The Miami Hurricanes’ spring game — a culmination of 14 practices beginning in early March — took place Friday night at DRV PNK Stadium, with the offense picking up a 34-23 victory over the defense.
“We set out to get a lot of competitive situations,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “I thought we did that. We played physical in spurts, were successful in spurts on both sides of the ball and showed some inconsistencies. But, overall progress. We really feel like we have progressed and we’ve got to continue progressing from here.”
Much of the action happened in the first half, which consisted of two, 15-minute quarters, before players resorted to two-hand touch instead of tackling after halftime. The second half featured a running clock.
After missing much of the 2022 season due to injury, starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and wide receiver Xavier Restrepo immediately re-established their connection on Miami’s first drive of the game.
On the first play of the day, Restrepo sprinted down the left sideline for a 23-yard gain off a shovel pass. However, the Hurricanes’ two offensive stars did not fully display their chemistry until a few plays later, when Van Dyke showed off his arm with a 24-yard pass that Restrepo snagged along the right sideline.
Van Dyke completed 13 of 19 passes in the first half for a team-high 188 yards and one touchdown. He even showcased his scrambling on one play, taking off down the left sideline for an 11-yard gain due to pressure from edge defender Rueben Bain. Restrepo hauled in three catches for 69 yards before halftime.
“The work that [Tyler and I] put in together is finally coming together,” Restrepo said. “ …he’s expecting me to be open and I’m expecting him to throw me the ball. There’s no better feeling.”
Defensively, freshman Bain stole the show, plowing through the offensive line for three sacks in the first half. No one else had two in that span, as Chantz Williams and Jacob Lichtenstein each registered one.
“Hurricane Bain, man! It went on display today,” safety Kamren Kinchens said.
Washington State transfer Francisco Mauigoa had an exceptional day in his Hurricanes debut with four tackles, including a tackle for loss on the Hurricanes’ first drive that forced a field goal.
Miami scored just one touchdown during the first half, but it was well worth the price of admission. Wide receiver Jacolby George hauled in a spectacular 15-yard, over-the-shoulder catch from Van Dyke, who perfectly placed the ball in the back corner of the end zone.
But Van Dyke wasn’t the only quarterback that impressed. Freshman quarterback Emory Williams excelled on his first drive, completing all four of his passes for 42 yards. That included a 32-yard heave down the left sideline to fellow freshman wide receiver Isaiah Horton, who had two catches for 41 yards before halftime.
Quarterback Jacurri Brown struggled, missing his first four throws. He finished with just 55 yards on 5 of 11 completions before the break.
“Look, Jacurri was off tonight and I get it,” Cristobal said. “That guy has had an unbelievable spring. It’s a shame that tonight didn’t go as well as we hoped it would go.”
Other notable contributors on Friday included Colbie Young (3 catches for 38 yards), linebacker Rocky Shelton (four tackles, 1 TFL) and kicker Andy Borregales, who made both of his field goals — a 27- and 51-yarder.
Williams and freshman receiver Nathaniel Joseph capped off the spring game in breathtaking fashion, with a 79-yard touchdown play. Miami’s freshman signal-caller connected with a wide-open Joseph midfield, who sped past defenders for the score, jumping up and down in celebration as the crowd erupted.
“[Joesph] is a diehard ‘Cane through and through, a must-have guy. Tonight he showed why,” Cristobal said.
Several fans stood close by as players exited the stadium, striking up conversations and eagerly taking pictures with the Hurricanes, who were happy to comply. While Miami still has a long way to go before the start of the season, Friday was an important occasion for players and fans alike.