The Miami Hurricanes won big, Mario Cristobal showed off his dance moves, safety Kam Kinchens appears to have escaped major injury and the Canes are ranked for the first time in nearly a year.
A lot could have gone horribly wrong Saturday, but more ended up going right by Sunday after UM’s 48-33 victory over then-No. 23 Texas A&M.
“HUGE THANK YOU to HURRICANE NATION FOR MAKING THE ROCK ROCK!!!” UM coach Mario Cristobal posted on social media Sunday afternoon, accompanied by four photos of deliriously happy Hurricanes fans amid the crowd of 48,792. “See you Thursday. #GoCanes”
— Mario Cristobal (@coach_cristobal) September 10, 2023
Early Monday morning on WQAM radio, Cristobal was asked about Kinchens after his collision on a tackle near the end of the game resulted in his being taken to the Ryder Trauma Center of Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“Kam is doing good,’’ Cristobal said. “Ran all the tests and all the evaluations. He’s in good shape, man. He’s fine. He’s gonna be well. He’s gonna be really good. He doesn’t have anything that’s too serious. He just has some football stuff and we’re going to be in great shape.”
Sunday afternoon, All-American Kinchens communicated publicly on social media for the first time after the incident.
“I want to thank everyone for the prayers,’’ Kinchens posted on his social media account. “I’m doing better. Love y’all.’’ The post was accompanied by an emoji of hands throwing up the U.
That message came after UM’s official social media account sent out at about 11: 45 p.m. Saturday a photo of a smiling Kinchens throwing up the U from his hospital bed. “All we can say is GOD is Amazing........’’ the caption reads, with the words “That’s one tough Cane” underneath the photo.
Not that everything is perfect by any means. The now-No. 22 Canes lost starting defensive linemen Akheem Mesidor and Branson Deen to what is believed to be lower-extremity injuries in the first half Saturday, and also lost freshman standout running back Mark Fletcher to injury. The type of injuries were not specified by Cristobal in his postgame news conference, but the coach talked about it in general terms on WQAM.
“Speaking of the defensive line, a couple guys got banged up,’’ Rose told the coach. “Do you expect to get a couple of those guys back to help you down the road?”
“Yeah, I think so,’’ Cristobal replied. “They better. Heck we don’t have a ton of them. But they played really, really hard. I mean but it’s the season. That was a really, really physical game. The defense stopped it for almost 80 plays...
“But the bigs, they went, man. They went hard. The humidity down here is different. But the weather was perfect. You should be able to play 100 plays in that weather and not worry about it. We expect these guys to bounce back, get healthy and get right back in there.”
In his postgame conference, Cristobal said this about the situation: “We had a couple guys that are nicked up, banged up, so we’ll see what that looks like,’’ Cristobal said. “But all in all just a massive step for the program.
“...We have overcome stuff and we’re going to get right back to work [Sunday]. When we lost Mesidor it affected our pass rush a lot. I thought we were doing a really good job of keeping them bottled up. Our rush lanes were pretty disciplined... We didn’t have a contain guy, but all in all we did enough to confuse them [and] prevent some big plays.”
UM allowed 433 yards of total offense — 336 yards passing and 97 yards rushing.
Deen, a sixth-year defensive tackle transfer out of Purdue, had not recorded any statistics Saturday when he left the game. Mesidor, a fourth-year junior defensive end who transferred from West Virginia before last season, had three tackles and a tackle for loss. Mesidor last season was tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss and led UM with seven sacks.
Fletcher, who was rated by 247Sports as the nation’s seventh-best 2023 incoming running back, scored a touchdown in his collegiate debut in UM’s previous win against Miami of Ohio. On Saturday, Fletcher had only rushed four times for six yards before being hurt. The Canes were held to 77 yards rushing on 24 carries Saturday for a 3.2-yards-per-carry average.
Miami faces FCS member Bethune-Cookman University (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (ACC Network) at Hard Rock Stadium, a game that a seemingly far less talented Hurricanes team won 70-13 to open last season.
Unless something very strange transpires, after that game and the Sept. 23 game at Temple (1-1) in Philadelphia, the Canes should be 4-0 heading into their Atlantic Coast Conference opener at home against Georgia Tech (1-1).
Expect quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who had an exceptional game Saturday, to be replaced at some point on Saturday against the Wildcats by backups Emory Williams and/or Jacurri Brown. Van Dyke was 21-of-30 (70 percent) for 374 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He was sacked twice by one of the nation’s most imposing defensive lines.
“I mean, it’s not me. It was the entire offensive line,’’ Van Dyke said. “They protected me all day, gave me so much time to throw. Receivers did a great job getting open, catching the ball, making plays after they caught the ball. All-around total unit together game we played today.”
Van Dyke audibles
Van Dyke also credited new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who clearly has helped generate significant improvement in an offense that struggled mightily last season.
Van Dyke said he audibled “a few routes and plays, checked runs a couple times.’’
“Coach Dawson called a great game today, took shots when we needed to, knew when to take shots, knew when to run the ball. Just got to keep it going.”
Van Dyke said last year’s 5-7 team “would have quite, honestly,’’ after being down by 10 points in the first half. “We’re a totally different team. The leaders stepped up, players stepped up, held each other accountable the entire ofseason and told each other, ‘We can’t give up’ in big games like this.’’
Van Dyke’s receivers were equally exceptional Saturday. Xavier Restrepo (six catches for a career-best 126 yards); Colbie Young (six for 75 yards and a touchdown); Jacolby George (five for 94 yards and three touchdowns); and Isaiah Horton (one catch for a 52-yard touchdown) combined for the five touchdowns, 347 receiving yards and 225 yards after catch.
“It’s a type of everybody-eats-kind-of-room right now,’’ Restrepo said. “We’re so unselfish. ...At the end of the day, winning is the best feeling.’’
Finally, Cristobal was briefly shown doing a celebratory dance in a topsy-turvy video posted in the winning locker room.
“His dance moves are really good,’’ George said, laughing.
The video was posted after Cristobal spoke, but the coach was clearly pumped after the win.
— Florida Boy Corey ️ (@floridaboycorey) September 10, 2023
“Everybody wants to see progress, right? The offseason is so long, man,’’ Cristobal said. “That’s what’s hard about football. Nine months, what are you going to do, what are you going to be, what is it going to look like? Everywhere we’ve been we’ve had a blueprint that has been successful. ...Besides the fact that we love Miami, we know that when Miami is done the right way it’s the best one of them all.
“We are taking steps in the right direction. We are progressing. We are nowhere near arrived, nowhere near where we want to be, but today was a big step in the direction we want to go and extremely proud of everybody in that locker room.”