The Hurricanes beat Central Michigan for their second win of the season but the team had their least impressive performance. Miami recorded a season-low 17 points against the MAC opponent and was held to 31 yards rushing. The Miami Hurricanes are still searching for consistency on both sides of the ball.
Head coach Manny Diaz has stated all year that the Hurricanes need to “learn how to win football games” and against the Chippewas, that showed to be true. Miami needs to correct mistakes quickly because the team starts ACC play soon.
Miami Hurricanes Searching for Consistency
After seeming like the offensive line finally was making improvements, the unit took a step back against Central Michigan. Junior running back DeeJay Dallas had his worst performance of the season so far. He was near averaging 100 yards in the first three games, but was bottled up and only averaged two yards per carry last week. Overall, Dallas has been the offense’s biggest playmaker. He needs to make adjustments and stay consistent going forward.
The play of the offensive line has been a rollercoaster in the first four games. Youth and a growing chemistry are likely the cause. Diaz and his staff have already shuffled the lineup several times this season. True freshman Zion Nelson took a small step back after showing improvement in games two and three. Another true freshman, Jakai Clark, started against North Carolina but regressed slightly versus Central Michigan. The offensive line was always a question before the season started but flashes from the group gave the impression the worst was behind.
In terms of the passing game, Miami is much improved from last season. However, the Hurricanes lack a downfield passing attack. Jeff Thomas is averaging only eight yards per reception. Last season Thomas averaged over 16 yards per reception. His connection with quarterback Jarren Williams will need to be much better as Miami enters ACC play. The Hurricanes must also figure out which receivers will have a bigger role in the next stretch of games. Sophomore Mark Pope is a candidate to receive many more targets as Miami needs to have its most explosive players on the field.
The kicking game through the first four games has not helped the Hurricanes very much. Sophomore Bubba Baxa is five for nine on field goal attempts and seems to be having confidence issues. The coaching staff has trust in his leg as he has already made a 50-yard kick. The problem has been the intermediate kicks for Baxa. He will be heavily relied upon in the coming weeks. With the Hurricanes set to have a number of key games at home, his performance should improve.
The majority of the areas that Miami has struggled are positions that are breaking in new starters. Miami’s secondary has allowed a number of big plays that weren’t as prevalent in the last few seasons. Communication in the secondary has been an issue but the defense is still overall contending with the rest of the nation. Sophomore Gurvan Hall has responded well to being benched. He had a career-high ten tackles against Central Michigan and looks to be well on the way to being the next great safety at Miami. Helping him in the secondary is fellow sophomore Al Blades. Blades caught the interception against Central Michigan to seal the win.
It may not be what fans want to hear but winning with youth is tough and Miami is experiencing that. The Hurricanes offense has yet to control a game from start to finish, even in the lopsided win against Bethune Cookman. The good news for the Hurricanes is that there are some extra reinforcements on the way. Defensively Miami will have USC transfer Bubba Bolden available against Virginia Tech. On the offense, Lorenzo Lingard is back from knee surgery and should add more speed to the running back group.
The Hurricanes have a chance to make a mark in the ACC over the next six games. With Miami set to be at home until the end of October, things could shift in their favor. The Hurricanes played their worst football against Central Michigan and yet were still able to pull out a victory. Even with the lack of consistency, the first quarter of the season has been okay. Continued improvement will be the Hurricanes biggest factor for how the team performs down this next stretch.