clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders edition

Uh........we have PROBLEMS

Middle Tennessee v Miami Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Yeah. That happened.

Middle Tennessee came into Hard Rock Stadium and dominated Miami, winning 45-31 in a game that wasn’t? that close.

Mike Schiffman was gracious enough to pull double duty again after that debacle and has both your game recap and 3 stars. Both pieces are right here for you to enjoy:

Oh hey. KappaCane also had this gamer from this terrible, horrible, no good, VERY BAD game.

And since I’m writing this on Sunday (birthday dinner for a friend after the game last night), be sure you check out Justin Dottavio’s Film Review as well.

And now, let’s get into the final non-conference edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

  • An early Kamren Kinchens interception. He and several other defenders keep flashing elite talent. And Kam’s ability to bait the QB into that throw, then turn on the jet speed to undercut it and intercept it is.....*chef’s kiss*
  • Quick aside: that was the only in-game note I’d taken for The Good. So, let’s dig and find......some good. It was there. There just wasn’t much of it.
  • WR Key’Shawn Smith’s kickoff return touchdown, his 2nd of the year. It’s been years since Miami had an explosive threat returning kicks, and Smith is proving himself capable of doing that. His KR-TD kept Miami within striking distance of MTSU, even though we all know how things ended.
  • The debut of TE Jaleel Skinner. Targeted a couple times (one was negated by penalty), Skinner showed his elite talent. He scored on his only catch, but the ref incorrectly ruled him out at the 2 yard line. And, before you come at ME bc you think this is incorrect information, here’s a photo from the field. Skinner was in bounds. He was robbed of a touchdown.
  • 11 receivers caught passes for Miami. It’s good that the Canes were able to spread the ball around. Yes, I’m ignoring the efficiency here. We’ll talk about that later.
  • WR Frank Ladson. 6 catches (on 7 targets) for 65 yards. Not the biggest performance ever, but a BIG step forward for him.
  • 89 offensive plays. It took going down 17-3 to finally operate with some kind of offensive tempo, but hey, it finally happened.
  • P Will Hutchinson. Stepping in for an injured Louis Hedley, the Oregon transfer showed that Miami will be just fine at this position when Hedley leaves after this season. 3 punts for 142 yards — a 47.3 average. A solid debut. Welcome to the U, Will.
  • K Andres Borregales. 1/1 on FGs this week. And, MTSU didn’t have a single kick return because Borregales got back to booming touchbacks every time. Thank you.
  • DE Jafari Harvey. 5 tackles, 2 TFLs, and a sack. He was pretty good off the edge.
  • LB Corey Flagg Jr had 8 tackles and a sack, cleaning up for Leonard Taylor on a play. The STATISTICS were fine (team leader in tackles). The overall play, something we’ll talk about later in this very piece.
  • The entrance of QB Jake Garcia. Tyler Van Dyke is a shell of the player he was last year, Miami was getting blown out by MTSU, and a change was needed. Garcia came in and the offense immediately improved. Garcia came in off the bench and hit his first 5 throws, including a nice vertical shot to Key’Shawn Smith that almost went the distance. Everything just looked and felt DIFFERENT with Garcia in there, in a good way.
  • In the end, Garcia went 10/19 for 169 yards.
  • RB Thad Franklin scored 2 TDs.
  • 10 chunk plays — 7 passes (15+; 5 of these were Garcia completions), 3 runs (10+)
  • 6 TFLs
  • 2 sacks
  • 1 Interception
  • 26 first downs
  • Only 4 penalties for 16 yards. That’s actually quite good, considering where we’ve been in terms of penalties.
  • Held MTSU to 15 first downs. Put a pin in this one tho.
  • Held MTSU to 3-12 on 3rd downs.
  • That’s about it.

The Bad

  • Losing. It sucks. I hate it.
  • Oh look, a Miami meme moment of players running into each other.
  • Injuries. Jaylan Knighton left with an ankle. Henry Parrish was being evaluated (I believe this to be concussion protocol). Tyrique Stevenson left with a “lower extremity” injury. Zion Nelson was held out for rest for his surgically repaired knee. Daryl Porter Jr. left with a shoulder. These injuries affected the performance because it is CLEAR that Miami doesn’t have the depth it needs at present.
  • Tackling. Oh, the tackling.
  • 4.1 yards per play
  • Allowed 8.3 yards per play
  • 7-20 on 3rd down
  • 5-8 on 4th down
  • 11.8 yards per completion
  • Allowed 8 TFLs
  • Allowed 4 sacks

