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Miami picked up right where it left off at the end of last season.
After starting 10-0 last year, the Hurricanes careened back down to earth by losing their last three games. Mark Richt team’s looked even worse to open 2018.
Miami, ranked No. 8 in the country, was beaten soundly by No. 25 LSU, 33-17, on a national stage. The game wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate, and Miami contributed to its own defeat nearly as much as LSU did.
LSU capitalized early on terrible Miami special teams
Miami actually out-gained LSU, 341-298, and was doing so even before showing signs of life offensively with the game out of hand in the fourth quarter. Early on, it was horrendous special teams play that gave the Tigers tremendous field position. Later, it was turnovers that ultimately doomed the Hurricanes.
Three of LSU’s first half scoring drives — all resulting in Cole Tracy field goals — were set up by horrific punts by Miami’s Zach Feagles of 20, 34, and 22 yards. A 50-yard touchdown run by LSU’s Nick Brossette (125 yards, 2 TDs) came on the heels of a missed field goal by Miami kicker Bubba Baxa.
By that point, it was 20-3 in the favor of the Tigers, but Miami had a chance to cut into the lead before halftime. Instead, disaster struck.
An LSU pick six was too much for Miami to overcome
The Miami offensive line struggled to keep LSU defenders away from quarterback Malik Rosier all night. With just over four minutes left in the half, Rosier was hit as he threw, causing his pass to drop right into the arms of LSU’s Jacob Phillips. Phillips returned the interception 45 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 27-3 lead and make what was already a bad half for Miami much, much worse.
That proved to be too much to overcome. By the time the third quarter ended, LSU, which had a pedestrian display on offense in the debut of Joe Burrow, a quarterback grad transfer from Ohio State who was just 11-of-24 for 140 yards, built its lead up to 33-3.
Miami made things mildly interesting with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but a comeback was not in the cards.
Miami had self-inflicted wounds, but couldn’t handle LSU’s defense either
The Hurricanes simply dug too deep of a hole, and it went beyond the poor special teams. Miami failed on its first seven third-down attempts and finished with 11 penalties for 85 yards.
But the most glaring weakness the Hurricanes showed was in the trenches. LSU deserves plenty of credit for that. It’s a talented bunch, but Miami simply could not block well enough to let its offense get in a rhythm.
The running game mustered only 83 yards on 34 carries — a 2.4-yard average. And when Rosier did have time to throw, which wasn’t all that often, he was erratic, much like he was for much of 2017. Rosier finished the game just 15-of-35 for 259 yards, a touchdown and two costly interceptions.
Was Miami’s 10-0 start to 2017 just fool’s gold?
Sunday night’s loss is the fourth in a row for Miami. Miami started 2017 with a 10-0 record, but along the way, the Hurricanes barely escaped against several of the ACC’s worst teams. Sure there were convincing wins over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but in retrospect, the narrow wins over Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina, plus the big comeback against Virginia, ended up being signs of things to come.
Miami was 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country when it turned in a terrible performance in a loss to Pitt, a team that was 4-7 at that point. A blowout loss to Clemson in the ACC title game and loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl followed. And now, a loss to LSU, a team expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC, is the latest defeat for the Hurricanes.
It’s obviously only one game in a new season, but it showed that the Hurricanes have plenty to correct in the weeks before conference play.
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