A long list of is­sues ex­posed in de­feat

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - Christy Cabr­era Chiri­nos

It was a fit­ting end for what was a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son for the Mi­ami Hur­ri­caes.

After fall­ing out of the Top 25, weath­er­ing a mid­sea­son four-game los­ing streak, shuf­fling quar­ter­backs like a deck of cards, los­ing their de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor to the head coach­ing job at Tem­ple and en­dur­ing a spate of em­bar­rass­ing head­lines gen­er­ated by a spate of so­cial me­dia gaffes, the Hur­ri­canes wrapped up 2018 with an em­bar­rass­ing 35-3 loss to Wis­con­sin in the Pin­stripe Bowl on Thurs­day night.

The loss was so ugly Hur­ri­canes ath­letic di­rec­tor Blake James took the un­usual step of post­ing a state­ment on Twit­ter late Thurs­day night say­ing he felt the loss to the Badgers was “un­ac­cept­able” and that he was “com­mit­ted to get­ting UM foot­ball back to na­tional promi­nence and that process is un­der­way.”

Whether that means the Hur­ri­canes will make changes to their coach­ing staff, scheme or per­son­nel is un­clear at this mo­ment. But Thurs­day’s loss was more proof Mi­ami has some se­vere is­sues that need to be fixed if they want to be not only a na­tional cham­pi­onship con­tender, but a con­tender in the ACC where Clemson’s shadow looms large.

Here, a look at some of what we learned about the Hur­ri­canes after their lat­est loss:


Richt’s seat is get­ting warmer...: It seems like a life­time ago that Mi­ami won 15 straight games be­tween 2016 and 2017, clinched its first Coastal Divi­sion ti­tle and notched its first 10-win sea­son since

2003 last year. But, it’s re­ally just been (an event­ful) 12 months. Since beat­ing beat­ing Vir­ginia on Nov. 18,

2017, the Hur­ri­canes have lost to Pitts­burgh, Clemson, Wis­con­sin (in the Orange Bowl), LSU, Vir­ginia, Bos­ton Col­lege, Duke, and Ge­or­gia Tech and Wis­con­sin, again, this time in the Pin­stripe Bowl. Coach Mark Richt has come un­der in­creas­ing fire from fans and for­mer play­ers to fix Mi­ami’s un­pro­duc­tive of­fense and solve the Hur­ri­canes’ quar­ter­back woes. Things re­main largely un­changed after all of those losses, which not only prompted Richt to be es­pe­cially in­tro­spec­tive after Thurs­day night’s loss. Things are not com­fort­able in Coral Gables right now.


...And he knows it: In his post-game com­ments to re­porters, Richt did not mince words, say­ing he put this loss on him and no one else. “Starts with me,” he said, echo­ing a phrase Mi­ami fans re­mem­ber for­mer Hur­ri­canes coach Al Golden say­ing more than once late in his ten­ure. “That’s where the buck stops. Head foot­ball coach, play-caller, the whole bit.” Those com­ments, in and of them­selves, were a change for Richt, who has through­out this dis­ap­point­ing sea­son de­fended his play-call­ing and called for more ex­e­cu­tion. Also dif­fer­ent? The fact he said “things got to get fixed” when asked if he would now con­sider bring­ing in help for the of­fense, which fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son ranked 92nd among 130 na­tional FBS pro­grams.


There is — and has been — dis­cord in the locker room: Even as the Hur­ri­canes have stum­bled through this dis­ap­point­ing sea­son, they have done their best to avoid pub­licly point­ing fin­gers at their team­mates and coaches for some of the prob­lems this year. Things were dif­fer­ent after Thurs­day’s loss, with vet­eran of­fen­sive play­ers like run­ning back Travis Homer and of­fen­sive line­man Tyree St. Louis say­ing there was a lack of ef­fort in Thurs­day’s loss. And de­fen­sive line­man Jonathan Garvin said Mi­ami’s de­fense needs to get over its “vic­tim men­tal­ity.” When pressed for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on that, Garvin said some

mem­bers of the de­fense think “ev­ery­body is wrong but us.” Those kinds of state­ments haven’t been made after the rest of Mi­ami’s losses.


The of­fense is a mess: Mi­ami’s six first downs against Wis­con­sin were the fewest they’ve man­aged in a game since that in­fa­mous 58-0 loss to Clemson in 2015 that marked the end of the Al Golden’s ten­ure at Mi­ami. The Hur­ri­canes were with­out Tyler Gauthier, their cen­ter who had started 29 straight games, be­cause of what Mi­ami de­scribed as “aca­demic rea­sons” and his ab­sence was felt. The run­ning game couldn’t get go­ing and was lim­ited to just 121 yards — with 62 of those com­ing on a sin­gle run play from Ma­lik Rosier. Only one re­ceiver caught a pass and quar­ter­back play was abysmal.


