Stuck at ground zero

Hur­ri­canes shut out, fin­ish Diaz’s first year with a los­ing sea­son

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS FRIDAY - By David Furones

SHREVE­PORT, La. — The day started with a re­port that the Mi­ami Hur­ri­canes and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos are ex­pected to part ways fol­low­ing their bowl game.

It ended with a good look as to why that may be what’s best.

In an in­ept of­fen­sive dis­play, Mi­ami dropped a 14-0 de­ci­sion to Louisiana Tech in the In­de­pen­dence

Bowl in front of an an­nounced at­ten­dance of 33,129 at Shreve­port, Louisiana’s In­de­pen­dence Sta­dium on Thurs­day. The most of­fen­sive ex­cite­ment for UM ar­guably came when backup quar­ter­back

Tate Martell merely en­tered for one un­suc­cess­ful se­ries for starter Jar­ren Wil­liams.

“Our ex­e­cu­tion on of­fense and our in­abil­ity to sus­tain drives on of­fense gave us no chance to win this foot­ball game,” UM coach Manny Diaz said.

The Hur­ri­canes (6-7), miss­ing seven key play­ers ei­ther be­cause they sat out the bowl game or were side­lined by injury, fin­ished the 2019 sea­son with a third con­sec­u­tive em­bar­rass­ing loss to come away with a los­ing record in Diaz’s first year at the helm.

It’s their first los­ing sea­son since 2014. Thurs­day’s de­feat was pre­ceded by losses to FIU and Duke to fin­ish the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“Every­body has high

as­pi­ra­tions, es­pe­cially we did, and it’s a dis­ap­point­ment,” se­nior Mi­ami line­backer Shaq Quar­ter­man said. “When you set goals and don’t reach them, that’s as clear-cut as it can be.

“It’s a dis­ap­point­ment, but it’s not a re­gret. It’s noth­ing like that, but of course you would be dis­ap­pointed if you set goals and aren’t able to reach them.”

Mi­ami’s poor bowl game run con­tin­ues. Since 2008, the Hur­ri­canes have lost nine of their last 10 bowl games, with the only win be­ing the 2016 Rus­sell Ath­letic Bowl vic­tory over West Vir­ginia.

As the Hur­ri­canes were shut out for the first time since the 58-0 loss to Clem­son in 2015 that got then-coach Al Golden fired, Mi­ami and Louisiana Tech (10-3) set an In­de­pen­dence Bowl record for most com­bined punts (18). Each team’s nine punts also set in­di­vid­ual team marks for the bowl.

Louisiana Tech threat­ened to ex­tend a 7-0 lead to two touch­downs, mak­ing ei­ther team’s first trip to the red zone early in the fourth quar­ter, but red­shirt fresh­man striker Gil­bert Fri­er­son jumped a route and re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion into Bull­dogs ter­ri­tory. He then tossed the ball to fresh­man cor­ner­back Te’Cory Couch to seem­ingly set up UM at the Louisiana Tech 29-yard line be­fore the play was re­viewed.

Af­ter the re­play, it was de­ter­mined Fri­er­son threw the ball for­ward. The Hur­ri­canes would in­stead start at mid­field.

N’Kosi Perry came in at quar­ter­back af­ter Mi­ami first went to Wil­liams and Martell. He picked up one first down, but the Hur­ri­canes’ of­fense stalled and punted. Perry was later in­ter­cepted with 3 min­utes, 22 sec­onds re­main­ing by Bull­dogs cor­ner­back Aaron Roberson. That drive only con­tin­ued af­ter UM nearly turned the ball over on what was called a fum­ble by tight end Will Mal­lory on the field but was changed to an in­com­plete pass upon re­view.

Wil­liams also threw an in­ter­cep­tion and was 9 of 20 for 94 yards. Perry was 5 of 13 for 53 yards.

“When Jar­ren was in there, [it was] just very mixed in terms of his de­ci­sion-mak­ing and idea of where to go with the foot­ball,” Diaz said. “I thought N’Kosi com­peted there to­ward the end and had some chances, and then, ob­vi­ously, we had the cru­cial turnover where we had a chance to tie the game.”

Martell came in at the 7:19 mark of the sec­ond quar­ter af­ter Wil­liams, start­ing af­ter the quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion was re­opened be­tween the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale and bowl game, was in­ef­fec­tive through his first four se­ries.

“We had a plan to get Tate in in the first half and give him a drive, re­gard­less of whether we were do­ing well or not do­ing well,” Diaz said.

Martell was in for six snaps, ex­tend­ing the se­ries with a third-down com­ple­tion to K.J. Os­born for 7 yards and a first down. It would be his only throw as he ran the other five plays, two of them sacks.

“I was pretty ex­cited when Tate got in, to get his chance.,” Os­born said. “I was ex­cited to see what he was go­ing to do. [He has] just got to keep work­ing go­ing into next sea­son to be bet­ter.”

Louisiana Tech scored first when run­ning back Is­rael Tucker went un­no­ticed slip­ping out of the back­field to take a short dump-off pass from quar­ter­back J’Mar Smith 26 yards for a touch­down in the sec­ond quar­ter.

The score capped a 13-play, 91-yard drive that took 5:18 off the clock early in the pe­riod, by far the great­est stretch of sus­tained ef­fec­tive­ness on of­fense in the first half. Smith was 4 for 5 on the drive while run­ning back Justin Hen­der­son had 32 rush­ing yards dur­ing the se­ries.

Smith was 13 of 28 for 163 yards, a touch­down and an in­ter­cep­tion. His 8-yard touch­down run with 1:15 left put Louisiana Tech up by the fi­nal mar­gin. Hen­der­son had 95 rush­ing yards for the Bull­dogs.

The Bull­dogs went into half­time lead­ing 7-0 af­ter the teams com­bined for the In­de­pen­dence Bowl’s first score­less open­ing quar­ter since 2010.

The Hur­ri­canes were with­out four key play­ers that sat out the In­de­pen­dence Bowl: de­fen­sive ends in red­shirt se­nior Trevon Hill and ju­nior Jonathan Garvin, se­nior line­backer Michael Pinck­ney and re­ceiver Jeff Thomas. Three im­por­tant of­fen­sive player, in­clud­ing ju­nior run­ning back DeeJay Dal­las (el­bow) and ju­nior left guard Navaughn Don­ald­son (knee), and also missed ac­tion Thurs­day.

Fresh­man line­backer Sam Brooks stood out with 12 tack­les play­ing for Pinck­ney. De­fen­sive ends Greg Rousseau and Scott Patchan each had 1 sacks. Rousseau fin­ished the sea­son with 15 ½ , ty­ing him for sec­ond on UM’s sin­gle-sea­son list with Greg Mark (1989).

AL DIAZ/MI­AMI HER­ALD

Mi­ami quar­ter­back Jar­ren Wil­liams is sacked by Louisiana Tech de­fen­sive end Mil­ton Wil­liams in the first quar­ter of the In­de­pen­dence Bowl in Shreve­port, La., on Thurs­day.

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