Russell Athletic Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Miami's Loss vs. Louisville
The Miami Hurricanes were seeking their first postseason win since 2006, but the Louisville Cardinals hammered "The U" into the ground, sending the 'Canes to a 36-9 blowout loss Saturday in Orlando.
Offensively, Miami had trouble throughout the entirety of the game, failing to convert a single third down. Quarterback Stephen Morris was constantly under duress, and the running game continued to be lost without Duke Johnson.
The much-maligned defense actually played well during the first half, but Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's 447-yard performance can be summed up as a clinic.
After the brutal loss, Miami finishes the once-promising 2013 campaign at 9-4, and a few brutal lessons were learned about the 'Canes.
Miami Was Flat-Out Dominated
Right out of the gate, there will be no sugarcoating.
Miami was thrashed. Destroyed. Dismantled.
Louisville outgained Miami by 380 yards, tallied 28 first downs to Miami's 14 and held the 'Canes to 1-of-14 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
Bridgewater completed 35 of 45 passes, and the Cards converted on eight of 14 third downs, sustaining drives and scoring on seven possessions.
It was an absolutely brutal game to watch for Hurricanes fans.
The Hurricanes Defense Initially Kept Miami Afloat
The Miami defense was expected to be the weak link during the bowl game.
Yes, Louisville ultimately hung 554 yards and 36 points on the unit, but if it wasn't for the strong initial effort, the final score would have been even worse.
During the first quarter, Deon Bush tackled Bridgewater in the end zone for a safety, giving Miami an early 2-0 lead. Then, the Hurricanes held Bridgewater and Co. to three consecutive field goals, not allowing the potent Louisville offense to completely blow Miami out before halftime.
The second half wasn't a thing of beauty, either, but the 'Canes could have lost by 40-plus points without the solid start.
But the Offense Was Contained All Night
It was a long night for the Hurricanes offense.
Without sacks negating yards, Miami still only gained 233 against Louisville. Then, when you subtract the 40 yards lost on four sacks and negative-19-yard backward pass, it simply gets embarrassing.
Dallas Crawford and Gus Edwards both averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, and the running game was simply nonexistent when it mattered.
As mentioned earlier, the 'Canes underwent much difficulty when attempting to convert. On third down, Miami failed to reach the marker all 11 times, and Morris found Crawford connected for the only fourth-down conversion.
The Hurricanes could not sustain drives, and only scoring one offensive touchdown will not win many games.
The Offensive Line Was Manhandled
Given the depth of talent, it wasn't a surprise that Louisville's defensive line performed well.
However, it was somewhat shocking how poorly Miami's offensive line blocked.
Entering the game, the 'Canes had allowed Morris to be sacked just 11 times, but Louisville ripped apart the O-line.
Marcus Smith (2.0), Champ Lee (1.0) and Preston Brown (1.0) each reached Morris in the backfield, while James Burgess and Jermaine Reve added tackles for loss.
Overall, Louisville overpowered Miami's line, tallying four sacks, eight tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one recovery.
Miami Wide Receivers Disappeared
Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott were ruled out for the game for varying reasons, and it definitely hurt the Miami receiving corps.
Phillip Dorsett was a non-factor, and Malcolm Lewis did not make an impact, either.
Stacy Coley and Allen Hurns were the only Hurricane wideouts to register a catch, and the duo combined for just five receptions and 56 yards.
In a game that required Morris to get rid of the ball quickly, Miami receivers were nowhere to be found.
Pat O'Donnell Finished a Great Season with a Solid Day
Pat O'Donnell was an important player for the Hurricanes this season. The Cincinnati transfer had already earned second-team All-American honors, and he backed up his accolade against Louisville.
Granted, a team usually never wants its punter to back anything up, except for showing off how good he is at warming benches.
Regardless, O'Donnell launched a 60-yard punt and deadened another at the 1-yard line without being touched by any gunners, which led to Miami's early safety.
He punted six times, averaging 45.7 yards per kick, locking up the best single-season per-punt average in school history.
Miami Fell Short of Milestones
The Hurricanes won a share of the Coastal Division in 2012, and many expected Miami to dominate its side of the ACC this year.
But the upstart Duke Blue Devils stole the spotlight, and the 'Canes were ultimately looking for their first 10-win season 2004.
Additionally, Miami wanted to end a seven-year bowl winless streak, but that didn't happen either. And as the postseason loss became clear, the 10th win faded from the Hurricanes' collective grasp at the same time.
Looking back on 2013, there is much for Miami to be proud of, but the 2-4 end to the year definitely leaves a bitter taste.
Stephen Morris Ended His Miami Career in Discouraging Fashion
As a true freshman, Stephen Morris looked like a hidden gem in limited action as Jacory Harris' injury replacement. He played well enough that some even wanted the local product to start over Harris the next season.
Though Morris did not take the reins full time until his junior season, the potential to be great was always there. He often showed flashes, but that potential was never reached as a consistent quarterback, often making poor decisions and throwing passes into traffic.
Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald notes Morris ended his career on a sour note, completing 12 of his last 27 passes at The U.
Ultimately, Morris finished his career in Coral Gables with the third-most career passing yards and touchdowns, two of the top-10-highest season passing yards marks and the fourth-most career completions.
But he probably wishes he could have done more against Louisville.
Clive Walford Is Returning for His Senior Season
Early in the week, Clive Walford had discussed the possibility of declaring for the NFL draft, as noted by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post.
Walford had the best game of any Miami offensive player, catching four passes for 82 yards.
The junior tight end finished his season with 34 receptions for 454 yards and two touchdowns, and he certainly would be a viable late-round option for NFL teams.
However, Porter reports that Walford announced he will return to Miami for his senior season.
Save for Walford, the Hurricanes have not had a reliable tight end since Greg Olsen in 2006, so he will be a welcomed target for the new quarterback next season.
And Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty About 2014
Speaking of 2014, the Hurricanes will be replacing many key players from this year's nine-win squad.
Morris, Seantrel Henderson, O'Donnell and Hurns will likely be selected at some point during the draft, so there are important jobs opening up.
While Johnson, Stacy Coley and Tracy Howard return, position battles will be prevalent until the 2014 regular season kicks off.
But players are not the only ones who will be under the gun—Miami coaches are, too.
Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes Golden will "re-evaluate everything" concerning his staff.
And after a porous performance like this, that isn't such a bad idea.