outscored Boston College 10-6 in the final quarter.
Miami was invited to the Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium) and took its 7-5 record to face the 6-6 Rutgers Scarlet Knights of the Big Ten. This would be essentially a home game in New York City for Rutgers on December 28, 2023.
As I mentioned earlier, the break between the Boston College game and the Pinstripe Bowl saw Van Dyke and Chaney depart via the transfer portal. There were other injuries to Miami as well.
This left Miami with Jacurri Brown as the starting quarterback and he was playing his first contest of the year.
He didn’t look bad as he was 20-31 for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also factored into the ground game by rushing for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
There was talk all-game by the ESPN announcers that Brown is contemplating the transfer portal to find a team that will give him more playing time. We’ll see how this plays out in the coming weeks.
Prior to the game, Rutgers had never defeated Miami.
Despite Restrepo’s 11 receptions for 99-yards and a touchdown, this would be the extent of Miami’s offense. Fletcher left the game in the first quarter due to an injury and you could see the frustration in the Canes face.
Meanwhile, Scarlet Knights running back Kyle Monangai led the ground attack and impressed the scouts with 25 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown.
QB Gavin Wimsatt proved to be the ultimate game manager as he was 7-15 for 84 yards but also had nine carries for nine yards with two touchdowns on the ground.
The result turned out to be a 31-24 win and Rutgers earned its first win over Miami in the series. The Hurricanes final points occurred with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter.
Miami has only won one bowl game in the past 12 seasons and you can rest assure it’s going to be an arduous off-season in Cristobal’s third year with the program.
One positive development in what would turnout to be a 7-6 season was the decision for Restrepo to return for the 2024 season. He was eligible for the 2024 draft.
The redshirt junior recorded 85 catches for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns. You can rest assure that he will return to the Hurricanes as the team’s top target. It remains to be seen as to see who Restrepo will be catching passes from.
To say that the 2023 season was a roller coaster ride is understating the obvious.
There is no doubt that Miami had two quality wins versus Miami (Ohio) and Texas A&M had the season going in the right direction in September. A win over Clemson during the ACC also helped.
But this is a team that was marred by inconsistency and if they was to keep the fan base, alumni interested, there has to be marked improvement in 2024 or the catcalls will be out for the ouster of Cristobal.
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in over the next 12 months.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at email@example.com and you can find him on Twitter/X @TribuneSouth.
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Also, Scott wrote his first book “Lessons From The Microphone” which can be purchased on Amazon and Kindle.