The University of Miami’s only week off of the 2022 football season will not be an uplifting one for the No. 25 and soon-to-be-unranked Hurricanes.
In UM’s final nonconference game of the season, the 25 ½-point favorite Hurricanes were upset 45-31 by Middle Tennessee State for their second consecutive loss and a 2-2 record as they head toward eight consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference games.
“Obviously, poor job by me, poor job by the organization,’’ UM coach Mario Cristobal said. “They coached better than us. They played better than us. They were better. We didn’t do a good enough job. There’s no excuse.
“Real men look in the mirror and do something about it and don’t let allow any cracks to happen from the inside. We got a lot of work to do.’’
Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke had the worst game of his career, completing 16 of 32 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on his first two passes — one of them returned for a touchdown. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Garcia at 7:55 of the third quarter with UM trailing 31-10.
Garcia finished 10 of 19 for 161 yards and no touchdowns, but led the Canes on two touchdown drives, both ending with 1-yard runs by Thaddius Franklin. Key’Shawn Smith also returned a kickoff 91 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, one play after a 98-yard touchdown catch pushed Middle Tennessee’s lead to 38-17.
The 98-yard touchdown came on the Blue Raiders’ first play of a drive after UM failed on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
Heading into Saturday, the Blue Raiders (3-1) were 112th of 131 FBS teams in total offense. Their defense, No. 9 nationally in the red zone, stopped UM twice inside the 10-yard line — once at the 2-yard line and once at the 6. Another time, Van Dyke got just outside the red zone at the 21-yard line before throwing three incomplete passes and settling for a field goal.
Cristobal was asked what’s wrong with Van Dyke.
“Scheme change,’’ he said. “It’s different,’’ adding that “obviously,’’ with last year’s record-breaking wideouts Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley departed, “over 65 percent of his receiving production is gone. And then that injury to Xavier [Restrepo] is having us develop guys that are working hard to get better.
“We’ve got to do a better job of setting him up for success and doing things offensively that allow us to have a more successful, more productive passing game.”
Cristobal turned 52 Saturday, not exactly a happy birthday.
The last non-Power 5 program to defeat the Hurricanes were the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, also in Conference USA, to culminate the 2019 season under Manny Diaz in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. UM finished 6-7 that year.
Next weekend will be the only one in which the Hurricanes don’t play, as there are no weekday games this season to give them any other weekends off. After that it’s their first ACC game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Hard Rock at a time not yet announced.
It was as ugly a game for the Hurricanes and their announced crowd of 46,713 booing fans (cheering when Garcia entered) as anyone could have imagined.
Ugly offensively, ugly defensively.
The first seven minutes of the game yielded four turnovers — the first three by Miami, including interceptions on UM quarterback Van Dyke’s first two passes.
“About as bad as a first quarter as you could have,’’ Cristobal said.
After Middle Tennessee’s opening possession ended with a punt, UM took over at its 11-yard line. On first down, Blue Raiders’ Decorian Patterson dove in front of tight end Will Mallory for the steal. Four plays later, Zeke Rankin kicked a 28-yard field goal for a Middle Tennessee 3-0 lead.
It got worse 42 seconds later.
Van Dyke’s second pass, on second-and-10 from the UM 20, was picked off at the 15-yard line by defensive end Zaylin Wood, who sprinted to the end zone for a 10-0 Blue Raiders lead with 10:04 left in the opening quarter.
Miami took over and Van Dyke’s third pass was caught by teammate Frank Ladson for an 11-yard gain. But alas, on the very next play, Jaylan Knighton rushed two yards — then fumbled.
The Blue Raiders recovered.
Finally, a UM hero emerged, as safety Kamren Kinchens intercepted Chase Cunningham on the next play. The Hurricanes took over at their own 32 and drove to the 21-yard line, thanks in part to a 6-yard rush on fourth-and-1 from the Middle Tennessee 43. UM got as far as the 21-yard line, before three incomplete passes by Van Dyke brought out Andy Borregales for a 39-yard field goal.
Middle Tennessee 10, UM 3.
But the Blue Devils’ barrage was far from over. On their ensuing drive. Cunningham hit DJ England-Chisolm with a 71-yard completion that he caught at his own 39. Tyrique Stevenson, who was sidelined and wearing shorts in the second half with an apparent injury, dove at England-Chisolm’s ankles but couldn’t quite bring him down as he ran into the end zone to make it 17-3 with 4:21 still left in the first quarter.
Miami took over at its own 33, drove to the Middle Tennessee 6-yard line, then, on fourth-and-4, Van Dyke’s pass to Mallory skimmed off his hands at the goal line. The Blue Raiders took over, and, naturally, scored on a quarterback keeper to make it 24-3 early in the second quarter.
The Canes ended the scoring on Van Dyke’s first and only touchdown, a 6-yard-pass to Henry Parrish, with 1:20 left in the half to leave it at 24-10 when the teams ran into their locker rooms.
Middle Tennessee made it 31-10 on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to Elijah Metcalf at 8:01 of the third quarter, beating freshman cornerback Jaden Harris on the play.
Kinchens was asked about the post-game mood in the Miami locker room.
“What do you expect it to be?” he said. “Everybody’s down. We should have never lost.’’