After the Storm: UVA

After the Storm: UVA

Stefan Adams
Last night, the Hurricanes suffered a shocking (to some) loss to Virginia, 16-13. After taking a day to process what happened, I wanted to give the most reasoned and unbiased take I could. So here it is:

The Miami Hurricanes are at a crossroads.

But the thing is, I was not overly surprised by the performance of this team last night.

And no, that is not okay.

Someone asked me what I thought of this game yesterday heading into kickoff, and my response was that Miami will make this game closer than it should be. It’s to be expected that every game could be an adventure with Miami; that’s been their identity under Mark Richt for two and a half seasons now. The fact of the matter is, Miami is going to struggle with teams that have a pulse on defense, and UVA does have a solid defense. Folks, this is the team that was absolutely manhandled by LSU. I’ve known what this team was since game 1, and 5 straight wins may have blurred things, but it never blinded me; the same issues (O-Line, QB play, offensive scheme/playcalling, special teams) still exist. This is a 9-3, 8-4, borderline top 25 team; same as last year, but without any last second miracles to distort their record.

This loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Mark Richt and him alone. There is no way on earth Miami should have lost this game. This game was a horror show from start to finish and was basically the 2018 version of the Pitt game from last season, except for the small difference that Pitt definitively outplayed Miami the whole way on both sides of the ball and deserved to win the game; UVA did not play well in this game, Miami simply played worse. Richt coached this game scared to lose and lost because of it, and switching from N’Kosi Perry (risky) to Malik Rosier (safe) is emblematic of this approach. Even with all of the issues on offense, the Canes still outgained UVA by over 100 yards (339-231). Virginia had a one-dimensional offense with a QB that could not throw more than 10 yards down the field and UM still lost. Manny Diaz’s defense was magnificent again with 4 sacks, 9 TFL, and 3 turnovers, but it still wasn’t enough.

The gameplanning on offense has been poor at times in the past, but this was some of the worst I’ve ever seen from Richt. Some offenses go to their “bread and butter” plays when in tight spots. For Miami, it seems that all they run are Richt’s bread and butter plays: inside zone, all verts, curl routes to the sticks, etc. There is nothing exotic or new worked in that is specific for opponent week-to-week. Even with the weapons on this team, Richt is still content to play overly conservative and rely on the defense to win games. The Canes finally took the shackles off the offense when their backs were against the wall and they absolutely had to have a touchdown and (shocker) marched right down the field on UVA with an 11 play, 93 yard drive. On that final drive, Miami finally used the running backs and the tight end in the passing game after ignoring them the whole game. Too bad they couldn’t get the ball back because of some even more egregious errors/coaching.

Who would have thought: costly mistakes are costly. UM had 3 interceptions, bad gameday coaching, and countless crucial penalties at the worst possible times, mostly coming in the 4th quarter and indicative of a team with poor discipline. Miami seemed to play with the mindset, “How can we lose this game?” and executed all the way to their graves. Malik Rosier’s interception early in the 4th quarter was dreadful, throwing a pop-up right to a waiting defender with the Canes inside the UVA 30 and needing to come away with at least a FG down 10 points; no excuse for turning the ball over in that situation, and from the “safe” option no less.

Miami’s touchdown drive was great, however, Miami needed two scores and this drive needlessly took so much time off the clock that UM was never able to get the ball back; there was no sense of urgency on this drive at all and it was just poor clock management. Richt apparently learned nothing from his Georgia Tech gaffe from last season, calling a terribly-timed onside kick attempt with three minutes left in the game and Miami down only three, all three timeouts in his pocket, and the #2 defense in the country at his disposal. The kickoff team apparently hasn’t learned anything since GT either, with the same poor onside kick attempt being returned for a huge gain the other way, this time by UVA.

Even with all those mistakes though, Miami was still in position to get the ball back down 3-6 points with 2:40 seconds to go and steal the game. Except Tito Odenigbo decided that he was more important than the team at that moment, with a cowardly late hit on an offensive lineman well after the whistle when Miami had stopped UVA on third down. This is from the guy that picked up a flag and threw it back at a ref’s face while with Illinois, mind you. You may see something similar, but you will never see a worse penalty than Odenigbo’s personal foul in that moment. STILL, Miami had the chance to get the ball back with 30 seconds left down 6, but Trajan Bandy hit the kicker on UVA’s field goal attempt, giving UVA another free first down to kneel out the clock. You can debate if it was running into or roughing the kicker, but the fact remains that Bandy showed poor restraint and judgment and left the game in the refs’ hands. In any event, the game shouldn't have come down to these penalties, though, and was essentially lost well before.

Back to the QB decision: Richt was never comfortable with N’Kosi Perry as his QB. It was never more obvious than it was last night. While it’s not like the offense wasn’t conservative with Rosier under center, if you’ve been paying attention, you've seen how the offense has been even more watered down since Perry took over the past few weeks. Richt has never trusted Perry to run his system and his goal has been to call plays to protect Perry from himself.

And looking at Perry, he proved in part why that is against UVA last night. Those two interceptions to start the game against UVA were as bad as it gets from a QB, and showed he had no idea what coverages he was seeing out there. After 2 horrible picks and down 10-0 early in the 2nd quarter on the road with a QB that looked like a deer in the headlights, my assumption was that Richt did not want to get into the same 3 score hole in the second half that he found himself in against FSU and tried to be proactive. As discussed, Richt is conservative by nature and would rather play a guy that can’t make all the throws (Rosier) than a guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing (Perry).

