With a bye week on the horizon, the meager University of Miami offense has nearly two weeks to attempt to snap out of its long-lasting funk before making another road trip — likely in much colder weather — to face Boston College at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
“Yeah, it’s tougher,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said of the open week after dropping a demoralizing 16-13 game at Virginia, where the Canes (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) are now 3-5 all-time. “But maybe that’s exactly what we need, to assess everything top to bottom. If there is a time in the season to make certain changes you can do them, whether it’s just scheme or maybe personnel or whatever it may be.
“Certainly there will be a couple sleepless night for me, I know.’’
The Canes are 2-5 in their past seven games against opponents from Power 5 conferences. The wins were against struggling Florida State last week and North Carolina on Sept. 27. Those teams have a combined 4-7 record this season.
The losses were to Virginia, LSU this season and to Wisconsin, Clemson and Pittsburgh at the end of last season.
In games away from Miami, UM is 1-4 in its past five outings.
Richt also said he would reevaluate the quarterback situation and determine which quarterback — redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry or former redshirt senior starter Malik Rosier— should start against the Eagles (5-2, 2-1).
“Yeah, well, how I see it is both those young men are really talented guys that can play and can function. We’ll figure out who gives us the best shot next time we play.’’
Behind an offensive line that continues to struggle, neither quarterback was particularly accurate Saturday. Perry was 3 of 6 for 20 yards and a couple of deeply thrown interceptions that were returned for a combined 93 yards. Rosier went 12 of 23 for 170 yards and an interception that was tipped. Rosier also ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown to bring the Canes within three points, and led UM on another two scoring drives.
But a decision by Richt to go for an onside kick from the 50-yard line with 3:04 left when his defense had been having another strong performance, coupled with two big penalties (a personal foul by defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo to give UVA a first down after Miami’s defense had held the Cavaliers to three-and-out on the drive; and a roughing the kicker called on Trajan Bandy) left UM with no time and no hope.
Here’s what Richt said about the onside kick, which was returned 30 yards by Virginia to the Miami 27-yard line:
“If you go onside and get it, it’s glorious. If you go onside and you don’t get it, usually the guy gets tackled right there.
“It was 10 to 15 yards of field position if you don’t get it and you still have time and three timeouts. You can still get a stop. But obviously, returning the ball as far as they did turned out to be bad. You can debate that both ways. If there wasn’t the penalty it wouldn’t have been a thought. We would have kicked it deep. You kick it deep, get a three-and-out, get the ball back, better field position. You’ve got some timeouts to work with.
“Could have gone that way or we might have got it and everybody would have thought it was a great idea. That’s how it is on those type of decisions. When they work they’re brilliant. When they don’t work you question them.”
Meanwhile, Hurricanes fans on social media were generally in as distraught a state as they’ve been since the Al Golden days, demanding an overhaul of the meager Hurricanes offense through any of a number of solutions, such as hiring an offensive coordinator that calls plays or firing coaches, and, as is usually the case, lamenting Rosier.
“The bottom line is we must be loyal to each other,’’ Richt said. “And that’s paramount. That’s true of any really good team. We know that people are going to question a lot of things. People are going to say this or say that. The only thing we can do is stay strong from within.
“...I mean it’s sometimes easy to look at it from a distance and not be in the middle of it and say what we should have done and shouldn’t have done. It’s easy after the fact to say those things. The main thing for us is to stick together and believe in each other and get better. We still have got a lot of football ahead of us.’’
When asked specifically about his choice of play calling in light of the sputtering offense, and whether he could be more aggressive, Richt said, “We called plays that we practiced all week, I know that. We called plays that we had faith in. We called plays that we thought we give us the best chance in all situations. We called plays where we took shots. We called plays just trying to run the ball — we had inside zone, outside zone, we ran counter.
“We ran things we thought would succeed and they didn’t. And why they didn’t succeed, we’ll see. Most of the time when you look at the tape it’s a matter of somebody or a couple of guys not getting their job done, normally.
“Are there some plays that we could call that would give us a better chance? I’m certain of that, but we call plays that we worked hard on, believed in and have had success over the last 30 years, so I feel pretty good about them going in.’’