The Miami Hurricanes lost for the fourth consecutive time on Saturday. A 30-27 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend was just the latest entry in a reversal of fortune for a ‘Canes team with such promise. After opening the 2016 schedule with four straight victories, Miami is now 4-4 and struggling just to become bowl eligible.
But it wasn’t all bad on Saturday. The ‘Canes fought back from a 20-0 deficit to actually take a 27-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter. There were some definite positives to take away from the game despite its final outcome. Here are a handful to sift through:
1. QB Brad Kaaya looking better (shoulder) – Kaaya’s shoulder injury limited his ability to throw the ball downfield and the Hurricanes’ offense suffered because of it. But on Saturday, the junior started looking like his old self again, throwing for 288 yards and a touchdown on a 26-for-42 day. He looked especially good as the game wore on. Perhaps the shoulder is feeling better now. Kaaya completed 22 of his final 31 pass attempts and sparked the comeback. The play-calling helped as well; Kaaya fared much better when throwing the ball on first down because he wanted to rather than on third-and-long when he had to.
2. WR Stacy Coley remains consistent – The senior had another big game, hauling in seven passes for 81 yards. It was the 17th-consecutive game to catch a pass for Coley, who now has 139 career receptions – that ranks fifth all-time in Miami football history. In doing so, Coley increased his career receiving yardage to 1,897 – and that ranks eighth all-time in school history. For the season, Coley remains the team’s leading receiver with 36 catches (433 yards) and six touchdowns.
3. Freshman LB Shaquille Quarterman continues to play like a veteran – As the leader of a linebacker trio made up of all freshmen, it’s Quarterman who holds it together. He led the team in tackles on Saturday with 8.0, including five solo and one sack. Quarterman continues to play beyond his years, leading the ‘Canes in tackles for the season with 51. The future looks very bright, not only for Quarterman, but for the youthful linebackers as a group.
4. Special teams play – Another of the aforementioned freshman linebackers, Zach McCloud came up with his first career punt block in the third quarter on Saturday. In addition, senior punter Justin Vogel helped Miami in the battle for field position with a 45-yard average on seven punts. His longest was a 59-yard boot, the 10th this season of 50-plus yards. Junior kicker Michael Badgley got into the act as well, with field goals from 43 and 38 yards. He’s now 15-for-15 in his career in field-goal attempts from between 40 and 49 yards.
5. Never gave up – As mentioned, the ‘Canes fell behind 20-0. After losing three straight, it would have been very easy to fold the tent on the road with little prospect of turning it around. But the ‘Canes didn’t do that, and that’s what gives hope that Mark Richt can eventually get this turned around. The ‘Canes stayed the course and chipped away, scoring touchdowns in the second and third quarters before tying the game with a pair of Badgley field goals, and then taking the lead with under seven minutes to play with a fumble recovery for the go-ahead score.
Even though it was a heartbreaking loss, Saturday’s game revealed that despite adversity this team still has plenty of fight left in it.