It was one of the wildest Miami Hurricanes games ever and unfortunately for “The U” and despite a 28-point come back, it ended in a bitter 42 – 35 loss to ACC opponent Virginia Tech.
It was a game that had more dramatic twists and turns than a Stephen King novel, but it looked initially like it was going to be a humiliating Saturday for Miami. This as the Hokies jumped all over the Hurricanes with four first-half touchdowns.
Three of those scores came with the arm and wheels of reserve quarterback Hendon Hooker, as he threw for two of them and ran for another one. And, before Miami knew what hit them, they were looking up at the Hard Rock Stadium scoreboard that read 28 – 0 with still 9 minutes to play in the second quarter.
Coach Manny Diaz had seen enough of an ineffective Jarren Williams, who threw three first-half interceptions. So, he replaced him with last year’s part-time starter N’Kosi Perry.
Perry got a key Hail Mary score on the final play of the first half, as the deflected ball in the end zone was pulled down by Mark Pope making the game 28 – 7 at the break:
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) October 5, 2019
Perry then engineered an 88-yard drive out of the locker room hitting tight end Brevin Jordan to trim the lead in half to 28 – 14. The Hokies still looked to be in great shape, when Hooker threw his third TD pass of the day to cap a Virginia Tech 80-yard drive, and it was 35 – 14 with 12:43 left.
But unfazed, Perry helped Miami get right back in the game hitting Jeff Thomas with a 13-yard score and then, with another 25-yard score to Thomas, plus a 2-point conversion to make the game 35 – 29 with over three minutes remaining.
That’s when Miami stopped Virginia Tech and incredibly, running Back Deejay Dallas broke free on a 62 yard touchdown run that appeared to give Miami hope to take the lead. However, in a game of bizarre’ moments and shifts, kicker Bubba Baxa had his extra point partially tipped and it nicked the right upright no good.
That set the stage for the Hokies to retake the lead.
And Hooker lED them into scoring range once more and when running back Deshawn McClease converted from 3 yards out it was again a 42 – 35 Virginia Tech advantage with 1:03 left.
Perry who finished with 422 yards despite not playing until the second quarter got Miami in range for one more score. But, he threw incomplete with one second remaining in the back of the endzone and then, his final pass with no time left was batted down at the goal line, as Virginia Tech got their first ACC win of the season.
The final stat sheet showed 77 points, exactly 900 yards of offense and took almost four hours to complete.
Yes, it was an emotional roller coaster game for Diaz, his staff and players, but not all of it was bad.
Surely, the play of Perry and the heart the team showed in the comeback is something Miami can build on, even if the final outcome against the Hokies was a defeat.
Hurricanes bungled bringing Alonzo Highsmith to program
These are definitely trying, and in some cases, embarrassing times for the first season being completed by Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz. And, now comes another indication of dysfunction to the forefront late this week.
This, as former Canes running back great Alonzo Highsmith was apparently all set to join Diaz and the football program in some type of administrative / “Chief of Staff” type-role.
However, Highsmith, AD Blake James and Diaz apparently could not come to an agreement on his role, responsibilities and probably biggest of all, compensation for it. So, the latest on Thursday is the reunion will not be happening:
Alonzo Highsmith told me this morning that the door is now closed about him taking job at UM. Won't happen, he said.
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) January 9, 2020
Hiring Highsmith to help in such a role is something that is now common over the last few years of college football, to especially relieve some of the day-to-day administrative duties of the head coach and allow him to do more, you know, actual coaching in his program.
Nick Saban has this at Alabama. So, too does Dabo Swinney at Clemson.
And even new USF coach and former Clemson co-offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott will be utilizing his father, Brad (a former FSU offensive coordinator himself) in the same role with the Bulls.
As for Highsmith, he is certainly qualified after having played on Howard Schellenberger’s 1983 title team and then for Jimmy Johnson for two years after. He ran for nearly 2,000 yards and 25 TDS in his career and was put in the Canes Hall of Fame in 1997.
