Misery ends: Embarrassed Miami Hurricanes would not have deserved bowl game even if they’d won | Opinion

David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The season ended as it should have for the Miami Hurricanes football team and program on Saturday night. In unequivocal disappointment. With no more games to play. With just another offseason to wonder, “When will it get better?”

The embarrassing 42-16 home loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers closed Miami’s year at 5-7 — UM’s worst season since the same record in 2007.

Gone was the possibility of bowl eligibility.

And thank goodness for that, quite frankly.

This was a season that needed to be put out of it misery. A season that deserved to go no further.

Even if Miami had won to finish .500 at 6-6, I would have written this:

“The Canes will go on to some meaningless, third-tier bowl game now.

They will because this is what you do. You act like it’s an honor earned. You mention how your senior players deserve it.

Nope.

No, sorry.”

Saturday’s loss eliminated that possibility, but, even if Miami had won to become bowl eligible, I would have suggested the UM sports administration say this:

“We are a five-time national champion. The NCAA says we are bowl eligible. But not to our standard. With due respect to the bowl game that might extend us an invitation, we will respectfully decline. We have not earned a reward — not after a .500 season., the hallmark of mediocrity.”

But this didn’t even get to that. What a nightmare of a first season for coach Mario Cristobal.

“It was a disappointing night for us,’’ said Cristobal, understating it. “We really wanted to win for our program and for our seniors. I have to take full responsibility. We started off slow and obviously it didn’t go well. Not nearly enough...”

How bad has this season been?

This was only arguably one of the three worst home losses of the year.

It surely wasn’t worse than a loss to lowly Middle Tennessee State.

Was it worse than a 45-21 loss to Duke that featured eight (!) UM turnovers?

Or a 45-3 humiliation by archrival Florida State?

This might have been. What a send-off for your most invested players on Senior Night. They were not only not the right answer to whether The U was “back,” they were a part of UM’s worst season in 15 years.

Miami used three quarterbacks Saturday, after Tyler Van Dyke started but reinjured his shoulder yet again.

It hardly mattered.

Underlining the pain, this is an ACC opponent Miami has dominated. UM had won four straight and six of the past seven in this series. Since 1984, Canes had won 22 of 25 against Pitt.

None of which mattered Saturday, when it got so ugly that by the start of the third quarter Hard Rock Stadium looked all but empty.

Cristobal’s homecoming — he won two national championship as a UM player in 1989 and ’91 — could hardly have gone worse.

He has scored a couple of major 2023-class recruiting gets, but also has already lost a handful of players to the transfer portal. I believe in Cristobal. I also believe he could not have imagined his return home would be so fraught with calamity. And losing.

The season began with the usual hype.

A No. 16 preseason poll ranking. The buzz and hype around Cristobal. A rise to No. 13 after a 2-0 start.

That was because everybody is always expecting Miami to be Miami again.

So is Mario Cristobal.

And he might get there.

But, right now, well, his first year back was a season you’d sort of rather forget ever happened.