Grading the Hurricanes: How No. 8 Miami fared in its win against Syracuse

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The one-possession wins are starting to become habit for Miami, frequent enough for Malik Rosier to have professors joking to him about heart attacks.

Saturday’s win against Syracuse at Hard Rock Stadium was maybe the most stress-inducing escape yet. The No. 8 Hurricanes unraveled for most of the second half in Miami Gardens before finally scoring a touchdown with 2:48 left to get the lead to the final margin of 27-19.

It wasn’t pretty, and most Saturdays this season haven’t been, but it was a win. The Hurricanes are 6-0 and riding an 11-game winning streak. Things could be worse.

Here’s how I grade this week’s performance on a scale of 1-5 stars:

Offense: 2 stars

It feels almost impossible that Rosier threw for a career-high 344 yards. Miami only put up 27 points against a pedestrian defense despite the defense gifting them three extra possessions with takeaways.

The Hurricanes offense was successful in spurts, like during Rosier’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Thomas or running back Travis Homer’s exhale-inducing 33-yard touchdown run during the fourth quarter. For most of the day, though, Miami failed to put away the Orange. Homer was only averaging 2.8 yards per carry until the Hurricanes’ last real possession gave him 20 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards dropped 4 passes, including 2 potential touchdowns. Miami went into halftime with only 13 points despite 4 takeaways from the defense.

Rosier’s progress, however, continues to feel real and certainly part of the Hurricanes’ struggles can be traced back to a minor injury for tight end Christopher Herndon, who finished with 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown after racking up 91 yards during the first half. And when the Hurricanes needed a strong possession the most, they marched down the field for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Defense: 4 stars

Miami’s defense started to wear down during the second half, but that was mostly because of a stagnant offense. Syracuse ran 93 plays and still managed only 19 total points and 4.3 yards per play.

This was an Orange team which, a little more than a week ago, took down then-No. 2 Clemson and the Tigers’ fearsome defensive line. The Hurricanes defense rattled Eric Dungey as a passer. The quarterback went 13 for 41 with only 137 yards, no touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Miami sacked the junior 4 times. R.J. McIntosh, who started at defensive tackle, broke up 5 passes.

The Hurricanes’ weakness Saturday was in stopping the run. Syracuse piled up 264 yards on 51 carries and Dungey went for 100 on 20 carries even with the 4 sacks. Still, anytime the turnover chain comes out three times — twice because of interceptions by defensive back Michael Jackson — Miami is going to be in pretty good shape.

Special teams: 3 stars

Zach Feagles’ struggles mostly continued for the Hurricanes, although the punter was buoyed by a few fortunate bounces near the end zone. The freshman averaged only 38.5 yards per punt, including a 25-yard clunker. Four of 6 punts still wound up inside the 20-yard line and he did launch 1 longer than 50.

Michael Badgley didn’t get many opportunities a week after hitting a game-winning field goal against Georgia Tech. The kicker went 2 for 2 on his field-goal attempts, with both coming from inside 40 yards. Coach Mark Richt also passed up on a 48-yard attempt during the fourth quarter, which led to a turnover on downs.

The biggest special-teams issue for Miami on Saturday was its kick-return game. Thomas could never quite break free on a kick return and wound up averaging only 20.3 yards per return. He also was tackled inside Miami’s 20-yard line once when he could have taken a touchback.

Coaching: 2 stars

There were no glaring schematic issues for Richt, nor was there any obviously boneheaded decision. Instead, a series of smaller questionable decisions plagued the coach at Hard Rock.

Richt had two key fourth-down decisions — one during the first quarter and one during the fourth — and at least one clearly backfired. During the fourth quarter, Miami went for it from the Orange’s 31-yard line and a pass fell incomplete. The field was wet, but 48 yards is well within Badgley’s range. During the opening period, Richt brought Badgley out for an 18-yard field goal instead of trying to score a touchdown from 1 yard out.

Richt deserves some credit for sticking with the run into the fourth quarter even as Homer struggled. However, his time management was an issue on the final drive when the Hurricanes were routinely snapping the ball with 15 or more seconds left on the play clock. Syracuse got the ball back with 2:48 left and a chance to force overtime.

The post Grading the Hurricanes: How No. 8 Miami fared in its win against Syracuse appeared first on Diehards.

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