‘canes blow it in the snow

sun-bowl.jpg

            It’s that time of year again. Christmas and Hanukkah have come and gone with Kwanzaa and New Years still on the docket. College students have returned home for the holidays. With the exception of rain and snow in California and some unseasonably warm temperatures across the country, the holidays are moving along as they usually do. And of course, that means another Miami bowl game loss. The third in as many years. Whether you have a short memory, or purposefully blocked these games from your memory, allow me to briefly take you back through these three straight December defeats.

            In 2013 Miami lost to a Louisville team in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Canes were blown out to the tune of 36-9 as they were never really in it past the first quarter. This was the first bowl game Miami had played in since they lost in the 2010 Sun Bowl, and their fourth straight bowl game loss.

            The 2014 Canes lost to South Carolina in the Independence Bowl but, unlike the previous years’ bowl, were in a position to win the game. Down ten, Miami scored with just over two minutes left in the game to go down three, 24-21. With all three timeouts still left, a defensive stop would’ve given Miami the ball with plenty of time left to at least tie the game and send it into overtime. That wouldn’t happen, however, as South Carolina gained a first down and ran out the rest of the game clock, sending Miami to its fifth straight bowl game defeat.

            And now on to the 2015 Sun Bowl, played on Saturday in El Paso, Texas. This year the opponent came from the opposite side of the country in the form of the Washington State (Wazzu) Cougars. Miami, college football’s most penalized team for the 2015 season, showed up and didn’t skip a beat, committing nine penalties for 98 yards after all was said and done. A first half drive for the Cougars was extended twice by third down penalties. Miami went on to commit TWO more personal foul penalties in the waning minute of the first half, which enabled Wazzu to make a field goal and push their lead to 20-7. Aside from the penalties, the first half was marked by an inability to stop Wazzu’s “air raid” style offense, while being able to do absolutely nothing on offense.

            Miami scored on their opening possession and, although they had to convert a fourth down to do so, looked like they would be able to put up a decent number of points on the day. On their next possession, wide-receiver Rashawn Scott dropped a would-be touchdown that got intercepted on a deflection. Everything would go downhill from there. Scott seemingly forget how to catch over the course of the game. The next sixpossessions looked like this: Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt. The punter got in a good workout.

            Despite the penalties, and the fact that the offense was insufferable, Miami’s defense turned it around in a big way in the second half. They figured out Wazzu’s passing attack and held them on a few key fourth down stops. Also in their favor was the blizzard that began at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Nope, that wasn’t a typo. Not only was there no sunshine at the Sun Bowl, there was a blizzard. At the Sun Bowl (I just love the comedic value here). Go check out the pictures, it was rather remarkable. Anyway, have I mentioned at all how bad the offense played? They couldn’t even get close to scoring for the first 25 minutes of the second half. Yet there they were, with five minutes left in the game and on the Cougar 5-yard line, in perfect position to take the lead. Stacy Coley caught a Brad Kaaya pass, made a man miss, and was in for the score! False. Flag on Herb Waters for a block in the back. Bring the play back and take the points off of the board. Mark Walton went on to fumble two plays later. How many times have we seen this? Another big play wiped out by a piece of yellow nylon cloth. They came often and at the worst times all year.

            The defense managed to bail the offense out yet again, and Miami had the ball with three minutes left on the Cougars 32-yard line. They’ve had so many opportunities to take the lead they have to score eventually, right? And then we saw the ultimate play call of a man who knows he’ll be out of work in a matter of days. Canes offensive coordinator James Coley called for a runningback pass. In the blizzard. Right. Being the fan that I am, this was hard to watch. I had been patiently waiting all game for the Canes to put a drive together that would take the lead. The defense came through when we needed them time and again in the second half, only for Coach Coley to make one of the more horrendous playcalls I have ever seen. And yet I couldn’t help myself from laughing out loud after seeing the pass go up in the air. It was the perfect cherry to top off a poorly played game. Needless to say, the pass looked like a shanked punt and was picked off. Game over. 20-14 the final. A sixth straight bowl game loss in the books, and deservedly so. Penalties, turnovers, and runningback passes are on the first page of How to Lose a Football Game for Dummies.

            The Hurricanes can now look ahead to the future. The Mark Richt era can’t come soon enough. Hopefully his coaching staff will be able to impart on the players that penalties aren’t a good thing for a football team.