Both teams scored on their respective opening possessions, and the high-scoring fireworks-filled Hyundai Sun Bowl had been ignited. But a snow-covered crowd surely could not have anticipated what would unfold from there.
In his final game as interim head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, Larry Scott watched from the sidelines as his team engaged in a defensive struggle. Maybe it was the snow; maybe it was cold; or maybe it was extra preparation for each team’s defenses.
Either way, penalties and turnovers ultimately proved to be the difference in a 20-14 Miami loss to the Cougars.
The Canes wasted one of the best halves of football their defense played this season. Miami held the Cougars scoreless over the final two quarters, but a 13-point second quarter that broke a 7-7 tie proved to be enough offense to continue the Canes’ current run of bowl futility.
Miami still hasn’t won a bowl game since 2006 and it will be up to Mark Richt to change that. The Canes have lost six consecutive bowl games and seven of their last eight.
It looked for sure like that stat would get flushed in a furious fourth-quarter rally.
“I’m proud of the way the team fought back in the second half,” Scott said in the post game interview. “They decided that the weather wasn’t going to be a distraction.
One touchdown was called back for a silly block in the back at the goal line that may or may not have had any bearing on the result of the play, and the Canes fumbled the ball away from there. That was painful enough, but then Miami was intercepted near the goal line on an ill-advised halfback pass on its final possession of the game.
It was the first play after Braxton Berrios returned a Cougars’ punt 20 yards to the Washington State 28-yard line. Berrios sparked the fourth-quarter rally with a 60-yard run that set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Mark Walton. Berrios’ dash was the longest running play of the season for Miami and just his third career carry.
But it still wasn’t enough and Berrios’ lift wasn’t fully realized.
“We came here to win and we didn’t,” Berrios told reporters after the game. “It’s very disappointing.”
A fairy tale ending to Scott’s gallant effort that started with “The Return” in Durham wasn’t to be.
The Canes finished the 2015 season at 8-5, including a 4-2 mark under their interim head coach. It was a remarkable feat considering where the program was when he took over.
Miami AD Blake James agreed. He tweeted after the game that he is proud of the job that Scott has done for the program over the last two months.
Very proud of this team. Fought to the very end. Can't say enough good things about the job Larry Scott did for us over the last two months.
— Blake James (@CanesAllAccess) December 26, 2015
And he should be.
Had the Canes taken full advantage of their opportunities and won the game, it would have been difficult to not give consideration to Scott for some sort of Coach of the Year honors. It would have been Miami’s fifth win in six games under his tutelage.
After the game, Scott said he has no idea whether or not he would be retained by Richt and his new coaching staff.
Asked Larry Scott if he expects to be back at Miami next year: "I have no idea."
— Matt Porter (@mattyports) December 26, 2015