The struggling Miami Hurricanes still have a chance to end their season on a strong note.
Despite four disappointing losses in conference play, Miami (6-4, 2-4 ACC) can conclude the regular season with a pair of wins, derail a College Football Playoff contender’s postseason hopes and show significant improvement from last year’s 5-7 record.
To do that, the Hurricanes will need more from Tyler Van Dyke. The veteran quarterback, who was benched in favor of freshman Emory Williams, will return to the lineup for Miami’s noon home game against No. 10 Louisville (9-1, 6-1 ACC) on Saturday and try to regain the form he had early in the season when he was regarded as one of the nation’s best quarterbacks.
“I’ve proven that I can be one of the top quarterbacks in the country when I’m at my best,” Van Dyke said. “I’ve also proven that when I’m not at my best, I can not be in that conversation at all. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be consistent throughout the entire season. Just got to be better at not pressing and forcing throws. I think if I do that, everything else will handle itself.”
Van Dyke’s struggles in ACC play are well-documented. Against Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and N.C. State, he threw for 1,015 yards with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He played well against the Tar Heels but suffered a leg injury in that game. Against the Cavaliers and Wolfpack, specifically, he threw no touchdowns with five interceptions.
His poor performance led to a demotion, but was forced into action against Florida State. He entered the game on UM’s final offensive drive after Williams suffered a season-ending arm injury. He completed two of seven passes and threw an interception on fourth down, trying to extend the drive.
Despite his struggles, the Hurricanes are confident the former ACC Rookie of the Year can turn things around as the season nears an end.
“He’s done really, really well, and he’s handled everything really well,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said, “and he has the confidence of his teammates and the coaching staff.”
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who has attributed much of Van Dyke’s issues to himself and not the quarterback, and cited Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, who was benched for a game against USF, as an example of a quarterback coming back from being benched and still finding success.
“I would be shocked if that doesn’t happen,” Dawson said.
Van Dyke does not have an easy task ahead of him. The Cardinals have the No. 41 pass defense in the nation, giving up 208.2 passing yards per game. They are tied for 21st in the nation with 11 interceptions this season.
“They’re not giving up a lot of points, they’re not giving up a lot of yards,” Dawson said. “Their third-down is really good because they rush the quarterback really well. It’s going to be one of those games where we’ve got to grind out drives and grind out points.”
Miami’s defense will also have its hands full. Louisville has a potent offense, averaging 31 points against ACC opponents. Running back Jahwar Jordan is the No. 2 running back in the conference, and wide receiver Jamari Thrash is second in the conference with 734 receiving yards.
The Hurricanes will have to keep that offense in check in order to give their own struggling offense a chance to pull off an upset win. Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry has experience going up against Thrash, who racked up 167 yards and a touchdown against Guidry’s defense at Marshall last year.
“He’s hard to cover, he’s quick, very good player,” Guidry said. “And then the running back’s really fast, so we’ve got a tall task. The quarterback gets the ball out on time, and their offensive line is solid, so it’s going to be tough for us.”