Sooner or later, Mario Cristobal’s return will likely bear fruit. It just hasn’t materialized on the ground yet.
Rutgers won the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday, 31-24, to end Miami’s dominance in the all-time series and deprive the Hurricanes of their first playoff victory since 2016. Cristobal’s program has advanced outside the field with feedback on the field. back in the top 10 recruiting classes for the first time since 2005, but his sophomore season ended disappointingly with losses in six of the final nine games to finish 7-6.
The Hurricanes were 4-0 and ranked in the AP Top 25 before a last-second collapse against Georgia Tech at home led to a landslide down the stretch. Here are some takeaways about the bowl game, the season and what will be important for Miami fans to watch over the coming months:
• If Hurricanes fans are looking for a silver lining in the loss, Miami was more shorthanded than Rutgers’ team during the regular season.
Miami played without seven full-time starters from the regular season: quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (transfer from Wisconsin), receiver Colbie Young (Georgia), left guard Javion Cohen (withdrew for the draft). NFL), center Matt Lee (draft), defensive. tackle Leonard Taylor (draft) and safeties Kamren Kinchens (draft) and James Williams (draft). Also missing were a handful of rotation players, including wide receiver Brashard Smith, who did not make the trip to New York.
So far, nine players have entered the transfer portal, but more are expected before the January 2 transfer deadline. The Hurricanes have 89 scholarship players, including 27 rookies in the 2024 signing class and four transfers who have announced their commitment to the program.
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• Big Ten leader Kyle Monangai devoured the Hurricanes on the ground. He rushed 25 times for 163 yards and a touchdown. Rutgers finished with 208 rushing yards as a team – the second time an opponent ran for more than 200 against the Hurricanes this season.
Miami didn’t allow a team to rush for more than 100 yards until North Carolina finally broke through in game six. Five of Miami’s last six opponents have eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
• Third-string quarterback Jacurri Brown struggled to get Miami’s offense going on the first two drives, but he led the Hurricanes to 17 points on the next three drives. This included a 30-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Restrepo to give Miami a 17-14 lead in the third quarter.
Brown completed 20 of 31 attempts for 181 yards and ran for a team-high 57 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a bad interception in the first half.
It’s unclear whether Brown, a Georgia native, will remain in the program or enter the portal. Freshman Emory Williams replaced Van Dyke as the starter earlier in the season when he struggled with injuries and interceptions and took the bulk of the second team’s snaps in practice throughout of the season. Williams only gave up the job to Van Dyke after he broke his left arm diving for a first down late in the loss to Florida State.
The staff is still waiting to hear from former Washington State starter Cameron Ward, who visited Miami and Florida State a few weeks ago and is considering whether to stay at college or enter the NFL draft. One way or another, Miami should add an experienced starting quarterback through the portal and more depth at safety.
• Standout freshman running back Mark Fletcher Jr. suffered what appears to be a serious injury to his left foot early in Thursday’s game. WQAM reporter Josh Darrow said on the broadcast that Fletcher was unable to put weight on his foot and that Fletcher was seen being carried off the field.
Miami has quality depth at running back and signed two players in the 2024 signing class, but Fletcher is considered the better option.
• Restrepo became just the sixth receiver in Miami history to record a 1,000-yard season with a leaping catch in the first quarter Thursday. Restrepo led Miami with 11 catches for 99 yards on Thursday and 85 catches for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns for the season.
Other 1,000-yard receivers in Canes history: Charleston Rambo (2021, 79 catches, 1,172 yards), Allen Hurns (2013, 62 catches, 1,162 yards), Leonard Hankerson (2010, 72 catches, 1,156 yards), Andre Johnson (2002, 52 catches, 1,092 yards) and Eddie Brown (1984, 52 catches, 1,092 yards).
• Receiver Jacolby George had a poor end to what had been a good regular season. He dropped Brown’s first pass of the day on a play that could have ended in the end zone and was flagged for holding and two personal foul penalties. He had just two catches for 13 yards.
• Thursday’s loss marked the first time Rutgers had beaten Miami in football. The Hurricanes were 11-0 all-time against their old Big East rival.
(Photo: Mike Stobé/Getty Images)
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