So the Reign of Mediocrity continues, and this one comes with the usual supply of bang-your-head-against-the-wall questions. Such as:
Why can’t UM defenders resist their instincts and carry out their assignments?
Why can’t UM, under Al Golden, ever beat a good team on the road?
Why was D’Mauri Jones --- Miami’s sixth-best receiver AT BEST – the recipient of a critical pass on a key second-half possession deep in Georgia Tech territory? (At least his fumble was overturned on replay.)
And why is UM playing its safeties deep on a third and short against a team that runs the vast majority of the time?
There are never any answers, really, certainly not any good ones, and so the UM program remains stuck in neutral, unable to fix its shortcomings and unable to come up with any real solutions. So this is where we are:
### Since opening 7-0 last season, UM has played 12 games and lost seven of them, all by double digits. And as NBC 6 anchor/WQAM sportscaster Adam Kuperstein noted, UM has been outscored 130-50 in the second half of those seven losses.
### UM is 3-3 (1-2 in the ACC) and this increasingly has the look of a 7-5 or 6-6 season unless Miami can figure out a way to win at Virginia Tech (which dispatched the Canes by 18 points last year) or at Virginia, which has given UM all sorts of aggravation over the past several years. Beating FSU? Good luck with that.
### Against schools from major conferences (including the Big East), UM is now 19-18 under Al Golden.
### UM entered 1-16 in its last 17 road games against ranked teams. Georgia Tech, now 5-0, wasn’t ranked, so that record remains unchanged.
### The Hurricanes had beaten the Yellow Jackets five in row, but Tech's option offense flummoxed Miami; Tech finished with 311 yards on the ground on 65 carries, equaling 4.8 per carry. Tech needed to throw the ball only seven times, with Justin Thomas completing four for 53 yards.
That makes the Yellow Jackets the fifth team since 2011 (and second in three weeks) to run for 300-plus yards against UM. And UM has allowed an opponent to rush for 200-plus yards an absurd 16 times during Golden’s tenure.
A few other numbing numbers from tonight:
### While UM was just 1 for 5 on third downs, Georgia Tech was 9 for 14, converting nearly all of them in the second half.
### The Yellow Jackets had an overwhelming edge in time of possession: 40:11 to 19:15.
Tech wrested this game from Miami by marching 75 yards on 13 plays for touchdowns on each of its first two possessions of the second half. One possession chewed up 6:50, the other 6:54. Common theme to both drives: UM couldn't make a stop on third down.
As usual, UM defensive breakdowns were plentiful. The pitch man in Georgia Tech’s offense did a fair share of the damage, with UM defenders displaying neither the discipline nor the physical ability to respond. But Zach Laskey (29 for 133) and Tech’s offensive line also gouged UM up the gut at times.
UM ultimately was undone by shrewd play-calling and scheming from Paul Johnson (including using an unbalanced line at times), the UM defensive tackles’ inability to shake blocks, linebackers too often being hoodwinked and losing sight of the pitch man; defensive backs not offering run support quickly or skillfully enough; and an offense that could muster only three second-half points.
On that first Tech scoring drive of the second half, Thurston Armbrister and Nantambu Fentress missed a tackle on one play; Deon Bush was beaten for a completion on an 3rd and 8; Armbrister was fooled on an option run; and UM looked thoroughly confused seconds before BJ Bostic’s two-yard TD run, an underhanded toss that was an easy score because Fentress came over late and Ladarius Gunter couldn’t dislodge from a block.
(Incidentally, Mark D’Onofrio opted to start the second half with Fentress in the game. He also played a lot of four-man lines, with Chickillo, Olsen Pierre, Ufomba Kamalu and Tyriq McCord opening the game as UM’s defensive front.)
On Tech's second TD drive of the second half, mistakes included Tony Zenon beat Armbrister for a 30-yard reception (on a 3rd and 16) and the linebackers were fooled on Deon Hall’s 8-yard TD run, with UM cornerbacks again unable to dislodge quickly enough from blocks.
According to ESPN, Tyriq McCord and Denzel Perryman kept telling teammates to trust each other and carry out their assignments. But all the talk rarely seems to translate to results. And D'Onofrio made another puzzling move by playing his safeties too deep at times, just as he did against Nebraska.
### Al Golden’s take afterward, on WQAM: “We didn’t convert well enough on third down. The defense was out there too long. We threw two interceptions in the red zone. We got beat in all three phases. We didn’t get off the field on third down. That’s what hurt us the most. The third and 15 was a back-breaker. You can still win if they get 250, 270 yards rushing. It’s when they start doing that on third down and converting it, it’s unacceptable. The fullback hurt us tonight. We couldn’t stop them inside."
More stream of consciousness from Golden: "They played better than us. On the third and longs, which we should have an advantage on, we did not execute the way we wanted to. Disappointing we didn’t hold the ball more on offense and help the defense out. We weren’t good enough on third down. The only way you can beat them when you have two turnovers is if you get two or some combination of two and a fourth down stop. We didn’t get a turnover or a fourth-down stop. Not good enough. We’ve got to regroup. I’ve got to get the guys rested up and healthy. There’s no time for excuses. No time for complaining. We’ve got a lot of football left. Duke was 0-2 in the league last year and ended up winning [the Coastal].”
### By the way, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who ripped through UM's defense for 229 yards on 35 carries two week ago, mustered just 45 yards on 24 carries in a loss to Michigan State tonight. So as good as Abdullah is, it's not as if he can't be slowed.
### Brad Kaaya closed 16 for 25 for 245 yards and one touchdown (to Braxton Berrios on UM’s first drive) but also two interceptions. Golden said Malcolm Lewis didn’t see the ball on one interception and Kaaya overthrew Clive Walford on the other.
### Positives? Freshman Chad Thomas, slowed by back spasms the past two weeks, made a couple of notable plays. Duke Johnson ran 14 times for 100 yards. And freshman Nick Linder played well in his first start at guard. “He showed he’s tough as can be,” Golden said.
### Final receiving numbers: Phillip Dorsett 3 for 75, Duke Johnson 3 for 52, Clive Walford 2 for 37, Lewis 2 for 30, Berrios 2 for 29, Herb Waters 2 for 20, and Stacy Coley 1 for 2.
Coley, whose disappointing sophomore season has been puzzling, made a contribution on kickoff returns, with three for 83 yards.
Please check back Sunday for the Sunday buzz column, with lots of Dolphins, Heat and Marlins. And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz).