At arguably the lowest point of his college career, Miami Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was asked to save the day.
The veteran, who was benched for a true freshman earlier in the week, had to come in on the Hurricanes’ final drive after that freshman, Emory Williams, suffered a season-ending arm injury. Van Dyke had to get ready quickly to try to lead a game-tying or game-winning drive.
“Mentally, I was ready to play, but physically, you kind of get tight a little bit,” Van Dyke said. “You haven’t really done any movement, especially that late in the game, for like three to four hours. I did my best to try to stretch my legs a little bit and get my arm loose and up as much as I can in the little time I had to get ready for that situation. But yeah, that’s a part of playing that role. You’ve got to be ready for that situation no matter what.”
Unfortunately for Van Dyke and the Hurricanes, there would be no storybook ending. The veteran completed 2 of 7, and FSU picked off his last pass attempt to seal the Seminoles’ rivalry game win. But with Williams out, Van Dyke is back in the starting role, looking to salvage the season in its final two games, starting with a matchup with No. 10 Louisville at home on Saturday.
“You’re not going to play your best every game,” Van Dyke said. “It’s all about how you respond. I’ve just got to be better. I’ll take ownership for it. I’ve got to take ownership for my mistakes, which I have, and I’ve just got to get better from it. We know what we’re capable of. We’ve done it before.”
Van Dyke said being benched was “tough” after having what coach Mario Cristobal said was a good week of practice. But offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has said that every player in the quarterback room supports each other, and Van Dyke echoed that Wednesday.
“I want to be the guy out there, but at the end of the day, that’s what they had to do (to have) the best team, and I supported Emory the whole way,” Van Dyke said. “I told him right after they made the decision, ‘I’m here to support you whatever way I could do that. Just ask me questions, I’ll be watching the game as best as I can, watching their defense and help you the best as I can.’ ”
Van Dyke has dealt with injuries this season. He suffered three torn ligaments in a finger on his throwing hand before the season and played through that. He suffered a leg injury against North Carolina, which kept him off the field against Clemson, as well. He said Wednesday that he feels like he has mostly healed from those injuries.
“I’m getting pretty much healed,” Van Dyke said. “Obviously, I was dealing with a lot of stuff, a lot of nicks going on. But that’s football. You’ve got to deal with it when you play. That’s no excuse. But I feel a lot better now, and I’m ready to roll.”
Van Dyke said he feels like he is in a “really good headspace” now after talking to people in his circle, including family, friends, teammates and UM’s sports psychologist.
“At the end of the day, I’m not going to let football consume my happiness,” Van Dyke said. “I love playing football, and I want to accomplish my dreams of playing college football and playing in the NFL. I’m going to do my best, and I love the game. But at the end of the day, I’m not going to let that consume my happiness.
“I don’t want to be upset the rest of my life because football didn’t go my way. Just kind of learned that throughout the process of the last few weeks. Maybe that was the life lesson that God was trying to teach me. There’s things you can be grateful for when things go badly because of the lessons you’ve learned from it.”
Van Dyke said he needs to be smarter with the football. Poor decisions and underthrows have led to 11 interceptions in the past five games, which have proven costly in losses to Georgia Tech and N.C. State.
Despite the quarterback’s struggles, his teammates continue to support him through the benching and into the home stretch of the season. They will need him to recover his form if they want to end the regular season on a high note.
“He responded extremely well,” center Matt Lee said. “He responded how and I and everyone thought he would respond: mature, never wavered in his confidence. He’s been a great teammate the whole time, still maintained the leadership that he had throughout the whole rest of the season up until that point last week. It wasn’t any different guy. Obviously, that is tough, last week, but the way he responded was extremely mature and exhibited a lot of leadership and the type of guy he is.
“This week, we’re leaning on him, and we trust him. Regardless of who’s back there, playing quarterback, as an offense, as a team, we’re all confident in whoever’s back there and we’re extremely confident in Tyler, as well.”
Van Dyke said he has watched film from past seasons, including his 2021 campaign where he was ACC Rookie of the Year, to remind himself that he can be a high-level quarterback and help build his confidence. If he can regain that form, Miami will have a good shot against Louisville and Boston College the next two weeks.
“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.”