The Miami Hurricanes will be home for the holidays, with thankfully no more opportunities to lose there.
The University of Miami on Saturday lost its fifth consecutive game at home and failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2007, losing 42-16 to Pittsburgh in another inept offensive display at Hard Rock Stadium.
In a prime-time regular-season finale, the Hurricanes were lifeless, listless and just plain bad on Senior Night, ending their season at 5-7 (3-5 ACC) for the first time in 15 years and cutting short the college careers of several players.
“It was a disappointing night for us,’’ UM coach Mario Cristobal said. “We really wanted to win for our program and for our seniors. I always have to take full responsibility as a head coach and as an organization. We started off slow and obviously it didn’t go well. I appreciate the effort from the second-half guys trying to make something happen, but not nearly enough.”
UM’s unfortunate home streak began Sept. 24 against Middle Tennessee State. Miami was outscored at home 101 to 6 across eight quarters until redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Garcia threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to senior Will Mallory at 11:52 of the final quarter. Garcia followed with another 4-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Restrepo with 7:22 left and cut Pitt’s lead to 42-16.
Garcia finished 17-of-28 for 192 yards and his two touchdowns.
Tight end Mallory had nine catches for 103 yards and the touchdown in his final game as a Hurricane.
“Obviously it didn’t go the way we wanted it to,’’ Mallory said. “We wanted a chance to play again in a bowl game. But most importantly, I just tried to soak up every moment with the guys, everyone from players, coaches and staff. I know it’s tough to enjoy that when we’re losing like that. But at the end... I appreciate everything that everyone in the is program has done for me.’’
The Panthers, who previously qualified for a bowl, finished the regular season 8-4 and 5-3.
UM fans will soon be monitoring if any quarterbacks, including veteran starter Tyler Van Dyke, announce pending departures when the transfer portal opens after conference title games.
Van Dyke lasted all of 2 minutes 41 seconds Saturday before his season ended for good when he threw an interception at 12:19 of the opening quarter and fell on his previously injured throwing shoulder. Pitt outside linebacker Tylar Wiltz hit the unblocked Van Dyke, whose forced throw — intended for Jaleel Skinner — was picked off by SirVocea Dennis. Dennis returned it 67 yards to the UM 30, and Panthers tailback Israel Abanikanda scored four plays later to make it 7 -0 at 10:13.
Van Dyke, who started after missing three of the past four games with the injury, finished 4 of 8 for 83 yards, with the interception. UM’s quarterbacks were sacked six times.
“Again, I know it sounds like a broken record,’’ Cristobal said of Van Dyke, “but the last time, he was healthy, he practiced well and he was cleared medically and you check that 10 times over to make sure, but it was something that was really painful for him, after he had taken that shot on the interception.”
Enter freshman Jacurri Brown (2-of-3 for 4 yards, with an interception), who started the two previous games while Van Dyke was recuperating his shoulder. Brown was intercepted by Javon McIntyre at 8:41 on the quarterback’s third play and second pass. Pitt took over at its own 39 and four plays later was at the Miami 5-yard line. The Hurricanes defense came through with an impressive goal-line stand, holding Pitt three times at the UM 1.
Behind Garcia, UM’s third quarterback of the night, the Hurricanes could only get as far as their own 32, and punted. Two plays later, Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis hit Jared Wayne at the Pitt 47, and Wayne sliced through a deficient UM defense, with missed tackles by James Williams, DJ Ivey and Caleb Johnson. The result: A 66-yard touchdown and 14-0 Pitt lead with 50 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Panthers made it 21-0 at 11:46 of the second quarter on an 11-yard rush by Abanikanda — two plays after Will Mallory fumbled a 9-yard completion. They made it 28-0 with 31 seconds left in the first half on a 26-yard strike from Slovis to Wayne.
At the end of the first half, Garcia was 4-of-11 for 8 yards; and Brown was 1-of-2 for 0 yards, with an interception.
Sophomore safety Kamren Kinchens spoke up in the locker room after the loss, telling his teammates that the ones that believe and are willing to buy into the program should stay.
“I can’t tell you what went wrong,’’ Kinchens said. “I’m out there grinding, making sure I’m doing everything I could. I guess we ain’t executing enough on offense and defense. We ain’t playing complementary football. Defense ain’t helping the offense in certain situations. Offense ain’t helping the defense in certain situations. That’s what it is.’’