As if the Miami Hurricanes’ 45-31 loss to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders wasn’t bad enough, Mario Cristobal also had to spend about 30 seconds of his postgame press conference running through all the injuries his team sustained Saturday in Miami Gardens.
Zion Nelson didn’t play, Lou Hedley didn’t punt and Jaylan Knighton, Henry Parrish Jr., Daryl Porter Jr. and Tyrique Stevenson all left early with various injuries.
The No. 25 Hurricanes will now have two weeks to get them healthy before they return to action next month against the North Carolina Tar Heels and Cristobal said most are still being evaluated after getting dinged up this weekend.
While Miami (2-2) always planned to hold Nelson out to rest his surgically repaired knee, Hedley strained a leg during pregame warm-ups — he held for field goals, but didn’t put — and Knighton, Parrish, Porter and Stevenson all went down during the game.
Knighton left with an ankle injury, Cristobal said, and Stevenson injured a lower extremity. Porter both got the wind knocked out of him, then checked back in and injured his shoulder, but Cristobal said he doesn’t believe it is serious.
The coach did not give a specific injury for Parrish, but said the running back is “being evaluated.”
With Knighton and Parrish out, fellow running back Thaddius Franklin Jr. played most of the fourth quarter at running back. With Stevenson and Porter out, freshman cornerback Jaden Harris had to play a bigger role and got burnt for a long touchdown.
Hedley’s injury, meanwhile, cleared the way for punter Will Hutchinson to make his debut and he averaged 47.3 yards per punt.
At left tackle, offensive lineman John Campbell Jr. made his third straight start with Nelson sidelined. The star tackle missed Game 1 on Sept. 3, then played off the bench in each of the last two weeks before sitting out Saturday.
Miami’s wide receiver woes
It was the No. 25 Hurricanes last game before their only bye weekend of the season and they’ll return to action with eight straight Atlantic Coast Conference matchups to finish the regular season.
It means this weekend was the last chance for Miami to find some answers at wide receiver before the games start to really matter in October.
In the last two weeks, the Hurricanes have lost Xavier Restrepo to a foot injury and fellow wide receiver Jacolby George to a hand injury, and both wide receivers are expected to miss at least a month.
Throw in “six or seven” drops last weekend, according to offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, and the situation quickly got dire for Miami.
“It was obvious that room has a ways to go, and Xavier Restrepo is far and above the leader [and] alpha in that room and is missed tremendously,’’ Cristobal told WQAM Monday. “The bottom line: He’s not going to be back for awhile so guys have to step up. You gotta run the right routes, catch the football, block when you’re called upon and you gotta work hard at it.”
On Saturday, Restrepo wore a boot on his left leg, up to his knee, and carried around crutches.
Aside from Restrepo and George, the Hurricanes have wide receivers Michael Redding III, Key’Shawn Smith, Romello Brinson, Frank Ladson, Isaiah Horton and Brashard Smith.
Redding has 105 yards and one touchdown off eight catches through three games, good enough to lead Miami’s active receivers. Key’Shawn Smith has 91 yards and one touchdown off six catches through three games. Brashard Smith has 79 yards off nine catches. Brinson has 28 yards off three catches. Ladson has 33 yards off two catches.
Restrepo, for reference as to what Miami is missing, had 172 yards and one touchdown on 11 catches in his two games..
Tight end Will Mallory led the team last weekend in receiving yards with 56 on six catches and has 77 yards on the season. The Hurricanes also hope to work true freshman tight end Jaleel Skinner into their passing scheme. Mallory called his teammate a “stud athlete” and “physically freakish.”
A revenge game for Stockstill
As a player for the Florida State Seminoles, Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill went 0-2 against Miami.
In 1980, the Hurricanes and coach Howard Schnellenberger foiled the Seminoles’ hopes of an undefeated season, when they dealt FSU and Stockstill, led by head coach Bobby Bowden, a 10-9 loss — their only regular-season loss that year. The Seminoles went on to play in the Orange Bowl, where they fell 18-17 to Oklahoma.
In 1981, FSU fell to Miami, 27-19, en route to a 6-5 season with Stockstill under center.