For the first time since 2007, the Miami Hurricanes are not bowl-eligible.
The Pittsburgh Panthers made sure of that on Saturday night, dominating Miami 42-16 in its regular season finale at Hard Rock Stadium to spoil Senior Night.
The ‘Canes finish the season at 5-7 in Mario Cristobal’s first year as head coach. Last time Miami was not bowl-eligible, it was also 5-7 under first-year head coach Randy Shannon.
“We didn’t accomplish our goal of being in the postseason,” Cristobal said. “I don’t get fazed or flustered by what needs to be done … We got to get to work with tough-minded people.”
Veteran tight end Will Mallory made the most of his last game as a Hurricane, though, registering a team-high 103 receiving yards, along with a four-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Mallory is now tied for second in both receiving yards and touchdowns among tight ends in program history.
“I just tried to soak up every moment with the guys [today],” Mallory said. “I appreciate all that everyone in this program has done for me.”
Pittsburgh outgained the ‘Canes 493-385 and recorded six sacks en route to victory.
Like in most of the Hurricanes losses this season, they started off slow. Miami’s opening three possessions featured three quarterbacks and two interceptions.
Starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who missed the last two games due to a shoulder injury, marched the Hurricanes to the red zone on their opening drive before throwing a costly interception that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown. Van Dyke was hit on the play and went to the medical tent as freshman Jacurri Brown replaced him on the next drive.
On third-and-8, a miscommunication resulted in another interception as Brown threw a deep ball to the middle of the field with no receiver in sight. He was benched for Jake Garcia on the ensuing possession.
Brown re-entered the game in the third quarter and was injured after a sack on third-and-goal. Garcia had a solid outing, registering 192 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 17-of-28 passes, good enough for a 141.9 passer rating.
Pittsburgh added a 66-yard touchdown to go up two scores at the end of the first quarter, and just like that, Miami found themselves in an early hole for the second straight week.
The second quarter was not much better. The Panthers capitalized on yet another Hurricanes turnover, this time a fumble by tight end Will Mallory, and recovered it at the Miami 19. Running back Israel Abanikanda, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading rusher, ran for an 11-yard touchdown two plays later.
Defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor briefly shifted momentum later in the second as he knocked the ball right out of Panthers’ quarterback Kedon Slovis’ hands. Fellow lineman Leonard Taylor caught it in the air to record Miami’s first turnover of the game.
But the ‘Canes quickly found themselves at fourth-and-9 on the Pittsburgh 18. Kicker Andres Borregales faked a field goal and ran it seven yards down the left sideline. The Panthers took over on downs and went 89 yards in 3:27 for another touchdown. They led 28-0 at halftime. It marked the second consecutive game the Hurricanes had been shutout at the break.
Miami finally got on the board with 6:22 remaining in the third quarter as Borregales nailed a 25-yard chip shot. Running back Jaylan Knighton’s 56-yard rush earlier in the drive helped set up the field goal.
After Mallory’s score in the fourth quarter, Garcia found receiver Xavier Restrepo for a four-yard touchdown to go down 42-16 with 7:22 remaining. It was Restrepo’s first score since Week 1 against Bethune-Cookman. A 58-yard pass to Romello Brinson set up the touchdown.
The ‘Canes outscored the Panthers 13-7 in the final quarter, but it was not nearly enough.
With the loss, Miami enters the offseason amid great uncertainty, as the roster and coaching staff will likely look much different in 2023 after a disappointing year. Regardless, Cristobal will have several months to reflect on the season and get the ‘Canes ready for next year.