Mi­ami bet­ter hope Wil­liams is the an­swer at QB: Rosier was 5-of-12 for 46 yards with three in­ter­cep­tions against Wis­con­sin. When he was pulled from the game in fa­vor of N’Kosi Perry, Perry fared just as badly, go­ing 1-for-5 for 2 yards with a sack. . In his post-game re­marks, Richt con­ceded he hadn’t been com­fort­able with ei­ther Rosier or Perry’s play but said, again, he went with Rosier as the starter be­cause he “didn’t feel like [Perry] de­served the op­por­tu­nity to start” be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of his on-field per­for­mance and some off-field is­sues. Wil­liams

re­port­edly flirted with the idea of trans­fer­ring, but was con­vinced by Mi­ami’s coach­ing staff to stay at Mi­ami and now, the Hur­ri­canes have to hope the for­mer four-star prospect can be an ef­fec­tive op­tion.


Homer can’t get his mile­stones: For­mer Oxbridge Academy stand­out Travis Homer has been one of the bright spots for Mi­ami’s lack­lus­ter of­fense all sea­son. He came into the Pin­stripe Bowl need­ing just 31 yards to be­come only the 11th run­ning back in UM his­tory to to­tal

1,000 yards in a sea­son. He needed just 21 yards to also be­come the 11th run­ning back in UM his­tory to to­tal

2,000 yards in his ca­reer. And all he was able to get was 16 yards on 10 car­ries. “I didn’t feel the en­ergy when we first went out there, but it def­i­nitely went down more,” he said of how the Hur­ri­canes re­sponded after their rough start.


Life with Wil­lis might be dif­fi­cult: Let’s be clear: Wis­con­sin run­ning back Jonathan Tay­lor is a good run­ning back. A very, very good run­ning back who was the Doak Camp­bell Award win­ner this year. But, the Hur­ri­canes were with­out Ger­ald Wil­lis III, one of their de­fen­sive stal­warts up front, and that hurt the Hur­ri­canes. A lot. The de­fen­sive tackle missed the game with a hand in­jury, and that meant in­creased play­ing time for Tito Odenigbo, Pat Bethel and Nesta Sil­vera. Were they able to make plays? De­fen­sive end Jonathan Garvin said yes — but not enough. “You couldn’t help but think of Ger­ald, you know es­pe­cially some­times when they were kind of just pound­ing it down the mid­dle,” Garvin said. Wil­lis, a red­shirt se­nior, is headed to the NFL now. And Mi­ami on Thurs­day got a pre­view of what life will be like with­out him.


There was no happy send­off for Diaz: Thurs­day marked the fi­nal game of de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Manny Diaz’s ten­ure in Mi­ami, who ear­lier this month was named the head coach at Tem­ple. Diaz had said he wanted to come back and coach his Mi­ami play­ers one more time this sea­son, and many of those play­ers said they were in­spired to put to­gether one last im­pres­sive show­ing for him. They were un­able to do that. The 35 points Wis­con­sin scored were the most any team has posted against Mi­ami all sea­son. After the loss, Diaz posted on Twit­ter he felt “feel­ings of dis­gust and dis­ap­point­ment” by the way Mi­ami played Thurs­day.


There was no clar­ity from Mi­ami’s draftel­igi­ble ju­niors: In the course of the com­ing days, sev­eral draft-el­i­gi­ble ju­niors will have de­ci­sions to make about whether to be­ing their pro­fes­sional ca­reers or re­turn to Mi­ami for their se­nior years. Line­backer Zach McCloud an­nounced ahead of the bowl game he in­tended to re­turn to school, but after the loss, Travis Homer said he has yet to make a de­ci­sion. And Mi­ami has not made lineback­ers Shaq Quar­ter­man and Mike Pinck­ney or de­fen­sive end Joe Jack­son avail­able for in­ter­views since the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son. The dead­line to en­ter the draft is Jan. 14.


Vet­eran play­ers be­lieve Mi­ami’s woes can be fixed: As dis­ap­point­ing as Thurs­day was for the Hur­ri­canes and as aw­ful as their per­for­mance was, par­tic­u­larly on of­fense, sev­eral play­ers said they be­lieve Mi­ami’s is­sues can be fixed if coaches and play­ers are will­ing to work to­gether. Jaquan John­son, who has been one of Mi­ami’s heartand-soul play­ers the last two years, spoke plainly: “I def­i­nitely be­lieve they can fix it. They just have to be­lieve in each other and work with each other.”


Mi­ami fans re­act as the Hur­ri­canes trail Wis­con­sin, 14-3, in the first half dur­ing the Pin­stripe Bowl at Yan­kee Sta­dium in New York on Thurs­day.

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