Offensive miscues doom Hurricanes against N.C. State

Freshman running back Mark Fletcher Jr. runs with the football during Miami's 20-6 loss to North Carolina State at Carter-Finley Stadium on Nov. 4, 2023. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

As time wound down in the fourth quarter, the Miami Hurricanes offense trotted back out onto the field, ran a few plays and junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke capped off the game with another interception in the final seconds. It’s a fitting way to end a disheartening performance in Raleigh, North Carolina. The ‘Canes fell to 6-3 overall (2-3 in the ACC) as they lost to North Carolina (N.C.) State, 20-6, on Saturday night.

After a field goal from junior kicker Andy Borregales, the ‘Canes took the lead 3-0, but it was all downhill from there. The Wolfpack responded with a touchdown to take the 7-3 lead. The ‘Canes were able to keep it close with another field goal but that’s the closest that they got for the rest of the game. The Wolfpack were able to capitalize on a Van Dyke fumble – one of his four turnovers on the day – to kick another field goal and make the score 10-6 at the end of the first half.

In the second half, Miami was finally able to put together a drive that got them near the goal line. Down only four, a touchdown would have given Miami the lead and restored some momentum.

Facing fourth-and-one, the Hurricanes were unable to convert. The Wolfpack then drove down and scored to give themselves a double-digit lead. Miami’s struggles in the red zone plagued them all game and were ultimately the difference in the end.

“Games like that, you got to grind them out,” head coach Mario Cristobal told reporters after the game. “It’s going to be who can outlast who, who can get up one more time. We had a lot of momentum going down there in the fourth quarter to go score and when we didn’t get that done it certainly switched some momentum. That being said, guts kept battling and kept fighting but not to the standard, and not to the result we wanted.”

Those six points were the last that the ‘Canes scored Saturday night. A lot of that is on the shoulders of Van Dyke.

The Connecticut native played arguably the worst game of his career. Van Dyke threw three interceptions that all looked very poor. Some brutal underthrows cut the legs out of any momentum that Miami tried to muster. Van Dyke was not efficient or accurate, as he only completed 55% of his passes for 173 yards and zero touchdowns.

“I just have to get back into form and understand where we can get better in the passing game,” Van Dyke said. “Obviously, it’s not what it has been the last few games so just got to get back on the drawing board and be better.”

Miami’s defense was able to cause a few turnovers itself with a Kamren Kinchens interception and a Jaden Davis strip-sack, but it was not enough to overcome the team’s offensive shortcomings. Every time Miami’s defense would make a play, it seemed as though the Wolfpack’s defense struck right back.

“I think we got to just keep bringing energy,” UM senior defensive lineman Branson Deen said. “Keep executing the full game, not part of it. Not a slow start or a slow ending. We have to keep the energy all game and execute. Like I said, we’ll watch the film and make our corrections and we have to move on quickly.”

The ‘Canes wideouts had a decent day. The leading receiver was junior Jacolby George, with five receptions for 59 yards. Junior Xavier Restrepo was held to just one reception for 13 yards until the last drive of the game. N.C. State’s defense did a great job of bottling up Miami’s receivers.

Miami’s rushing attack was effective when utilized, though. In his first start, true freshman running back Mark Fletcher Jr. got the bulk of the carries for Miami en route to a career-high 115 yards on 23 carries. Usually, the Miami rushing attack is more balanced, but no other back had more than three carries.

“I feel like I played great,” Fletcher said. “The O-line made a lot of openings for me but we did not get the result we wanted and we just have to go back to work.”

This was a hallmark game for the Wolfpack’s coaching staff, as head coach Dave Doeren collected his 78th victory in his time at N.C. State. That’s a program record, and the team got to celebrate in front of a sold-out crowd. This was also the first time that N.C. State had beaten Miami in 15 years. The last time was when Russell Wilson was under center for the Wolfpack.

The ‘Canes will have to limp into Tallahassee on a low note as they have a huge rivalry showdown with the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles next Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. The kick-off for this matchup on ABC is to be determined.