Ten things we learned in Miami Hurricanes’ statement victory over Texas A&M

MIAMI GARDENS — The Miami Hurricanes picked up major win on Saturday night, beating Texas A&M 48-33 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Miami’s offense clicked, and the defense performed well despite the final score line.

The victory could prove to be a defining win in Year 2 of Mario Cristobal’s tenure as the Hurricanes’ head coach.

Here are 10 other takeaways from Saturday’s statement victory:

Kamren Kinchens doing well

The end of Saturday’s win had a cloud hanging over it. Star safety Kamren Kinchens had to be carted off the field and taken to a local hospital after suffering what appeared to be a head or neck injury.

Fortunately, Kinchens appears to be doing well. Cristobal said after the game that the early reports on the safety’s health were encouraging. Late at night, the Hurricanes’ social media account posted a photo of Kinchens in the hospital, smiling and throwing up the “U” sign.

Kinchens posted on social media on Sunday afternoon: “I’m doing better,” he said. “Love y’all.”

Miami has not released an official statement on Kinchens, and there is no indication of when Kinchens could return to the field. But with a scary injury like the one we saw late in the game, all that matters is the player’s health.

Shannon Dawson has coming-out party

In the first big test of Shannon Dawson’s tenure as Miami’s offensive coordinator, the new assistant coach passed with flying colors.

The Hurricanes put up 48 points against a talented SEC defense. They racked up 451 yards of offense, mostly through the air.

“I think coach Dawson called a great game today,” quarterback Tyler Van Dyke said. “Took shots when we needed to, knew when to take shots, knew when to run the ball.”

When needed, Dawson dialed up creative plays that got players free to make plays in space like when wide receiver Jacolby George darted into the backfield before getting free in the flat for an easy score.

“I feel like the linemen are the reason I scored because they got their blocks,” George said, “and it was an easy touchdown for me.”

Perhaps the offense’s best moments of the game came as the first half drew to a close. The Hurricanes got the ball back after the Aggies missed a field goal. Miami was trailing 17-14 with 57 seconds left in the half. Instead of running out the clock and going into halftime down three, the Hurricanes pushed the ball downfield and scored with 13 seconds remaining. They took the lead and never gave it up.

“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.”

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Red-zone success

The Hurricanes’ red-zone woes doomed them in their loss to the Aggies last year. They had no such problems on Saturday.

Miami scored all four times it reached the red zone, scoring three touchdowns and kicking one field goal.

“Last year, we had a tough time,” Cristobal said. “I think we scored … nine points. Shannon — we’ve been saying it for a while; today he had a chance to prove it — about being an elite person, an elite coach, just like coach (Lance) Guidry.”

Dawson dialed up nifty play-calls that got the Hurricanes into the end zone in goal-line situations. In addition to George’s later score on a funky-looking route, Miami’s first score came when the Hurricanes brought in extra blockers to look like they would try to run into the end zone. Instead, Colbie Young darted behind the line and got open in the flat for a touchdown.

Van Dyke shows his old form

Van Dyke showed the ability that made him the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2021.

Miami’s fourth-year quarterback completed 21-of-30 pass attempts and threw for 374 yards, and three of the incompletions were dropped passes. His five touchdowns set a career-high.

The advanced metrics liked Van Dyke’s game, too. Pro Football Focus gave Van Dyke an 82.0 offensive grade with an 83.1 passing grade. He received high marks for his three deep attempts. Van Dyke completed two of them and got a 92.1 grade on those throws. He had no throws that Pro Football Focus deemed “turnover worthy.”

“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.”

Cornerbacks hold their own

A potentially concerning matchup for the Hurricanes entering the game was how their cornerbacks would fare against the Aggies’ talented wide receivers.

Under new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman, a former five-star prospect, threw five touchdown passes in their season-opening win. Fellow former five-star Evan Stewart caught two of those, while 6-foot-6 receiver Noah Thomas caught three.

The Hurricanes held the Aggies’ receivers to just one touchdown on Saturday: a 9-yard pass to Thomas in the fourth quarter. Stewart racked up 142 receiving yards, but he did not score. Miami did enough to keep them in check.

Jaden Davis and Daryl Porter Jr., who started the game for the Hurricanes, earned 75.3 defensive grades from Pro Football Focus. Davis had a 66.0 coverage grade, and Porter had a 74.3 coverage grade. As a team, Miami had a 70.7 coverage grade.

