Hurricanes beat ranked Texas A&M to earn signature win for Mario Cristobal

MIAMI GARDENS — Brashard Smith had nothing but green grass in front of him.

The Hurricanes junior weaved through a group of his teammates and Aggies alike, got a key block from Xavier Restrepo and sprinted 98 yards to the end zone on a kickoff, flipping the momentum and putting his team up by a touchdown in the third quarter.

The Hurricanes would never look back. Smith’s nearly 100-yard run gave Miami (2-0) the momentum it needed to secure a 48-33 victory over visiting No. 23 Texas A&M (1-1) at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, giving Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal his first signature win and first victory over a ranked team with Miami.

“We are progressing,” Cristobal said. “We are nowhere near arrived, nowhere near where we want to be. But today was a big step in the direction we want to go, and extremely proud of everybody in that locker room.”

The win came despite a disastrous start to the game.

The Aggies punched the Hurricanes in the mouth immediately. After forcing a three-and-out, Texas A&M blocked the ensuing punt and started its first offensive drive at the Miami 15-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Conner Weigman scored a rushing touchdown from a yard out to give the Aggies a quick lead.

The Hurricanes continued to cause their own issues on the Aggies’s second drive. Linebacker Francisco Mauigoa gave Texas A&M a first down with a late hit on Weigman, then was called for a hold on a third-down incompletion. That drive ended with a field goal that put the Aggies up 10-0.

Texas A&M’s next score came after Jacolby George muffed a punt inside Miami’s 10-yard line, and the Aggies scored two plays later on a 9-yard rush by Miami Central alum Amari Daniels.

“I think last year, I think we would’ve quit, honestly,” quarterback Tyler Van Dyke said. “We’re a totally different team. The leaders stepped up. The players stepped up, held each other accountable the entire offseason, told each other we can’t give up in big games like this. We just fought the entire time.”

But Miami’s offense carried the team through the errors.

The Hurricanes’ first scoring drive went 75 yards on seven plays and ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Van Dyke to Colbie Young.

Van Dyke tossed his second touchdown to Isaiah Horton, finding the redshirt freshman with a 52-yard pass for the Hurricanes’ second score. It was Horton’s first career score and third career catch.

The Hurricanes flipped the momentum completely around at the end of the half. After Texas A&M kicker Randy Bond missed a 42-yard field goal, Miami drove 75 yards on six plays in 44 seconds, taking the lead with 13 seconds in left in the first half.

“We practiced that scenario all the time in practice, two-minute drill,” Van Dyke said. “Just get the ball out of your hands, don’t take a sack and make plays.”

Smith pushed Miami’s lead to 28-20, and Kamren Kinchens picked off a pass from Weigman that led to a field goal by Andy Borregales. But the Aggies stayed in the game, scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Weigman to Earnest Crownover late in the third quarter.

But the Hurricanes’ defense came up big at the end of the third quarter. On a 3rd and 1 play, Miami cornerback Jaden Davis forced a fumble, and Kinchens recovered it for his second takeaway of the game. The Hurricanes turned that turnover into seven more points, as Van Dyke tossed a short touchdown pass to George.

Andy Borregales kicked a 50-yard field goal (his second-ever field goal from that distance or further) to push the Hurricanes ahead by 15 points.

Van Dyke sealed the game with a 64-yard touchdown pass to George. Van Dyke’s five touchdowns is a career-high for the fourth-year quarterbacks.

It gives me a lot of confidence,” Van Dyke said. “Last year is not the way I pictured everything to go. So it gives me a lot of confidence, the way I played today. The people around me helped me a lot (to) get to that confidence level.”

The end of the game was marred by what appeared to be a severe injury to Kinchens, who left the game on a stretcher late in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, Cristobal said early reports on Kinchens were “relatively normal.”

“As soon as he went down, I’ve been praying for him ever since,” Restrepo said.

Five takeaways

Offense cooking with Shannon Dawson

Texas A&M did a good job slowing down the Hurricanes’ running game, but Miami went vertical Saturday in ways they struggled to do in 2022.

Dawson also called plays that worked to perfection near the goal line. Miami’s first score came on a pass from Van Dyke to Young, who ran behind UM’s offensive line and got open in the flat for a short touchdown. Dawson dialed up a similar short-yardage play for George, who ran out of the backfield and scored a wide-open touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“Today, (Dawson) had a chance to prove it, about being an elite person, an elite coach,” Cristobal said.

Miami’s receivers steal the show

All the talk entering Saturday’s game surrounded Texas A&M’s wide receivers, who had five touchdown catches in their season-opening win over New Mexico. But the Hurricanes kept them contained.

Instead, it was Miami’s wide receivers who put on a show. Horton caught his first career touchdown on a 52-yard pass from Van Dyke. Young scored on a short touchdown pass and had an impressive catch-and-run on Miami’s third touchdown drive. Restrepo had multiple standout catches and set and set a career-high in receiving yards, while George scored three touchdowns.

Restrepo led the team with 126 receiving yards. George had 94 yards and Young had 75.

“Receivers did a great job getting open, catching the ball, making plays after they caught the ball,” Van Dyke said.

Defense holds Aggies at bay

Forget the final score. Miami’s defense played well in the victory on Saturday.

Two of Texas A&M’s touchdowns came after special teams mistakes gave the Aggies extremely close field position. Other than that, Texas A&M had only a few legitimate scoring drives where they needed to move the ball downfield.

“I feel the same way about (defensive coordinator Lance Guidry) as I do about Shannon Dawson: He’s a real one,” Cristobal said. “He called a great game, and he planned them and he schemed them up really well, and the guys believe in him.”

The Aggies did end up with 433 total yards, with Weigman completing 58 percent of his passes for 336 yards. Star wide receiver Evan Stewart had 142 receiving yards but no scores.

“I think we did enough to confuse (Weigman),” Cristobal said. “To percent some big plays. He threw a couple up. We mistimed one — you saw Jaden, Jaden jumps a split-second later — he gets the interception. Love the way our DBs competed.”

Special teams mistakes

The Hurricanes effectively spotted the Aggies with 14 points due to two costly mistakes on special teams.

After Miami’s first offensive drive ended in three plays, the Aggies blocked freshman Dylan Joyce’s punt and started their first offensive drive at the 15-yard line. They scored three plays later.

The special teams woes continued when George muffed a punt inside the Hurricanes’ 10-yard line. Texas A&M scored again two plays later.

Andy Borregales also missed his first field goal of the season when he pushed a 54-yard attempt wide right.

The Hurricanes did claw some points back on special teams on Smith’s 98-yard touchdown return, and Borregales hit his next two field goals.

Van Dyke slings the ball around

In just his second game with Dawson as his play-caller, Van Dyke looked like the quarterback who won the 2021 ACC Rookie of the Year award.

The fourth-year quarterback finished the game with 21 of 30 for 374 yards, and his five touchdowns set a career record. Several of Van Dyke’s incompletions were on dropped passes, and he could have had another touchdown on a perfectly-placed ball that went through George’s hands in the end zone.

“He was outstanding,” Cristobal said. “… He’s been an absolute awesome leader.”