27 First Downs

Between the twenty-yard lines the Miami Hurricanes looked pretty damn good! There were no three and outs and every drive moved the ball. The Canes only punted the ball three times and gained almost 400 yards on one of the top defenses in the country. The Canes ran the ball well for 175 yards and averaged 5 yards per offensive play. Normally when you hear these kinds of numbers you would think that Miami won the game going away. However, for some reason whenever Miami got into the red-zone, the plan of attack became a total Rubik’s cube. The next detail will shock you, Miami had zero touchdowns on the night despite getting in the rezone with such regularity. The U is the first school in 22 years to outplay a team so well by driving and getting twenty-seven first downs without getting any touchdowns to show for it.

Josh Gattis has taken a lot of heat for his play calling, particularly his red-zone play construction and selection. There was one sequence where Miami ran the ball three times in goal to go situations and basically got stuffed all three times. It seemed very conservative at the time, but when you look at the thinking behind the strategy: those plays should have worked. Texas A&M was dropping eight in zone with a light box and had given up decent yardage in the running game all night. Unfortunately, at the end of that drive Jakai Clark and the rest of the interior line did not execute well and the run plays got blown up. With that said, when the run plays did not work on the first two downs, I would have liked to see TVD take a shot at cracking the zone with pass play. Gattis had to have at least one play with a route tree combination that exploited the weaknesses in the zone coverage TAMU was showing on third and goal. The fact that Gattis did not trust the ball in TVD’s hands tells me a lot about his confidence in Van Dyke’s ability to read coverages and his receiver’s ability to diagnose where the soft spots are in the zone and sit down to make themselves available. Miami ran 9 total plays in the red-zone for only 8 yards, and 5 pass attempts which netted 2 completions for only 4 yards.

It was not a good night for Tyler Van Dyke who has not been throwing as many dimes as he did last season. Van Dyke had plenty of time to throw in the game against the Aggies but just looked unsure on where to go with the ball when TAMU dropped back in coverage. There were also deep outs that TVD threw, namely to Redding, that he simply just missed on. TVD’s deep out accuracy was a bit concerning. The timing with the receivers were out of sync. Tyler is a pocket passer that requires timing and rhythm to be precise. When Tyler spots a guy he usually lets it fly. That was how he excelled in Rhett Lashlee’s offense last season because his playmakers were open in space. In the pro-style offense of Gattis, it requires more pro-style manipulation of defenses. Moving the safeties with your eyes, diagnosing the pre-snap versus the post-snap look and getting defenders to bite on subtle fakes, and taking the underneath routes instead of forcing deep throws. These are parts of the quarterback skillset that Tyler does not possess yet. If he does, he has not shown it so far this season. The TVD that we have seen so far this season is more reminiscent of the TVD we saw last year against North Carolina and Virginia as opposed to the TVD we saw against NC State and Pitt. So, Tyler needs to work on those aspects of his game or else he will not be the first-round draft pick that we were all predicting he would be after this season.

The defense was the bright spot of the night. I do want to give a special shout out to them because typically we are very critical of those guys when they do not play well, so let’s give them their flowers when they play well. The defense balled out! Standing ovation for DJ Ivey. He played sticky coverage all night, had critical pass breakups, and tackled very well. The defense did not allow Max Johnson to get comfortable in the pocket with 12 hurries and 3 sacks. The nephew of Mark Richt and son of Brad Johnson only threw for 140 yards and had a paltry 50% completion rate.

The Miami linebackers had a solid night. Corey Flagg and Caleb Johnson were absolutely wrecking plays and flying around out there. They played with aggression and tackled well all night. I was pleased with the overall play of the linebackers even though at times they did allow Achane to get going downhill and could have tackled better behind their defensive tackles who were sometimes over penetrating. Also, Waymond Steed gave up the touchdown catch to Achane, which was poor execution. The linebackers were not perfect, but they were solid, and they covered the backs in the flats and tight ends very well all night with the exception of the Achane touchdown reception. Usually if our defense holds a team to 17 points, we win that game. Especially when you take into account the very poor special teams’ turnover that Tyrique Stevenson had when he muffed the punt to start the game. I will say, in the previous week Stevenson did take some chances while fielding punts against Southern Miss but it did not burn the team until Texas A&M. We lost our muffed punt fumble and Texas A&M recovered their muffed punt fumble. That was the difference that decided the game.

Miami head coach Mario Cristobal goes through warmup drills before the start of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

It was a team loss. Everyone played their part. The wide receivers could not get consistent separation and were dropping passes. The defense got stops but for some reason they kept letting Texas A&M drive to the 50-yard line before stopping them. So, the Aggie’s Aussie punter who was very surgical with his kicks kept pinning our offense deep. Our offense was starting every drive from the 1-yard line, the 5-yard line, or the 10-yard line. We have an impatient quarterback who doesn’t like to take what the defense is giving him. Throwing deep against two high safeties and ignoring wide open underneath routes for most of the game is not a good recipe for an efficient offense. There were two plays where we could have scored big play touchdowns from outside of the red zone and TVD simply missed them.

Rambo and Harley are gone and Restrepo won’t be back for a minimum of 6 weeks, so TVD is going to need to look for Mallory and Arroyo more often because those guys are often open and can do things with the ball in their hands. We have an overly conservative pro-style offense that does not do a great job of getting playmakers open in space consistently. Rooster is banged up. Parrish is solid but not as explosive as Rooster. Andres Borregales is a good dependable kicker, but he is not his brother. We created pressure on A&M’s quarterback but not enough three and outs because of the success the Aggies had on the ground. Allowing too many punts from midfield will pin your offense deep every time and it is hard to score touchdowns when your average starting field position is your own 5-yard line. Gattis needs to tailor his offense more to fit the strengths of his players.

A big concern for me when the Gattis hire was made was the fact that we would not be running a lot of run pass options with quick throw reads that Tyler is very good at. We need to see more RPOs and running back screens. When a team has an aggressive defensive line like TAMU has and they were coming after our trigger man, there were plenty of opportunities to dial up running back screens to punish their aggressiveness. I believe we need to see more of that moving forward. We need to have our playmakers move around in space rather than playing in such a compressed box.  With that said, it was disappointing that we were unable to go into College Station and get a win in front of that 107,000+ audience like Appalachian State did the prior week. Nevertheless, this was a good measuring stick game and Miami definitely proved that it has the athletes to compete with the big boys. The Hurricanes need to grow as a team and need better play from Tyler Van Dyke as we move into Atlantic Coast Conference play. Next up: Middle Tennessee!


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