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Hurricanes look to rebound after recent downturn

| Friday, October 28, 2016

It’s been a tale of two halves for Miami up to this point in the season.

The Hurricanes (4-3, 1-3 ACC) started their season with a four straight wins, a stretch in which they outscored their opponents 188-44. Since then, however, they’ve played three teams ranked in this week’s AP Poll — No. 12 Florida State, No. 21 North Carolina and No. 25 Virginia Tech — and have failed to score 20 points against any of the three teams en route to three straight losses.

And it’s the lack of offensive production which several members of the team believe has been the difference in the two contrasting performances. Part of their recent struggles is the result of the strength of the opponents the Hurricanes have faced in their last three games, and part of it comes down to their recent inability to execute offensively.

“I think we played better defenses the last couple weeks, which makes a difference,” Hurricanes offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said Tuesday. “Obviously, when you play better talent and better-coached teams, it’s gonna be hard to run the ball against them and also throw the ball against them.”

“We just haven’t scored enough points on offense,” junior quarterback Brad Kaaya said after Miami’s loss to Virginia Tech on Oct. 20. “We gotta help our defense out, gotta score and find a way to get the ball in the red zone. We can’t settle with field goals — just have to get the ball in the red zone somehow and someway. [We] gotta make plays.”

In particular, Miami’s offensive struggles have been highlighted in two areas specifically: pass protection and third-down conversions. In their last three games, the Hurricanes have allowed 13 sacks and converted on just 11 of their 43 third downs.

Brown said the recent uptick in sacks allowed does not fall squarely on the shoulders of the team’s offensive line, but it is rather the result a combination of factors.

“I think a lot of things kind of go into what [has] happened from a sacks standpoint,” Brown said. “… It’s all including us offense — being able to protect the quarterback but also getting the ball out on time. When their bringing pressure, we can’t hold the ball forever. We can block guys for a certain amount of time, we gotta give [Kaaya] answers and he gotta be confident to throw the ball and let it rip.”

The same sentiment was echoed by Kaaya when explaining the team’s struggles on third down. He said success on those plays comes down to everyone executing their individual assignments.

“At every position, we have to come together because it takes all 11 [players],” Kaaya said. “So on third down especially, you have to do the right things to stay on the field. … If the [offensive] line does their job [and] gives me time, the receivers run their routes, running back either blocks or runs his route, if we all come together and do the right thing [and] if I put it on the money, we’re going to be successful on third down. But if one position doesn’t do their job, then it’s very hard to be successful.”

Hoping to turn their season around and return to the form they displayed early on in the season, the Hurricanes will look to incorporate some of their more basic offensive sets, which they had moved away from lately, Brown said.

“I think being able to be multiple on offense — get back to being more under center at times and having some play-action shots — will help us out,” Brown said.

As for the players, Kaaya said the Hurricanes know they are struggling but still fully believe in themselves and will find a way to dig themselves out of their current funk.

“I think this team has been close, even before the season, and right now our camaraderie and our family is gonna get tested,” Kaaya said. “We just have to stay together and keep playing and keep grinding. … We can’t just sit here and mope around and keep losing. We have to just stand up and fight. We can’t just be mediocre — we have to do something.

“… Miami Hurricanes don’t quit. No matter what the record is, we aren’t gonna quit.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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