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BY J.T. WILCOX | Staff Writer
Miami fans worst fears were realized Thursday.
Facing their first true road test of the season, the Hurricanes put on a lackluster performance and fell to host Cincinnati 34-23 Thursday night at Nippert Stadium – snapping Miami’s streak of 10 straight wins over the Bearcats.
Miami’s dreary performance was both surprising and disappointing, considering UM had 11 days to prepare after enjoying a bye week following its 36-33 overtime win over Nebraska on September 19th.
The Hurricanes (3-1) took a 20-17 lead with 11:26 left in the second quarter after an 8-yard Joe Yearby touchdown run but were outscored 17-3 the rest of the way.
Cincinnati (3-2), which loss to Memphis and Temple this season, gained 446 total yards of offense – including a 22-for-33, 279-yard, two-touchdown performance by replacement quarterback Hayden Moore.
Yearby was Miami’s lone bright spot. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground for the third straight game, totaling 113 yards on 17 carries. Thursday’s loss marked the first game in Brad Kaaya’s career that he did not throw a touchdown.
The sophomore was 24 of 39 for 255 yards as Miami lost its 12th straight game when it trailed at any point during the contest.
There’s no rest for the weary though – as Miami opens ACC play next Saturday (Oct. 10) at No. 11 Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium.
Here’s how the Hurricanes graded out Thursday:
Coaching = D+
Get the banners ready.
Al Golden and his coaching staff had 11 days to prepare this team for a Thursday night showdown against a Cincinnati team that lost to Temple (34-26) and Memphis (53-46) and was playing with its second string quarterback.
Golden elected to stick with Dallas Crawford at safety, despite Crawford’s well-documented struggles in pass coverage; which were put on display again Thursday as Cincinnati was able to connect on a long pass on Crawford’s watch, which led to a Bearcat touchdown.
Also, there appeared to be a complete lack of motivation for the Canes. Having to know that the jury was still out on this football team with people questioning the merit of its first three victories, you’d think Golden would have his squad ready to run through a wall.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Even the snippet of his pregame speech caught by ESPN cameras was milquetoast.
Golden’s most questionable in-game decision came during the fourth quarter with Miami trailing 34-23. After working their way down to the Cincinnati 5-yard line, the Canes were faced with a fourth and five – and elected to go for it opposed to taking the chip shot field goal and making it a one possession game.
Kaaya passed the ball and it fell incomplete, essentially ending any and all hopes of a UM comeback.
Offensive coordinator James Coley did not construct a script of plays that produced early game success like he has previously. Miami fell behind 14-3 before Coley’s offense was able to produce a touchdown.
Also, Coley and Kaaya didn’t appear to be on the same page Thursday. Perhaps it was the crowd noise, but even still, for a pair that’s been described as being able to “finish each other’s sentences” – they looked out of sync.
Saying something about Mark D’Onofrio’s defense would be borderline cyberbullying – needless to say it didn’t get the job done.
QB = C-minus
Kaaya was very average on Thursday.
When he did get time to throw – and we’ll get to that in a second – he wasn’t sharp on his reads and left some throws on the field.
Finishing 24 for 39 with 255 yards left a lot to be desired for a quarterback that is considered the best in the ACC.
Kaaya did have a couple of passes dropped, but he didn’t really do anything to elevate his team.
Running Backs = B-minus
The running back position was easily the team’s lone bright spot on the night.
Yearby went for 113 yards and a touchdown and freshman Mark Walton added a touchdown on the ground – 34 yards on 12 carries – along with 40 receiving yards.
Trayone “Choc” Gray continues to be an afterthought – not registering a carry for the second straight game.
It would seem that Yearby is firmly sitting atop the depth chart as the top ball carrier with Walton getting touches to either spell “Novacane” or when he’s rolling in the offense.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends = C
Nothing stood out about Miami’s receivers and tight ends Thursday.
Herb Waters led with four catches for 60 yards while Tyre Brady and Rashawn Scott each caught five passes for 54 and 34 yards respectively.
But Brady dropped a crucial pass during the second quarter that would’ve set Miami up with a 1st and goal from inside the five yard line. It was originally ruled a catch, but officials overturned after watching the replay.
David Njoku had one catch for 40 yards, which set up Yearby’s 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Waters and Scott both left the game at different times, but both returned to action and don’t appear to have sustained any serious injury.
Offensive Line = D
The offensive line play was poor Thursday night.
On multiple – crucial – moments of the game, Miami failed to get any push up front and the offensive line saw Cincinnati defenders blow up plays in the backfield.
Left guard Alex Gall and left tackle Trevor Darling both struggled. On a third quarter drive Darling was called for holding and false start. On an early third quarter drive Gall was blown by right after the snap and allowed a Bearcat defensive lineman to make a tackle for loss on third down.
The worse part of the night came in the third quarter when the five University of Miami offensive linemen gave up a sack against a three-man rush by Cincinnati.
Defensive Line = C-minus
For the fourth straight game, Miami didn’t generate a consistent pass rush.
Cincinnati’s Hayden Moore was able to stand in the pocket without much duress – especially in the first half.
The third quarter was the defense’s best as a whole. Anthony Moten and Chad Thomas combined for a sack during the third and Miami forced four three-and-outs. Trent Harris also registered a sack as the third quarter expired.
But Miami’s offense succumbed to fatigued and a fairly explosive Cincinnati offense in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats iced the game after Miami’s goal line flop as Tion Green rushed for 63 yards to run out the final 4:41 of the game.
No resistance from the defensive line.
Linebackers = C-minus
The linebackers had a similar lot as the defensive line. The third quarter was the only time they showed any life.
This depleted group saw Jermaine Grace leave with an ankle injury.
Tackling issues and inability to get to the quarterback hurt.
Defensive Backs = D-plus
Miami other Achilles heel – poor tackling – shone the brightest in its secondary.
The most egregious offense produced Cincinnati’s first touchdown of the night when Rayshawn Jenkins had Cincinnati’s Hosey Williams wrapped up for a 2-, maybe 3-yard gain. But Williams continued to churn his legs and broke free from Jenkins’ grasp and dashed for a touchdown.
Jenkins did make up for it a bit when he intercepted a Moore pass during the second quarter.
Dallas Crawford did not have a good game, which was magnified because Jamal Carter and Deon Bush had to sit out the first half of the game per rules for being flagged for “targeting” during Miami’s last game.
When they did return to action, Bush made a handful of nice hits but didn’t affect the game one way or the other and Carter took poor angles on some open field tackles.
Special Teams = C-plus
Michael Badgley had been Mr. Reliable coming into Thursday’s game, but “Jersey Mike” missed a pair of field goals – both from over 50 yards.
Jon Semerene had another kickoff sail out of bounds – the third time it has happened in Miami’s four games.
Poor tackling allowed Cincinnati to return a punt 69 yards, setting up the touchdown that put the Bearcats up 14-3.
Corn Elder appeared to returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter put a holding penalty on freshman Jaquan Johnson nullified it.
The brightest spot of the night was a Justin Vogel punt that went 61 yards and was downed inside Cincinnati’s 5-yard line.