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Miami finishes 2019 season with embarrassing 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in Independence Bowl

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Putting up three points against Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl was one thing, but getting shutout by Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl is a completely new level of offensive incompetence from Miami.

The Hurricanes were held scoreless in a miserable 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech on Thursday in Shreveport, capping off Manny Diaz’s first season as head coach with an embarrassing dud. The loss gives Miami a 6-7 record for the season, just the program’s third losing record in the last 20 years.

The decisive score for the Bulldogs was a 26-yard touchdown pass from J’Mar Smith to Israel Tucker midway through the second quarter. That touchdown was enough for Louisiana Tech as its defense held Miami to just 227 yards of offense. On top of that, Miami punted nine times, turned the ball over three times and was a miserable 5-of-14 on third down.

For Louisiana Tech, the win gives the program 10 wins in a season for the first time since moving up to the FBS level in 1988. For Miami, it’s another blemish for a once proud program scratching and clawing to get back to any sort of relevancy.

Miami head coach Manny Diaz looks to an official during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Miami head coach Manny Diaz's first season ended with a brutal 14-0 loss in the Independence Bowl. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

What has happened to Miami?

It wasn’t that long ago — Nov. 24, 2017 — that Miami was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country. But the Hurricanes laid an egg that day, losing 24-14 on the road to a Pitt team that finished 5-7. That loss, which preceded losses to Clemson in the ACC title game and Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl, was a sign of things to come.

Since that day in Pittsburgh, Miami has a 13-15 record with two of those victories coming over FCS teams. The Hurricanes went 7-6 in 2018 — a season plagued by offensive issues. In particular, the quarterback play was a major weakness. Those issues persisted into the 2019 season even after Mark Richt stepped away and Manny Diaz, previously the team’s defensive coordinator, was hired to replace Richt as head coach.

Miami used three quarterbacks on Thursday. Jarren Williams, a redshirt freshman, started the game but struggled mightily, completing 9-of-20 passes for 94 yards and an interception. Williams showed promise at times this season, but also has been painfully inconsistent. Tate Martell, the extremely-hyped transfer from Ohio State, saw action at quarterback for the first time all year, but left with an injury after just one series.

Williams was back in the game after Martell was injured, but was eventually benched in favor of N’Kosi Perry. Perry has started games in each of the last two seasons. He gave the team a bit of life, but threw the fourth-quarter interception that ultimately doomed the Hurricanes.

Meanwhile, Miami’s defense played well like it has for much of the year. The Hurricanes ranked 13th nationally in total defense entering the game, but it’s hard for a defense to win a game when the offense can’t score.

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Miami OC Dan Enos reportedly won’t return

So where does Miami go from here? Offensive coordinator Dan Enos reportedly won’t be back in 2020. A savvy hire there could do wonders for Diaz, but finding a suitable quarterback moving forward will be just as important. Is it Williams? Or will Diaz have to look to the transfer market yet again? The program desperately needs offensive line help, too, so quarterback isn’t the only hole.

Williams will be just a redshirt sophomore in 2020, so maybe he’s the guy the Hurricanes should build around. He threw for 313 yards in a win over Florida State on Nov. 2. A week later, the Hurricanes beat Louisville 52-27 to clinch bowl eligibility at 6-4. It looked like Diaz’s team had turned the corner, but disaster struck after the bye week. Miami lost to Florida International, 30-24, before losing to a bad Duke team 27-17 in the season finale.

Those two losses, coupled with Thursday’s disaster, gives the program a horrific feeling entering the offseason. And there’s a lot of work to do to get that taste to go away.

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