Stuck at ground zero
Hurricanes shut out, finish Diaz’s first year with a losing season
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).
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.