The Miami Hurricanes have been livin’ on the edge for much of the 2017 season.
This time, on a Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh, they fell off the cliff.
The Miami defense played pretty darn well, bringing out the Turnover Chain twice and forcing plenty of three and outs of their own, but was sunk by an offense that constantly put them in bad spots and could not get untracked all day. In a game that was hard to watch, the Pittsburgh Panthers defended their home turf and upset the previously undefeated Hurricanes, 24-14.
It was an ugly game for Miami from the start, as the Canes came out with little effort and passion, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and were down 10-7 at halftime after a late Kenny Pickett TD run. The Panthers made Miami one-dimensional, selling out on Miami’s running game to hold them to just 45 rushing yards and daring Malik Rosier to throw. Rosier responded with his worst game of the season BY FAR, overthrowing open receivers downfield, missing on simple bubble screens, and even getting himself benched for a series midway through the fourth quarter with the game still hanging in the balance. Rosier finished 15 of 34 for 187 yards and 2 TD’s, but honestly, those numbers actually somehow look better than what he showed today.
Even after all that, though, this was only a 10 point game with 9 minutes to go when Zach Feagles’ 10th punt of the day pinned Pitt inside their own 10.
The Hurricanes, who have been in close games all season and always found a way to win, were waiting for that one play that would change the course of the game and propel them to victory. It never came.
The tough Miami defense that had held strong despite being on the field all day finally broke, allowing a 12 play, 90 yard drive featuring 11 running plays by Pitt. The nail in the coffin of Miami’s undefeated season came from Pitt’s true freshman QB Pickett who, in his first career start, ran a bootleg on fourth-and-5 from Miami’s 22. The entire UM defense went right with the running back, Pickett went left, and had nothing but green grass in front of him, diving for the pylon for a TD and a 24-7 lead.
After Rosier returned to the game and tossed a garbage time 39 yard TD to Berrios to make the score 24-14, Malek Young recovered a Michael Badgley onside kick with just over 2 minutes remaining to provide a glimmer of hope for the Canes. Although the door was slightly cracked open, Pitt DB Avonte Maddox slammed it shut with a strip sack of Rosier on the ensuing drive, setting the stage for the Panthers fans in attendance to rush the field, surrounding the Miami players who must have been wondering how they let this happen.
On a day where most of the Hurricanes were absent and were out-gained by Pitt 345-232, the only Miami players that seemed to show up were RJ McIntosh, who set up camp in the Panthers’ backfield multiple times and recoreded 2 TFL among his 6 stops, and Sheldrick Redwine, who had 12 tackles, a great pass break-up coming over in coverage, and a forced fumble. It wasn’t the performance that Mark Richt was looking for ahead of such a big game next week against #3 Clemson, but the Canes will have to pick themselves up off the mat, dust themselves off, and get back to work, as there’s still plenty to play for next Saturday.
Pitt received the ball to begin the game. After trading punts, the Panthers had won the early field position battle, starting their second drive on UM’s 45. On a rollout, Kenny Pickett had nothing but green grass, and his run picked up 11 and a first down. That was all the Panthers needed to get in field goal range. A Pickett incompletion, and two Darrin Hall runs gained 6; Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi called for the field goal team and Alex Kessman kicked a 46 yarder through the uprights. 3-0 Pitt.
From Miami’s own 20, Rosier kept on a read option for 4. Then, he found Dayall Harris on a quick out route to the sidelines to gain 7 and a first down. But, that would be all she wrote for the Miami offense on this drive. Rosier scrambled for 3 and two Travis Homer runs picked up 5. The Canes brought on Zach Feagles to punt it away.
The Panthers were on the move from their own 22, with Pickett hitting Qadree Ollison out of the backfield for 8. Darrin Hall looked to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and short, but drove Chad Thomas backwards for 2 yards and a first down. Back-to-back reverses to Quadree Henderson picked up 26 and moved Pitt to Miami’s 37. Pickett hit Jester Weah on a bubble screen for a gain of 6 and that was the end of the first quarter.
First play of the second quarter, that’s a Turnover Chain. Pickett couldn’t handle a high snap and, in the scrum, the ball bounced out near midfield before Michael Pinckney pounced on it. First down Miami. The Canes couldn’t do much with the great field position and Feagles’ punt sailed into the endzone.
The Panthers’ offense continued to face little resistance pushing the ball downfield, with Rafael Araujo-Lopes catching a 16 yard pass. After Hall ran for a yard, another bubble screen to Henderson found a first down for 9. Two dropped passes from Panthers’ receivers killed the drive and Narduzzi brought on Ryan Winslow for the punt.
That’s when the Canes got on the board with a 9 play, 80 yard drive. A fake to Homer had the defense fooled running to the left, and Rosier pulled it down and took off for the right sidelines, gaining 13. Back-to-back bubble screens to Harris and Braxton Berrios had the ball at the UM 46 for a first down. A short curl to Ahmmon Richards gained 9 yards, and Rosier QB sneaked on 3rd and short to move the chains.