Highsmith played six years in the NFL and after having worked for the Green Bay Packers for almost two decades (above) moving up in their front office, he came to the Cleveland Browns as their Vice President of Football Operations this past year.
However, when Cleveland jettisoned GM John Dorsey earlier this month, that paved the way for Highsmith to potentially come to Miami in a similar role that could help Diaz and the football program try to regain its footing.
Miami ended the regular season horribly, with humiliating losses to FIU and Duke and then, was embarrassingly beaten in a 14 – 0 Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech.
Diaz fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos after just his first season in Coral Gables, and has hired former Auburn and SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to replace him.
So now, the fact that Highsmith, who has lots of experience with running football operations and obviously a love for the school where he helped win a National Championship, is now not coming, is another bad sign for Diaz at least in the short-term.
Then again, Diaz may have someone else in mind for the role and we may see that announcement soon, but we at F.F.I wouldn’t advise that you hold your breath on that one.
Instead, it’s the latest in a series of missteps around Hurricanes football at a program has spiraled downward over the course of the last 10 – 15 years.
This includes Miami having lost 9 of its last 10 bowl games and no longer being relevant on the national stage year-in and year-out.
Highsmith represented a link to Miami’s great past of the 1980s and not being able to work out for him to help has to discourage those who care the most about the Canes trying to get back.
Will Canes hiring of veteran OC Lashlee save Manny Diaz?
Manny Diaz did not seem prepared for his first season as a college football head coach at Miami. The Hurricanes were often disorganized, and Diaz’s gameday decisions were often misguided. The Hurricanes lost to FIU, Duke, and Louisiana Tech to close their season. Their offense scored 52 points against Louisville, and did very little else in 2019.
And, obviously, Dan Enos was a bust as offensive coordinator.
Diaz had to make changes to such an unacceptable situation. He has reportedly chosen SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee as his new offensive coordinator.
SMU OC Rhett Lashlee is new OC at Miami, sources told @Stadium. Lashlee has been an OC last 9 seasons at Samford (2011), Arkansas State (2012), Auburn (2013-16), UConn (2017) & SMU (2018-19)
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 3, 2020
The move might not work out – no move is guaranteed to bring supreme success; just ask Michigan about Jim Harbaugh or Texas about Tom Herman – but on paper, it looks like a decision which can revitalize Miami’s offense and give the Canes what they have lacked since Ken Dorsey: a reliably dynamic offense.
Yes, recruiting a strong offensive line has to complement what Lashlee brings to the table. Yes, Miami and Diaz have to put together a roster which can carry ideas from the realm of theory into applied practice. A good offensive system doesn’t mean anything unless the players can put it into action. Lashlee’s arrival guarantees nothing. We can all acknowledge that.
However, if one was to look at the offensive coordinator market and identify the various options Manny Diaz was considering, Lashlee is certainly better than most. He spent multiple seasons under Gus Malzahn at Auburn and was by Malzahn’s side when the Tigers reached the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.
The Tigers used RPO (run-pass option) concepts and a diversified running game which attacked defenses with a combination of tempo and varied angles to bedevil SEC defenses. Auburn won that season’s SEC Championship Game over Missouri by scoring 59 points.
That was Lashlee’s best-ever season.
This past year was his second-best season.
Lashlee helped Sonny Dykes guide the SMU Mustangs to a very rare and exhilarating 10-win season, a rapid climb few people in the college football punditocracy anticipated. Lashlee worked beautifully with Texas transfer Shane Buechele to maximize the potential of the SMU offense, which carried the Ponies throughout the season. When SMU lost, it was usually because the defense folded like a house of cards. The SMU offense did very few things wrong in 2019.
This is the man Miami is reported to have named as its next offensive coordinator.
Nothing is guaranteed in life, but if you were to make a quick “good or bad” call on this move, I’d certainly give it a thumbs-up. Only time will tell if Manny Diaz saved his hide and gave Miami a real chance to make a U turn on offense.
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