The Ugly

  • Losing. To. Middle. Tennessee. By. Two. Touchdowns. At. Home.
  • Did you know that Miami is 0-3 all-time against MTSU? Cuz they are.
  • Did you know that Miami has lost 3 of their last 4 to Conference USA opponents? Cuz they have.
  • The first point here is the biggest point of them all. Under Mario Cristobal, Miami wants to be a physical team, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage. In this game, not only was Miami not physical, they were DOMINATED on both sides of the ball by MTSU. That is alarming at the highest level. Physicality is foundational to the construction of this program. Miami held their own (and actually dominated) against Texas A&M. But to come home to the likes of Middle Tennessee and get pushed around on both sides of the ball....that creates existential issues for this program. I cannot stress how much of an issue this is. This, more than getting bombed 1 on 1 in the passing game, or turning the ball over 3 times in 7 offensive snaps, THIS is the issue at the forefront of my brain. And it needs to be addressed immediately if not sooner. Because if you’re trying to build everything on being physical and this is the application of that physicality..............yikes. Tremendo yikes. ALL OF THE FUCKING YIKES!!!!!!!
  • The inability and refusal to do.....anything. Change the offensive playcalls to combat MTSU stacking the box and daring us to throw? Nope. Change the players to get some 1 on 1 wins in the passing game? Nah. Change the defensive scheme because we couldn’t guard MTSU 1 on 1 on the outside? No sir!
  • I guess it’s “good” the margin was only 14 because MTSU came in and whooped our asses for 60 minutes.
  • QB Tyler Van Dyke. Honestly, this was so bad from him that I think Miami should make the change to Jake Garcia at QB. 16/32 for 132 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. Sure, there were drops. Sure, the OL got their asses beat like a bad kid in a store. But Van Dyke was atrocious.
  • To further the point, TVD’s 1st interception. A forced throw into coverage on Miami’s first offensive snap of the game. It prompted the tweet I’m putting below this.
  • To further that further point, TVD’s 2nd interception. A ball tipped by the DE, caught by the DE, and returned for a TD by the DE. On Miami’s 2nd offensive snap of the game. So, if you’re keeping track of score at home, that’s 0/2, 2INT, and one returned for a TD in 2 offensive snaps for Miami in this game. Atrocious might not be a strong enough adjective for TVD’s performance.
  • To add further insult to the already-ongoing injury, RB Jaylan Knighton fumbled and it was recovered by MTSU. On Miami’s 3rd drive. On Miami’s 7th play of the game.
  • And on the ensuing possession after the Knighton fumble, blrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr goes MTSU.
  • Miami being woefully unprepared for the moment of a game. Any game.
  • More drops by receivers. This was especially hurtful when Michael Redding III dropped a wide open pass on 3rd down on Miami’s 1st drive of the 2nd half. Sure, Miami’s QB was bad, but the receivers did him no favors either.
  • Back to an earlier point from The Good: Miami completed passes to 11 receivers. That wasn’t even because everybody was hoopin’ and the Canes were getting younger players experience. It was because NOTHING WAS WORKING and we decided to try to play other players to see if something would shake. And, believe me dear reader, it. did. NOT.
  • Sure TVD is roommates with Xavier Restrepo, who is solid but no better than a #3 option on a good football team. Sure, Jacolby George has potential and could end up being a solid player. But missing those guys should not have been the negative to Miami’s passing game that it clearly was before the Canes switched QBs.
  • OL Justice Oluwaseun continues to get beaten like a drum game after game. He really needs to find the bench.
  • There was a glimmer of hope here after a couple strong performances, but CB D.J. Ivey continues to show up on the wrong side of other teams’ highlights. Here, he’s taken up top for a 98 yard td a play after Miami failed to score from the 1 yard line. Receiver got a free release. Ivey isn’t the fastest player in the world, and he had no chance to catch this dude. He’s even, he’s leaving. And that game, in that moment, was over.
  • 7-20 on 3rd down. Against MTSU. Atrocious.
  • 5-8 on 4th down. First, you need to convert more. Second, WHY THE FUCK ARE NEEDING TO CONVERT ON 4TH DOWN AGAINST MTSU?!?!?!?!?!
  • OL got whooped all day.
  • Averaged 3.7 yards per rush (sacks not included).
  • Averaged 1.6 yards per rush with sacks included.
  • Barely 50% passing — 26/51 on the day.
  • 3-5 in the red zone.
  • Stopped inside the 5 twice for no points.
  • 3 turnovers in the first 7 offensive snaps.
  • Maybe the game breakdown chart from gamesonpaper will be better. It was, because Miami finally had ANY explosive plays in the passing game. But the rest of the chart (on both sides) was so0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0oo0o0o0o0o00o0o0o0o bad. Take a look for yourselves.
  • A quick breakdown: Miami was better at creating defensive havoc. Both teams were bad at 3rd down success rate. MTSU was better in EVERYTHING ELSE. I’m telling you, it’s a miracle we only lost by 2 TDs.
  • Allowed 507 yards of offense to MTSU. And it could have been worse because they only gained 57% of the available yards. That’s a scary, scary thought.
  • Allowed MTSU’s QB Chase Cunningham to have a career day. 16 for 25 for 408 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT. Cunningham added 29 yards and a TD rushing. More if you don’t take away sack yardage.
  • Furthermore, Cunningham and MTSU averaged an INSANE 25.5 yards per completion. A quarter of the field every time he threw it and they caught it.
  • And, even more — MTSU averaged 16.3 yards PER PASSING ATTEMPT. INCLUDING THE INCOMPLETIONS. Bruh. WHAT?!
  • Coming into the game, Cunningham had never averaged more than 9.5 yards per attempt in any game in his career with more than 2 passing attempts. (there was a random outlier 5 years ago against Old Dominion where 1 of 2 attempts broke for a long TD late in the game).
  • So even in an air raid system, even playing teams they’ve blown out, Cunningham and MTSU haven’t had this kind of success passing the ball. They ended with a YPA that was nearly 72% higher than anything they’ve shown.
  • So, on the flip side, Miami’s inability to check MTSU receivers man to man.
  • MTSU gained 351 yards on 5 completions. But, it was actually WORSE than that. Remove a 24 yard completion (which nearly scored, btw), and MTSU gained 327 yards on 4 completions. THAT’S 81.75 YARDS PER COMPLETION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Those completions were 98 yards for a TD, 89 yards (NOT a touchdown), 71 yards for a TD, and 69 (nice) yards for a TD. Haymaker after haymaker after haymaker after haymaker. And they all landed. And they knocked Miami out cold.
  • On the 89 yard completion, LB Corey Flagg once again showed he’s not good enough at playing in space to be on the field. He took a HORRIBLE angle on the receiver, who caught the ball on a stop route a mere 6 yards from the line of scrimmage, whiffed on what should have been an easy tackle — didn’t even really attempt a tackle; Flagg just jumped outside (WHY?!?!?!?) as the receiver caught the ball then dove at his ankles when the receiver, who actually has speed, started to pull away from the flat-footed Flagg — and allowed the receiver to run the rest of the distance.
  • I recorded the game, so I’m re-watching that play again for the 17th time. Flagg simply cannot play in space. He doesn’t think fast enough, and it’s very apparent he doesn’t run/move fast enough to do it. Get him off the field vs the spread. He’s a liability the likes of which I can’t remember se......yes I can. He’s just the biggest liability at LB in space we’ve had in years, but there are plenty of others who fit that bill previously. And, if the goal is to improve from previous (WHICH IT IS), then he’s gotta find the bench when teams spread us out. Plain and simple.
  • Ew. James Williams took a horrible angle over the top from his safety spot which allowed the receiver — who, again, should have been tackled by Flagg — to get out the back door and down the sideline.
  • Oh look. Miami letting another opposing QB set a record (or another record, in this case) at their expense. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Red zone futility, thy name is Miami.
  • I mean....Miami had no answer for anything MTSU gave them. Offensively or Defensively. Absent that KR-TD this is a 3 TD loss.....or worse. And I want to hope this is rock bottom it?

Team Grades

Offense: F-

Neither efficient nor explosive. TVD sucked and was benched. Garcia brought some life into things, but even he only completed 2 of his last 8 passes, including missing on his last 5 throws of the game. The run game was non-existent. The OL was abused. And even when Miami tried to dial up something, anything....someone missed a block or dropped a pass or made a wrong read and the play was ruined. 24 points on offense on 89 snaps at 4 yards per play vs MTSU. Pitiful.

Defense: F- (x45)

That’s F with 45 minuses. One for every point MTSU scored. I detailed the failings of several players, who were abused and exploited. The records set by MTSU. The receivers running free down the field STILL. And here’s the thing: Miami got some stops! Miami was good on 3rd down defense! But the defense was trying to defend dinks and dunks while MTSU was throwing BOMBS. Tackling was bad. And I didn’t even mention the fact that, on both sides of the ball, MTSU was WAY more physically imposing than Miami. This is really, really bad.

Special Teams: A

Made the only FG attempt. Great punting from the backup (and future) punter. A KR-TD. I mean, This unit did their jobs really well. Kinda like the string quartet playing a beautiful piece while the Titanic sank.

Coaching: Fireable

Oh, do I have your attention now?

Let me be clear: I’m not calling for Cristobal or anyone on the staff to be fired at this point of the season, or the rebuild, or whatever. HOWEVER, this same performance from previous coaching staffs/Canes teams — from Al Golden to Mark Richt to Manny Diaz — has been fireable. And to me, this is the same shit we’ve seen before, so I’m giving it the same grade I’ve given it before.

I noted the fact that MTSU physically dominated Miami. And they did. They came into HRS and whooped our asses. AND they landed their haymakers in the passing game time and time and time again.

I said I was fully done with Diaz after Mel Tucker called Miami some punk bitches in his post-game presser after blowing Miami out last year. Tell me MTSU coach Rick Stockstill isn’t saying the same damn thing.

Middle Tennessee played Miami and was the tougher team. That is factual and not ironic.

That is a fireable offense.

Now, it is incumbent upon Cristobal and company to change the culture and the performance with immediate effect. That’s the task moving forward. And again, I’m not saying that anybody should lose their job today, or tomorrow, or next week. What I am saying is this performance has been seen from the Canes multiple times in the last decade, and each time I’ve graded it as fireable. I’m not changing that just because it’s game 4. Cristobal himself has said the standard is the standard. So I’m upholding the standard by this grading.

It’s Cristobal’s job to uphold the standard by fixing this.


That’s it for this edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I’m sure you have thoughts and feelings. I look forward to you hopping into the comments to discuss because there’s LOTS to discuss.

Go Canes