“It was just mano-y-mano, one-on-one,” Davis said.

Wide receivers have big game

Although much of the pregame discussion was on Texas A&M’s wide receivers, it was Miami’s group that flashed.

George caught three touchdowns in the victory, racking up 94 receiving yards. Most of the yardage came on his final score: a 64-yard deep pass from Van Dyke.

“I knew their corners, they couldn’t guard me, so I just went deep and I just fought to get in the end zone,” George said.

Veteran slot receiver Xavier Restrepo had his best day as a Hurricane, leading the team with 126 receiving yards. Colbie Young had 75 yards and a score, and Isaiah Horton caught his first career touchdown on a 52-yard pass.

Miami’s receivers racked up a total of 241 yards after catch, with Restrepo leading the way with 88. He also led the team (aside from Horton and his one touchdown catch) with a 75.2 receiving grade. George had a 72.7 receiving grade, and Young had a 63.9 receiving grade.

Offensive line passes first big test

Miami’s offensive line was solid in its season-opening win, but the Aggies’ defensive line, made up of former four- and five-star prospects, offered a totally different task.

The Hurricanes showed they were up for it. They allowed two sacks but mostly gave Van Dyke plenty of time in the pocket.

“They protected me all day, giving me so much time to throw,” Van Dyke said.

Center Matt Lee, left guard Javion Cohen and right guard Anez Cooper all earned solid grades in pass blocking. Cohen had a team-best 82.9 grade, while Lee was at 74.2 and Cooper was at 75.5.

Right tackle Francis Mauigoa and left tackle Jalen Rivers earned lower marks at 55.0 and 54.4, respectively.

Need to clean up mistakes

Although Miami won by 15 points, it had several major errors early in the game that could have been costly.

The Hurricanes had one punt blocked, and George dropped an Aggies punt. Those two mistakes gave Texas A&M incredible field position and directly led to two touchdowns. Miami also had several penalties early in the game that dramatically helped Texas A&M. They finished the game with 115 penalty yards.

Van Dyke said last year’s team likely would have quit after a start like that, but the team showed resilience and bounced back quickly.

“I think it’s credit to the players because that’s always been the goal,” Cristobal said.

“When you change regimens and change cultures, you always have a choice to make and you can stick with what you believe in and sometimes it’s ugly, cause last year was. But if you believe in it and make sure that the right people continue to grow and stay and you bring in people that are like-minded and hard-working and that’s a nice combination and that leads to better culture, better atmosphere, better environment, better programs, better businesses, better organizations.

“That’s what we feel we are headed toward, and today was a big step in the that direction.”

Recruiting impact

While the Hurricanes were doing well on the field, their recruiting staffers were putting in work off the field.

Miami hosted many top recruits for Saturday’s game, and many came away with positive impressions of where the Hurricanes are headed.

“Everybody wants to see progress, right?” Cristobal said.

“The offseason is so long and that’s what is hard about football. After nine months, what are you going to do? What are you going to be? What is it going to look like? Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve had a blueprint that has been successful. We came to Miami because, besides the fact that we love Miami, we knew that when Miami is done the right way, it’s the best one of them all. We are taking steps in the right direction.

Season’s trajectory has changed

Coming off last year’s 5-7 season, a reasonable expectation for the Hurricanes would have been steady improvement. People can define that improvement in different ways, but eight wins seemed like a consensus goal among local and national media.

The trajectory of the season is different now. After the win, ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked Miami 15th in the nation. Its projected win total for the Hurricanes was 9.9. It projects a 17.9 percent chance of winning the ACC and an 11.2 percent chance of making the playoffs.

“All in all just a massive step for the program,” Cristobal said. “They are a really good football team. They’ve recruited everyone in the country over the last few years so they are loaded to the gills, but we work hard, we practice hard, we train hard, we prepare hard. We felt that if we eliminated mistakes we’d be able to take over the football game and we did.”

A conference title and a playoff berth are still lofty goals, but they no longer seem crazy. Miami still has 10 games to play, but the outlook for the season became a lot rosier Saturday night.

“I feel like the win speaks for itself,” George said. “We’re putting in the work and we’re just ready to show the world that we’re back.”