At the end of 2015 the timing was right, and after being dismissed as the head coach at UGA after 15 seasons, Richt brought his talents home to Coral Gables. New coach, and a new season, the Hurricanes hoped Richt would lead them back to dominating the state of Florida.
Miami currently is sitting at 4-4, and while numbers don’t lie, there is much to be said about their four losses. Coach Richt believes in his players and even though there are some injuries, he knows they have faced top-notch teams.
The Canes began this season with four consecutive wins. They were ranked in the top ten and with multiple upsets from other teams, they looked prime to return to national prominence. Then, a rivalry game shook things up.
Miami hosted the No. 23 Seminoles the week of Hurricane Matthew. The Canes got on the board first, but Florida State answered back. When the final seconds vanished after an onside kick attempt, FSU squeaked by with the win. This was the first of a four game losing streak for the Hurricanes.
These losses are defined by a slow start, a dynamite rally, and an “oh-so-close” come from behind win. Following the Seminole loss was North Carolina (20-13), Virginia Tech (37-16), and most recently, Notre Dame by a score of 30-27.
What’s next for the (4-4) Miami Hurricanes?
This weekend the Canes will host the 5-3 Pittsburg Panthers for their Homecoming game at 12:30. Hard Rock Stadium will hopefully have more of a fan presence, and can turn up the volume for the Canes. After Pitt, they face the Virginia Cavaliers (2-6), North Carolina State (4-4), and come back home for Duke (3-5) at home. Their goal now has probably shifted to receiving a bowl bid. The Canes hope to gain experience for their younger players on the roster, and boost recruiting.
The Pittsburg Panthers
Pitt is also coming off a loss. They too got off to a slow start in the first quarter, and just couldn’t produce enough to get on top of Virginia Tech, losing 39-36.
All of the Panther’s games this season have been defined by close margins. Senior QB Nathan Peterman has punched in 1,519 yards, 12 TD’s, and 3 INT. Peterman gets a bonus from Senior RB James Conner, who has rushed for 672 yards and 10 TD’s. WR Quadree Henderson and Freshman RB Chawntez Moss both have recorded 3 TD’s apiece. DB George Aston has tacked in 4 TD’s as well. Honestly, who on this team hasn’t had their moment? This Pitt team has depth across the board.
Miami QB Brad Kaaya has shown glimmers of an NFL future. He currently has 1,984 yards, 13 TD’s, and 3 INT on the year. He needs to avoid how he opened up last week’s game against Notre Dame, however.
The pass rush getting to Kaaya is deadly at times. Kaaya is at 24 rushes for 134 yards on the year. However, the O-line needs to hold longer to stop the sacks so Kaaya can make decisions that don’t include him running the ball.
The Canes should keep their eye on Panthers stud Ejuan Price. Price is tied at the No.1 spot with 9 sacks at loss for 67 yards. Coach Richt knows it will be lethal if they can’t stop the pass rush. Stopping Price and company should give time for Kaaya to air one out to WR’s Stacy Coley (433 yards, 6 TD’s) and Freshman Ahmmon Richards (488 yards, 9 TD’s). If things get shaky, Kaaya can count on hand-offs to sophomore RB Mark Walton. Walton has 649 yards and 9 TD’s this year.
Being behind early is never in the equation for a win. It will be intriguing to witness who powers up first, and who comes out alive when it’s over. Pitt has the advantage numerically this year in total yards, passing, rushing, and first downs. The Hurricanes also earn themselves more penalties than the Panthers. If the Miami Hurricanes can play disciplined, they could outsmart the Panthers. The Canes have shown they have the vitality to weather the storm, and finish the conversation. Question is, will they do so this time around?
Game Coverage: 12:30 p.m. on the ACC Network