The third bubble screen of the drive went to Chris Herndon, and he slipped a tackle and flew up the right sidelines for 20 yards. Rosier took a shot to the endzone from Pitt’s 23; Mike Harley tried to come back for the ball and his hand was grabbed by a Pitt DB when he went up to make the catch. The pass fell incomplete and no call was made. No matter though; Rosier went with the same throw to the right side, this time to Richards. He made the catch, got both feet in-bounds, and dove for the pylon for the touchdown. 7-3 Miami.
Boyyyyy do I love me some Ahmmon Richards pic.twitter.com/ZehPg6ZbUf— Barstool Miami (@BarstoolUMiami) November 24, 2017
The first play of the ensuing drive for Pitt resulted in another turnover. This time it was Sheldrick Redwine putting his hat on the ball, popping it free. A Panthers player, in going for the recovery, inadvertently kicked the ball backwards and into the arms of Jaquan Johnson. That wouldn’t help to solve the struggles of the Miami offense, though. It was another 3-and-out, with the main culprit Rosier on a terribly thrown ball behind a wide-open Berrios to end the drive. Feagles, who had been awful so far, shanked another punt off his foot for only 12 yards.
Driving before the half, Pitt got into the endzone with a methodical 12 plays for 68 yards. The Panthers converted all three of their third downs on the possession, first on a Pickett scramble that ended with the QB bowling over Malek Young near the chains, and next on a 22 yard post to Weah to get the Panthers deep into Miami territory. On 3rd-and-goal, it was Pickett on a designed clearout draw; Jaquan Johnson got over late and Pickett jumped up and over into the endzone. 10-7 Pitt.
Jeff Thomas had a nice run back and offsetting penalties on both teams had UM on their own 35. With 26 seconds left, Mark Richt wanted to throw himself into field goal range, but Rosier was sacked on first down and the Canes decided to take the game into halftime. Surprise, surprise, another ugly first half for the Miami offense against a terrible defense. Total Yards: UM 108 Pitt 176.
Coming out of halftime, the teams traded 3-and-outs. Taking the ball at their own 28, the Canes tried to go deep on the first play, but Rosier overthrew an open Richards incomplete. Then, Rosier skipped a pass to Berrios on the left. On third-and-long and the pocket closing in on him, Rosier squirted out, got to the edge, and zoomed past the marker for a gain of 15. There was nothing doing on the next down-and-distance for Miami, and Feagles kicked another short punt. Luckily, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Pitt helped to push the ball back.
More ugly offense from both teams had them trading 3-and-outs yet again. The Canes defense got the Panthers into another third and long, but for the first time this half, Pitt converted on a deep post to Jester Weah up the seam for a gain of 29. A curl route to Aaron Mathews went for 9, and then four straight runs to Qadree Ollison gained 20 yards inside the Miami 5 yard line. Then, it was Pickett on a shuffle pass to Ollison, who powered his way just past the goal line. 17-7 Pitt.
The Canes needed a big drive and went straight to Richards for a gain of 14. Two Rosier incompletions and a delay of game had Miami staring down a 3rd-and-15, but Rosier fired a strike across the middle to Herndon for a first down. Richt stayed with the pass, and Pitt knew it was coming and kept pinning their ears back, sending blitzes into the face of Rosier to stomp out the Miami drive. Two more incompletions, and a Rosier scramble away from pressure on third down picked up only 5 to bring on Feagles.
The Canes defense stood up to get the ball back to the offense. RJ McIntosh blew up a run by Hall in the backfield, and two Pickett passes fell incomplete. It didn’t matter because Rosier’s inconsistent day continued; he missed open receivers Richards, Berrios, and Thomas on three straight plays and Richt had seen enough: Evan Shirreffs was warming up to come in the game on the sidelines as Miami punted the ball away for the 9th time on the day.
After a three and out by Pitt’s offense, Shirreffs took command of the offense and promptly went... nowhere. Two incompletions and a sack set up Feagles’ best punt of the day, 50 yards inside the Pitt 10 yard line.
With 9 minutes remaining, Pitt needed a game-clinching drive to put away the Canes and they got it. 12 plays, 11 of them running plays, covered 90 yards, and was sealed on a 4th-and-5 bootleg by Pickett for a 22 yard TD. 24-7 Pitt.
Rosier returned to toss a garbage time, 39 yard TD to Berrios and Malek Young would recover Michael Badgley’s onside kick with a little over 2 minutes left to provide a glimmer of hope for Miami. But Pitt DB Avonte Maddox came in unblocked and strip-sacked Rosier to end the game. Pickett then kneeled out the clock. Final: Pitt 24 UM 14.
Braxton Berrios with a garbage time touchdown. Please let this kid get a Senior Bowl invite. pic.twitter.com/gsgi0GHlDq— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) November 24, 2017
Miami heads to Charlotte for their first-ever ACC Championship game, where they will take on #3 Clemson for conference supremacy and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
This game was sickening. The slow starts on offense finally did the Canes in, and this time, the offense didn’t even get it going in the second half. 232 total yards against a team giving up 411.5 ON AVERAGE? This team has to be very disappointed in itself, basically giving away an undefeated regular season in the last game against a 4-7 team. Only thing to do is move on and re-focus quickly, because all the goals Miami had before the season are still within reach next week. It would be a shame if they let this hiccup carry-over and deny them those achievements.