You thought the simmering rage over the state of the University of Miami football program couldn’t grow louder?
This embarrassing 35-23 defeat to a 6-6 Pittsburgh team that had lost by 11 points to Akron --– Akron!!! --- was a new low, but also a clear indication that change is needed.
### If UM (6-6) loses its bowl game --- which at this point, would surprise nobody --- it would result in the Hurricanes’ third losing season in 35 years. The only others since 1980: 5-7 in 2007 and 5-6 in 1997.
### With his third loss in a row, Al Golden dropped to 28-21 at UM, barely better than Randy Shannon’s 28-22 record before his dismissal. UM is just 16-16 in the ACC under Golden.
### Under Golden, UM dropped to 18-20 against teams from power five conferences.
### UM was outscored 14-10 in the second half, meaning the Hurricanes have been outscored 181-69 in the second half of its past 10 losses under Golden.
### More evidence of how UM is underachieving:
Miami’s last five recruiting classes were 16th, 36th, 9th, 20th and 12th, according to rivals.com. Pittsburgh's were 33rd, 59th, 47th, 35th and 44th.
But then again, UM also lost to Virginia, whose classes were 67th, 25th, 27th, 28th and 41st. And UM lost to Georgia Tech, whose classes were 43, 41, 57, 85 and 47. And, of course, Miami lost to Louisville, whose 2010-14 classes were 48, 29, 42, 50 and 42.
Unless you believe the rivals.com rankings are all wrong, then that’s a scathing indictment of this coaching staff.
### UM athletic director Blake James told me last week that Golden will remain the coach next season, as I reported. That means unless Golden leaves for another job (and the offers aren’t exactly going to pour in), then the most realistic change would be if Golden shakes up his staff.
You would think Golden would be smart enough to realize that he cannot return with everything status quo, that he would be committing career suicide if he does. But James also has said he believes his coaches should decide the fate of their assistants, so this is ultimately in Golden’s hands, though it’s possible the administration could cajole him to make changes.
Golden could start by hiring someone to coach special teams, a role he handled this season. UM’s special teams have been atrocious at times, especially in return coverage. Tyler Boyd produced 190 yards in kickoff returns tonight, allowing the Panthers to consistently win the field-position battle.
Here’s what’s also discouraging: UM loses three to five of its top 8 to 10 players (Phillip Dorsett, Denzel Perryman, Clive Walford) and potentially loses its biggest star, Duke Johnson, and its best offensive lineman (Ereck Flowers), who did not have a good night.
Johnson said after the game that he hasn't decided if he will turn pro, but a scout told me last week that UM people expect he will. (His mother wants him to get a degree but also has expressed concern about him getting injured if he comes back next season.)
“Who is your building block?” ESPN’s Brock Huard said. “Who are your centerpiece guys? Who is your difference maker next year at Miami?”
Start with Brad Kaaya and Joe Yearby (if Duke leaves), but there are lots of issues elsewhere.
Consider that UM has two five-star recruits on defense and neither made much of a difference tonight. Junior Tracy Howard, one of those five-star recruits, plays sparingly.
Chad Thomas, UM's other five-star recruit on defense, was barely noticeable during his limited playing time tonight. Whereas St. Thomas Aquinas’ Joey Bosa collected 7.5 sacks as a freshman at Ohio State last season, Thomas didn’t have one in his first year at Miami. Thomas is too talented not to develop into a good player over time at UM.
Still, there’s the issue of whether this staff can develop elite talent on defense. (Artie Burns and Jamal Carter --- two four-star kids --- are still experiencing some growing pains as sophomores.)
But there’s also the issue of finding talent. Despite the high recruiting rankings, UM hasn’t been able to procure high-end defensive tackles, which remains its biggest recruiting shortcoming under Golden.
I lost count on how many times Calvin Heurtelou was sealed off on Pittsburgh runs tonight. Yet UM stuck with him for much of the game, instead of Michael Wyche (who received some snaps), Courtel Jenkins and Anthony Moten.
Heuretelou and Olsen Pierre (playing his final regular season game at UM), received little help from the rest of the front seven.
Tyriq McCord was poor in run support, raising questions about whether he should be full-time at linebacker instead of playing that hybrid d-end/linebacker spot.
Freshman defensive end Trent Harris was mauled, Heurtelou was sealed and linebacker Raphael Kirby was late on James Conner’s 13-yard run to open the scoring.
McCord and Jermaine Grace couldn’t unhinge from blocks on a 16-yard run on a third and two on Pittsburgh’s third touchdown drive.
Pierre and Burns were blocked off and McCord simply went the wrong way on Chris Jones’ 15 yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
As usual, there were plenty of foolish mistakes: A Carter pass interference helped set up Pittsburgh’s third TD. Burns committed pass interference on a third and seven, leading to Pittsburgh’s fifth touchdown. Walter Tucker lost his cool and committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the game.
### Pittsburgh, which entered 15th in the country with 253.6 yards rushing per game, closed with 226 yards on the ground, on 4.8 per carry. Quarterback Chad Voytik needed to throw only 12 times, because the Panthers were bludgeoning UM on the ground.
"It was embarrassing to watch," Duane Starks said on WQAM's postgame show.
### Meanwhile, Brad Kaaya went cold in the second half, completing only one of 10 throws during one stretch. After an 11 for 19,174 yard first half, Kaaya went just 11 for 26 for 122 yards after intermission.
### Highlights? This wasn’t one of Duke Johnson’s better games this year (18-89), but as most of you know, he set UM’s career rushing record.
Phillip Dorsett again made a mark: 5 catches for 103, including a 51-yard touchdown.
Stacy Coley, who had an immensely disappointing sophomore season, made a few nifty catches (4 for 42).
### Golden’s take afterward: “We're responsible for the record. I'm responsible for the record. We are what our record is. Period. I'm disappointed....
"We played hard. We didn't play well enough tonight. I don't want to get into excuses or rationalizations. We didn’t make enough plays, not enough red zone stops on defense. We gave them a short field on the kicking game. [Some of the penalties] were just selfish. Disappointing.”
Regarding Pittsburgh’s running game: “We let them stay ahead of schedule. You can’t do that. We didn’t get enough negatives against a really good running game. They were able to play the game on their terms because of it. We needed to get [Duke] a couple more touches. He started to be more productive in the second half. Just coming from behind, we were against the clock and had to get away from the running game….
“Despite the loss to Florida State, I thought we played well [that night]. I think we played hard tonight. We just didn’t do enough.”
### Kaaya's reaction: "I hate losing. I hate it. I want to be great.... Things are going to start changing next season."
### Duke Johnson: "We have a lot of talent on this team and we just aren't showing it."
### Clive Walford left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury “but I think he is going to be OK,” Golden said.
### James had said New York or El Paso were UM’s likely bowl destinations with a win tonight. Instead, UM could end up in one of several cities, including Shreveport, St. Pete, Charlotte, Nashville, Washington D.C., Annapolis or Detroit. James said a matchup against UF in a bowl game would be appealing, and several bowls with ACC tie-ins (Shreveport, Charlotte, Nashville, Jacksonville) are authorized to have an ACC-SEC matchup.
At 3-5 in the ACC, UM likely would be well down the pecking order for bowls with ACC tie-ins.