Expectations were high when the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes headed to Kyle Field on Saturday for their first test of the season against Southeastern Conference (SEC) powerhouse No. 24 Texas A&M.
The ‘Canes ultimately fell short, as the Aggies kept Miami on its feet all night long, slugging it out for a 17-9 victory.
The Hurricanes’ performance was full of mistakes, miscues, missed opportunities and a little bad luck. Miami got in its own way, struggling to work together and make any kind of push to overcome the Aggies.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Special teams were anything but special
Arguably the biggest factor in Miami’s disappointing performance were the numerous errors on special teams.
With just under five minutes left in the first quarter, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson muffed a punt he attempted to field off a bounce, which was recovered by the Aggies deep in Miami territory. Texas A&M scored just three plays later.
“[Tyrique] made a poor decision,” Miami head coach Mario Cristobal said. “That’s very uncharacteristic of him. He’s been a good decision maker and certainly, we gave them the football and they ended up scoring the touchdown.”
The kicking unit was not much better. Andres Borregales, one of the more consistent kickers in college football, missed two field goal attempts, hooking one to the left while an Aggie lineman blocked another.
Basic errors by special teams were ones that Miami could not afford, given its lackluster offense on Saturday.
The ‘Canes got in their own way
Miami’s glaring weak point against Texas A&M was its underwhelming offense. A combination of dropped passes, mental mistakes and questionable play calls stalled the ‘Canes and left them without a single touchdown in College Station, Texas.
However, Miami rushed for 175 yards at 4.9 yards per carry, while quarterback Tyler Van Dyke passed for 217 yards.
Most would expect Miami to put up more than nine points with those numbers, but its lack of urgency and struggles to find the end zone cost them any chance of taking over the game.
In five separate trips to the red zone, Miami only scored six points off two made field goals by Andres Borregales, failing to execute the necessary plays to score major points.
Defense showed out, but they got no help
The difference between Miami’s offense and defense was night and day, and despite an outstanding performance, the defense was not enough to lift the ‘Canes ahead.
Some notable standouts and surprises from Saturday night included star linebacker Leonard Taylor and cornerback DJ Ivey, who finished with two passes defended and three solo tackles.
The defense also limited Aggies quarterback Max Johnson to just 140 yards and one touchdown, while also recording three sacks. First-year Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s defense held A&M’s rushing to just 124 yards and one touchdown at 3.9 yards per carry.
“Our d-line was getting after them, putting some pressure on the quarterback,” Cristobal said. “A couple runs popped out, but bottled them up for the most part.”
New and improved trenches
Having been an offensive lineman himself, it’s no surprise that Cristobal would have improvements to the offensive line at the top of his list.
Throughout the first three weeks of the season, Miami’s o-line has all but dominated, with standout linemen Jalen Rivers and Zion Nelson leading the way.
On Saturday, the offensive line did not allow a single sack on Tyler Van Dyke and also helped Miami’s running backs to a total of 175 yards. Sophomore running back Henry Parrish Jr., who transferred to Miami from Ole Miss in January, led the group, as he has all season, with 85 rushing yards.
In his first chance at a statement win, Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes could not get it done. With a new coaching staff and a new system, adjustments will need to be made to the current roster to best fit the goals of a new-look Hurricanes team.
The ‘Canes will have a chance to bounce back against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 3:30 PM.