Still, I expected Perry to only sit for a series to get himself settled, or at worst, come back after halftime. He is the guy you’ve already anointed as the future of this team and it’s not as if Rosier gave the offense a sudden spark. Going with Rosier the rest of the way shows Richt would rather regress into his comfort zone than really try and take the offense to the next level.

It's clear: Miami’s offense is stuck in the 90’s and there is no real identity on offense.

Although I’m not convinced Richt could be an effective play-caller either way, the root of the problem with Miami’s offense goes more back to the scheme and philosophy of the system rather than some predictable play calls here and there. Richt wants to be a power running team that pushes people off the ball and simply gains yards because they are bigger, stronger, and faster than the other team, an offense whose running game opens up easy passes for the QB; the routes that Miami runs are indicative of that.

There is no such thing as scheming people open in the passing game with this offense because the overriding concept is that the defenses’ attention to the running game will facilitate the receivers being open; they need only run simple routes that are easy to run and don’t make the QB think too much, all in an effort to lessen mistakes. Besides the obvious fact that Miami does not have the offensive line personnel to run that type of system consistently with effectiveness, the problem with that is the game of college football has never had more parity across the entire sport. In the past 25-30 years, defensive schemes have become much more sophisticated and the talent is more spread out than ever before, instead of pooled up between a certain 20-25 programs. Simply trying to out-talent everybody just isn’t enough anymore and any defensive coach worth their paycheck is going to be able to scheme and make it tough on Miami.

After the game Richt said, “We called plays that we worked hard on and believed in and that have had success over the last 30 years.” That is a terrifying comment and not only shows he’s running an out-dated system, but that he doesn’t understand that he needs to do something different to have sustained success. With the weapons on this team, I keep finding myself wondering how the offense would perform if a proven offensive innovator in 2018 like a Sean McVay or someone close to that was running the show. The fact that I can envision a top-tier unit (at least against the competition Miami is facing) with the exact same players and issues says a lot.

Where does this leave the team? If you couldn’t tell from the above, Miami is definitely at a critical point with their offense right now in Richt’s third year and it reminds me a lot of Al Golden’s third year struggles with his defense that ultimately ended his tenure at Miami. In 2013, Miami was an improving program from where Randy Shannon left it; yes, they were showing some serious issues defensively, but ultimately were at 9-3 going into the bowl game against Louisville with the chance to win 10 games for the first time in a decade.

Instead, Miami’s defense was embarrassed all night by Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville’s offense to the tune of a 36-9 loss. It was never more clear than after that game: Miami had to make changes to the defensive side of the football over the off-season and bring in some fresh ideas to get the program to the next level. This is basically where Richt stands with the offense right now. When he came to UM, Richt said that giving up his play-calling duties was his biggest regret from his time at UGA and that it would never happen again. Well, what he’s doing at UM on offense isn’t working and needs to change for the betterment of the team. Either he must budge from that statement or bring in an offensive mind to help him retool the offensive philosophy so that when he does call plays, they are properly designed to put the offense in better situations to succeed.

We all know what happened with Golden: instead of being a true leader and making those necessary changes for the good of Miami football, Golden decided he was either going to win his way or not at all, and put himself and his pride/loyalty over the program.

The Miami Hurricanes are at a crossroads. Even with half the season still left, the question of the 2018 off-season is: which avenue will Mark Richt take?

Comments (99)

History shows us Richt is stubborn and will do it "his way" as well

Say goodbye to the Miami Football program being relevant ever again
@Stefan Adams you and the rest of the staff have been more than fair with your assessments. Whether in praise or criticism, all of you are consistently professional and bring great perspective to whatever the situation may be. Thanks for that.
We all know what happened with Golden: instead of being a true leader and making those necessary changes for the good of Miami football, Golden decided he was either going to win his way or not at all, and put himself and his pride/loyalty over the program. Even with half the season still left, the question of the 2018 off-season is: which avenue will Mark Richt take?

great analysis and you answered your own question.
Nice write up. Should post that wherever you can from the student paper to the Herald. Circulate that through the blogosphere. Richt needs to feel uncomfortable. Nobody should be shielded from rational criticism. Certainly not a man making a 7 figure salary.
Great article Stefan.

We’ll see what changes Richt makes against BC, if any. Odds are, none. I would not be surprised if Malware starts at QB. Richt will crawl into his comfort zone. Is there anyone on the staff to contribute new ideas? Brown is a Richt guy, played for him. Maybe Dugans?
Great article Stefan.

We’ll see what changes Richt makes against BC, if any. Odds are, none. I would not be surprised if Malware starts at QB. Richt will crawl into his comfort zone. Is there anyone on the staff to contribute new ideas? Brown is a Richt guy, played for him. Maybe Dugans?
Was Richt coaching at FSU when Dugans played there?
Great breakdown of the current situation. No writer here should pull any punches when talking about the current state of this program. I also agree that Sean McVay could run circles around Richt when it comes to football scheme/knowledge. Easily one of the best coaches in the NFL.
Yep this Off season will be it for Richt, either get an OC or the clock will officially begin for getting him the hell out of here.
So, for the most part, all of us can see and recognize the problem and/or issues. What can or will be realistically done to fix any of these. This stuff is headache inducing.

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