Takeaways from Miami’s loss to No. 10 Louisville

Sophomore Jades Richard tackles Louisville wide receiver Chris Bell short of the end zone during the second quarter of the 38-31 Senior Night loss At Hard Rock Stadium. Photo credit: Charisma Jones

There’s no doubt the Miami Hurricanes have heart.

The ‘Canes fought hard for four quarters on Saturday against the No. 9 Louisville Cardinals in a matchup that looked winnable throughout; however, late-game blunders cost them a 38-31 loss.

Miami now falls to 2-5 in ACC play.

Over the past two weeks, Miami has found itself in wire-wire matchups with not only the top-two teams in the ACC but also two of the top 10 squads in college football. There are obvious similarities between the losses; both were by one possession, and in each, Miami had the opportunity for a game-tying or winning drive yet came up short.

If the ‘Canes can compete with the elite, what will it take to be a part of them?

With Miami at 6-5, certain parts of this team’s identity are clearer than ever, some to look forward to and some to be forgotten. These will be touched on in this week’s takeaways.

The Continued Emergence of Freshman Mark Fletcher Jr.

Maybe the biggest upside this dual showed was that of Mark Fletcher Jr. The true freshman has competed for carries on a team deep at the running back position, most notably junior Henry Parrish and sophomore Donald Chaney Jr; however, Saturday was a separating point for Fletcher. The Ft. Lauderdale, Florida native led Miami with 17 carries, two touchdowns and 126 yards on the ground. It was the second time in the last three games that Fletcher surpassed the 100-yard mark.

Fletcher’s momentous run came in the third quarter when he found a hole for a 54-yard race with three Cardinals tailing and proceeded to run in the touchdown a play later. Fletcher’s consistency versus Louisville by averaging seven yards per carry will elevate him.

He has terrific lateral quickness and can change direction with ease. Combined with his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame, Fletcher is a star in the making. Most importantly, he carries a winner’s mentality, sharing his thoughts post-game.

“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,” Fletcher said.

Late-game Discipline and Management

These two go hand-in-hand; furthermore, they are a representation of the collective effort by both coaches and players. It’s important to include them together because if there was anything more apparent towards the rocky end of Saturday’s brawl, it was questionable decision-making by the ‘Canes, with one mistake leading to the next.

Miami accumulated five penalties for a loss of 50 yards, below their season average for penalties per game, yet the total should still be lower. Late-game emotions are understandable; however, reckless personal fouls with the game on the line is too costly to be reasonable. This was the case with Jacolby George and then Brashard Smith within the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.

Players weren’t the only ones making late-game blunders, with controversial time management also at fault. Cristobal elected to use a time-out with Miami at fourth-and-goal on the Louisville three-yard line which would cost the ‘Canes important seconds the rest of the way.

After the fourth-down incompletion in the endzone, George’s subsequent outburst got penalized, allowing 15 extra yards for Louisville, moving its possession from the three-yard line to the 18. A few plays later, the Cardinals punted to Miami’s 40, and another personal foul was assessed, this one on Smith, moving the ball back to the 25.

These are crucial and preventable errors, which are just as frustrating to those watching. If Miami is to elevate its play in the Cristobal era, it’s going to need more disciplined game management on the field and on the sidelines.

The Tyler Van Dyke and Xavier Restrepo Connection is a Mainstay in Miami’s Offense

A few humbling weeks for Van Dyke, including lackluster performances and being benched for freshman Emory Williams, may have woken him up. Van Dyke delivered an interception-less performance, where he put up his highest quarterback rating since Week 4 at 79.1. He was more calculated than seen in past weeks and completed an efficient 61.5% of throws for 327 yards.

Regardless, questions will surround Miami’s quarterback position until next September; however, it’s important to be positive about what the ‘Canes can look forward to tomorrow. That being the continued evolution of the Van Dyke to Restrepo connection.

At their best, the roommates are the strongest attack in Miami’s offense and showcase the potential of offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s air-raid offense. Against Louisville, Restrepo went for a career-best 193 receiving yards, including a 48-yard catch at the end of regulation. It was the receiver’s fourth game of the season with 120 or more yards; this year he’s broken out for 876 yards and counting.

Next season, the pair will be fifth-year seniors, and presuming they are both ‘Canes, they will have the opportunity to be one of the most experienced quarterback-wide receiver duos in the country.