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Game Review: Miami 38 - Pitt 34

The ‘Canes upset the Panthers in epic fashion.

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes upset the Pitt Panthers 38-34 on Saturday afternoon. Miami entered the game ball parking a double-digit underdog (varying spread of 9.5-12 points), but came away victorious on the road. Miami also dispelled the myth that the ‘Canes can’t play well in the cold and rain.

The Canyonero keys to victory were:

1- Score some damn points- The Hurricanes scored 38 points on an SP+ top 10 defense.

2- Put pressure on Pickett- Miami had four sacks and seven hurries, often forcing Pickett into “and long” situations or making him uncomfortable to throw.

and 3- don’t come out flat- While the defense was atrocious most of the afternoon, the offense came out on fire and Miami led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter. Tyler Van Dyke certainly didn’t come out flat and right now he’s the gas on the fire to save Manny Diaz’s tenure in Coral Gables.

The data

On third downs, Miami was still behind the chains finishing only 4-of-12. The ‘Canes defense allowed Pitt to finish 6-of-14 on 3rd and 1-of-2 on 4th down. The U committed eight penalties for 72 yards, and turned the ball over once, but had a close encounter with disaster on the Will Mallory fumble out of bounds.

Van Dyke out-dueled Kenny Pickett as he averaged 10.1 yards per pass attempt compared to Pickett’s 9.4. Both QB’s threw three touchdowns, but Pickett threw two interceptions to Van Dyke’s one, and Pickett’s second was very costly.

The offense

Tyler Van Dyke is one happy accident. If anyone acts like they saw this coming, they’re lying. Dan Enos did nothing as the Miami OC, but he’s the reason the ‘Canes were on Van Dyke’s radar, and for that- thanks, Dan.

Over the past two weeks Van Dyke has improved his accuracy and ball placement, while also getting to 2nd and 3rd reads without panic or forcing his throws. Raw yardage doesn’t matter, it’s his yards per attempt that stands out as he’s over nine yards per attempt on the season. We saw his bad games against UVA and UNC, and now his “saving Diaz’s job” games against NCSU and Pitt.

Above- Elijah Arroyo was a guy that I loved in this class. In my piece, “Maybe he’s born with it,” I talked about Arroyo and how the staff just needs to leave him alone.

Above- Where have these plays been? This is what made Lashlee exciting as a hire after his time at SMU. I thought more of the Sonny Dykes style would come with him to Miami, just like I hoped Dan Enos would bring Alabama’s offense to Miami, not his Arkansas offense.

Above- Instead of pounding “dive” aka inside zone at Pitt, Miami decided to run GT Counter. The guard “kicks” the defensive end (blocks him to the sideline) and the tackle wraps (comes through the gap) to the linebacker. This gives Miami a new look and Jaylan Knighton explodes for 40 yards.

Above- I can’t wait to see Roman’s piece on this game. Van Dyke does things that from the tape he shouldn’t be able to do. Here his feet are hardly set, he’s on his back foot as he throws, and he fires this thing in there perfectly to his receiver.

The thing about QB’s is that mechanics can’t always be perfect. Sometimes they have to adjust footwork, arm angles, and release points in order to get throws off while under pressure. Van Dyke has that part locked down and is looking more and more polished as the season goes on.

Above- And then he goes full summer 7-on-7 backyard ball and throws a costly pick. With seven minutes to go and 3rd down, Van Dyke could have thrown this ball away but instead forces a throw into a slipped receiver and double coverage, across his body, on the run. If you took this dumb decision away, he plays a nearly perfect, IF NOT PERFECT, game.

The defense

You cannot be good at what you don’t practice. Miami has improved tackling once the entire country asked why they were so bad at tackling. The U’s tackling has improved, but it’s still bad. The middle of the field being open on passes also hasn’t been ‘fixed’ since 2016. The opponents just have to have enough time to hit on those throws.

Above- Miami gives up a quick opening touchdown to Pitt. This throw gets the Panthers down to the one via the intermediate to deep middle on a pass. Whether it was caught or not caught, that’s not the point here. The point is- how does the DC fix his open wound in the middle of the field? He really didn’t all game long.

Above- Pickett hits his check down in the flat and two Miami defenders tackle each other in pursuit of the running back. It’s an easy TD on a check down swing for Pitt.

Above- Pickett threw into double (and even triple) coverage often against Miami. Some dumb throws were caught, some others floated high, and some were caught by Tyrique Stevenson and James Williams.

Here, Stevenson picks off a pass in a really big moment in the game. The middle of the field was open, of course, but Pitt attacked the sideline and they had great protection but I can’t find a check down on the field. Flashback to Jacory Harris at Miami and Pickett’s Saturday afternoon reminded me of that 2008 season.

Above- I don’t understand how Amari Carter keeps getting burn over Gil Frierson. Frierson, in my not-so-humble opinion, was the most savvy Hurricane defender in 2020. Frierson just seems to be around the football and actually makes tackles. Carter once again has no idea how to come to balance and overruns an easy sack on Pickett which results in a TD.

Above- Gurvan Hall was completely out of position once again, and Pickett throws the ball at least five yards behind his receiver right into Williams waiting arms. Great pick by Williams as those throws are often dropped. Hall is an absolute liability and all of the intermediate to deep middle throws that Pitt landed were evidence of that. It’s definitely the scheme as it’s happened since 2016, but it’s also on the safety play.

The wrap

I don’t care if Manny Diaz is back or not if he can solve the ‘Canes issues. I do think Blake James needs to be fired so the baseball and basketball, and even football, programs can get back on track.

Miami has a weak final four games of the schedule before a potential ACC Championship Game appearance and/or a bowl game. Diaz needs to hire a defensive coordinator and needs to relieve Jonathan Patke of duties. Maybe Bob Shoop and Patke can switch roles?

NC State v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Miami has knocked off ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks to get back to .500. As a fan- maybe I am the problem. My expectations have been double-digit wins, ACC Coastal dominance, and being in the ACC Championship Game more often than not. Maybe Miami is just another Coastal team and are more of a UNC or Pitt and less of a Notre Dame or Oregon.

Obviously the ‘Canes aren’t in the upper tier with Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, or Clemson (they’re staying up there for now). The ‘Canes aren’t even in the next tier where I wanted them- a program that plays in New Years Six bowls and challenges annually for the conference title. They’re in that next-next tier and maybe we just need to accept as much and enjoy beating NCSU and Pitt and dropping games to UNC and UVA like every other ACC team not (usually) named Clemson.

Above- In case you were wondering how slamming a Hurricane cocktail in under 60 seconds goes: my lovely Pitt fan friend handled the ‘Cane, and I avoided a cardiac salad.