Let’s just say Saturday was a rough day.
The Miami Hurricanes struggled on both sides of the ball, which led to a crushing 42-17 loss at Clemson. Deservingly so, their sluggish play dropped them to No. 13 in the AP Poll. Still, despite what the scoreboard says, there was at least one bright side to their third consecutive loss to the Tigers.
Miami played with fight and heart, something they hadn’t showcased in previous losses to Dabo Swinney’s program.
That sadly won’t cut it against the nation’s best team. With room for improvement ahead, here are three issues coach Manny Diaz and his staff must work on heading into Week 5 against Pittsburgh.
Offensive line struggles limit Cam’Ron Harris, RB group from shining bright.
Coming into their rodeo versus Clemson, Rhett Lashlee’s O-line was exceeding expectations, allowing just three sacks and giving UM’s running back triad of Cam’Ron Harris, Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney Jr. the chance to explode.
It was a completely different story in game 4 of the season.
Miami’s halfback group rushed for a total of 11 yards, and other than quarterback D’Eriq King’s 56-yard rush in the second quarter, UM’s lineman gave their teammates no chance to make plays.
When it came to pass protection, King was already sacked three times by the second quarter and a total of five on the night. Clemson did a phenomenal job limiting Miami’s RPO’s and play-action passes, which is frequently by Lashlee.
This all needs to change against Pitt.
“We got whipped in every phase,” Lashlee said. “We got whipped up front, we got whipped on the perimeter, I got whipped. I didn’t do a very good job. We got our tails kicked, give them a lot of credit. We didn’t do well of executing in any phase and had penalties, very undisciplined, and turned the ball over. It was pretty obvious that we played very poorly and didn’t really give our team a chance to win.”
Constant penalties bring flashbacks to UM’s haunting 2019 campaign.
The Hurricanes accounted for 91 penalties in 2019, losing a total of 782 yards, an average of 60.2 yards on 7.0 penalties per game.
Diaz and his team hoped to wash that disappointing statistic down the drain entering 2020. And fair enough, they were doing a solid job entering Clemson week. In their previous three games, Miami had committed 22 penalties for 199 yards, a tremendous improvement and step in the right direction.
That changed versus Clemson.
Miami finished their first loss of the season with 15 penalties for a total of 135 yards. Obviously, that’s something you cannot afford against one of the best defenses and offenses in college football.
The Hurricanes were hurting themselves since their first defensive drive, garnering a few penalties, one of those coming from a fourth down. Defensive lineman Quincy Roche was called for an offsides penalty that allowed Clemson to move the sticks. If the offsides weren’t called, it would’ve been ruled a turnover on downs, and Miami would’ve possibly been able to gain some momentum and get into Clemson’s noggin early on.
That could’ve changed the whole game.
It was the first time D’Eriq King has struggled with Miami. Now, it’s all about bouncing back.
D’Eriq King and Trevor Lawrence headlined the most talked-about matchup coming into Saturday’s primetime. Of course, he didn’t live up to the hype, but there’s still plenty to rave about.
King had confidence throwing the ball, a positive in terms of having trust in his receivers. However, it did come with consequences, picking up his first two interceptions of the season. It didn’t help that the receivers weren’t able to get open, but King was still fairly off on his passes.
An ideal example would be where he had an open Will Malory on the left side of the field. With five minutes left in the third quarter, King simply miscalculated the height of his throw, resulting in a pick.
Still, even with bad offensive line play, King looked pretty solid with rather short-medium passes. The redshirt senior threw 12 of 28 for 121 yards. King still looked like one of the sharpest signal-callers when it comes to running, earning 84 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Despite the poor performance, King remained consistent and didn’t shy away from what’s at hand. Better yet, he made it clear postgame that as a leader, he’s ready to help UM bounce back this upcoming Saturday against Pittsburgh.
“We’ve got to stay together and keep playing. It’s easy to lead when everything is going good,” he said. “… Real leaders come out when things are hard.”