‘Canes drop third straight in narrow 38-31 loss to No. 10 Louisville

Fourth-year junior wide receiver Xavier Restrepo takes a moment after being tackled short of the end zone in what would have been the game-tying touchdown in the final moment fourth quarter of Miami’s game versus Louisville at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 18, 2023. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

A top-10 win slipped through the Miami Hurricanes’ fingers on Saturday afternoon thanks to a series of errors that gave No. 10 Louisville a 38-31 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. The Cardinals clinched a spot in the ACC title game against No. 4 Florida State with their win.

Miami had four plays to tie the game late in the fourth quarter at the Louisville 4. Instead, quarterback Tyler Van Dyke threw three incomplete passes, the last of which sailed over wide receiver Jacolby George’s head.

Prior to that drive, the Cardinals took the lead when defensive backs Te’Cory Couch and Jaden Davis collided in coverage, freeing up Kevin Coleman Jr. for a 58-yard touchdown.

While a last-second Hail Mary fell into wide receiver Xavier Restrepo’s hand after a deflection, he was tackled five yards short of the end zone as time expired, giving Miami its third consecutive loss. The Hurricanes fell to NC State two weeks ago before almost defeating Florida State in Tallahassee last week.

“We’ve made so much progress and we’re dragging these games into the fourth quarter and we are in position to take over and win,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. “And now we’ve got to have that breakthrough on a consistent basis.”

Van Dyke went 24 of 39 for 327 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and Restrepo had a career-high 193 receiving yards. Running back Mark Fletcher Jr. led the ground game with 126 yards and two touchdowns, along with a 54-yard rush.

“I’m happy,” Fletcher said of his success this season. “ … but the standard at Miami is to win, and I’m just a big team guy, no matter what I do individually. I just want to win, and we didn’t do that today.”

Freshman Mark Fletcher, Jr. finishes the last home game of the season against Lousiville with 126 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-31 loss on Nov. 18, 2023.
Freshman Mark Fletcher, Jr. finishes the last home game of the season against Lousiville with 126 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-31 loss on Nov. 18, 2023. Photo credit: Charisma Jones

Miami’s offense looked revitalized following two disappointing losses characterized by shaky quarterback play. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke returned to the starting role on Saturday, one week after being benched for freshman Emory Williams, and led three first-half touchdown drives.

“I was just seeing a lot of things a lot better today,” Van Dyke said.

The ‘Canes first scoring drive showcased their newfound explosiveness, which had been absent since conference play began. Van Dyke threw a 43-yard strike to Jacolby George over the middle of the field, and one play later, running back Mark Fletcher Jr. ran 21 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7.

Aided by a spectacular Kam Kinchens’ interception, Miami began its next possession on the 50-yard line and needed just four plays to find the end zone. Xavier Restrepo caught a 15-yard pass to give the ‘Canes their first lead, 14-7, with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

But the Cardinals met every Hurricane punch with a scoring drive of their own. Louisville used its rushing attack on five consecutive plays, gaining 45 yards, and running back Isaac Guerendo tied the game with his 12-yard run.

Midway through the second quarter, a reversal play gave the Hurricanes the lead once again. Van Dyke faked the handoff and flipped the ball to wide receiver Bradshard Smith, who took off in the opposite direction for a 34-yard rushing touchdown. Offensive lineman Francis Mauigoa flattened a Cardinal defender on the play, making way for the score.

Miami allowed a last-second touchdown but blocked the extra point to take a 21-20 lead into halftime. The Hurricanes were outscored 18-10 in the second half.

Miami will face Boston College next Friday, Nov. 24, on the road in its regular season finale. Kickoff is set for noon.