Hurricanes

Hurricanes fall in Orange Bowl return against Wisconsin 34-24

After returning to the national spotlight this year the Miami Hurricanes looked to finish strong in the 2017 Orange Bowl against Wisconsin. Miami played in their hometown bowl for the first time since 2003 and the Hurricanes faithful packed Hard Rock Stadium. Unfortunately for the partisan crowd the Hurricanes fell short in the game where they won three National Championships, losing to the Badgers 34-24.

Wisconsin entered the game as a favorite despite it basically being a road game for the Badgers. Behind a veteran offensive line, freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has burst on the scene. Taylor entered the game needing just 79 yards to set the freshman rushing record held by Adrian Peterson.

Miami got a chance to stop Taylor and the Wisconsin offense as they kicked off to open the game. The Hurricanes were tied for second in the nation with 30 takeaways and looked to set the tone early. The Turnover Chain has become a legend but in the last two games Miami has been on the wrong end of the turnover battle. Wisconsin moved the ball effectively through the air and Taylor got going, until this happened.

 

The call on the field was originally ruled down by contact, however after review the Hurricanes were awarded the ball and Dee Delaney got his chain. On the ensuing drive Miami moved the ball into Wisconsin territory before stalling out. Michael Badgley missed a 54-yard field goal and the game remained scoreless.

Wisconsin would again move the ball well as Taylor found a lot of daylight. The Hurricanes kept up the pressure on quarterback Alex Hornibrook and eventually shut the drive down. Wisconsin would hit a short field goal to open the scoring 3-0 with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter.

Mark Richt had the offense going up tempo on the next drive and the speed of the Hurricanes really started to show. Malik Rosier was effective with the run/pass option while DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer gashed the Badgers out of the backfield. Homer would cap the drive with a strong five yard touchdown, dragging tacklers along the way and giving Miami a 7-3 lead.

The Hurricanes made a concerted effort to shut down Taylor on the next drive and would quickly force a punt. Manny Diaz had the defense swarming to Taylor en masse, once again the Hurricanes speed overwhelmed the Badgers front. Miami took over in Wisconsin territory after a poor kick and would take advantage of the great field position in impeccable fashion.

The Hurricanes would take a 14-3 lead on the DeeJay Dallas Wildcat scamper, once again the Badgers had no answer for Miami’s speed on the edge. Hard Rock Stadium was on overload and the fans would keep bringing the noise on the Badgers next possession.

Despite having three All-Americans on the offensive line, Wisconsin could not slow down the ferocious pass rush. Diaz smelled blood and sent blitzes on what seemed like every play. Once again Miami forced a punt and took over at their 33 yard line. Unfortunately the drive would end quickly as Rosier was picked off on an attempted screen pass to Braxton Berrios.

Wisconsin would take over inside the Miami 25 and took advantage of the gift, hitting a touchdown pass to make it 14-10 early in the second quarter. Rosier and the offense looked rattled, taking a pre snap penalty and a sack on back to back plays. Miami could not convert third and 19 and had their first three-and-out and punt of the night.

Wisconsin put together a great drive, using multiple backs to move the chains. They got good efforts from their fullback on the ground in short yardage and out of the backfield in the receiving game. Hornibrook looked sharp, going 6-6 on the drive including the go ahead touchdown to put Wisconsin up 17-14 with around six minutes left in the first half.

The Hurricanes running game by comparison really struggled in the second quarter and Rosier could not be counted on to make the necessary plays. Another three play drive put the home crowd on edge, in fact Miami actually lost yardage on three straight drives.

The Badgers size and strength up front really started to pay dividends in the second quarter and Hornibrook kept making plays. Mark Richt uncharacteristically lost his cool and picked up an unsportsmanlike penalty to move Wisconsin inside the 10 yard line. Hornibrook hit Danny Davis for their second touchdown connection and Wisconsin would go into the locker room up 24-14 in front of a stunned Miami crowd.

Rosier looked terrible in the opening half managing only 41 yards passing, while Hornibrook had 139 and three touchdowns. Surprisingly Miami actually out gained Wisconsin on the ground in the first half 114-101 but could not convert on third down, failing on all three attempts. The Hurricanes did not manage a first down the entire second quarter.

Richt must have had some of that fire left for his team in the locker room as the Hurricanes came out with good energy, albeit short lived. Rosier proved on the first play of the third quarter that his legs are his best weapon, running for 20 yards. The Hurricanes moved the ball to midfield but again Miami could not convert a third and short, missing on a pass outside and punting it away.

Finally Miami was able to rattle Hornibrook a little on the next drive. Chad Thomas notched the Hurricanes first sack of the night and quickly got the Miami offense back on the field. Then Rosier and the passing game got into rhythm and Miami got right back in the game on a perfect pass to Lawrence Cager.

Rosier showed great awareness keeping his eyes downfield, while Cager made a great adjustment to break away from the defensive back and get wide open. It was one of the few highlights for Rosier who finished with only 11 completions on 26 attempts for 203 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

Miami would get the ball back but Rosier reverted back to his careless ways, throwing his second interception on a poorly timed pass in the end zone. There was holding by the Badgers on the play, but like has been the case all year for Miami it wasn’t called. That being said, Rosier was still late throwing the pass. Wisconsin would turn it into three points for a 27-21 lead late in the third.

Miami continued to botch third down attempts and simply could not put consecutive drives together. The game settled down going into the fourth quarter and Miami had trouble running the ball. Wisconsin seemed content to let Rosier try and beat them. With 14 minutes left in Miami finally converted their first third down of the game.

The Hurricanes were much more pass happy in the second half with mixed results. Play action was ineffective because of it and Wisconsin started to generate more pressure. Lawrence Cager continued his strong game picking up a huge third down to keep the drive alive. Cager led the Hurricanes with 76 receiving yards on four catches. The lack of balance eventually caught up but Miami was able to drive into field goal range and Badgley made it 27-24 Wisconsin with 11 minutes to go.

The time of possession disparity favoring Wisconsin seemed to finally take a toll on Miami as Diaz had the defense in zone. Hornibrook continued to pick apart the secondary in an unexpected barrage of passes across the middle. Miami’s corners were a step late reacting, especially on Davis’ third score of the game to make it 34-24 with 7:44 on the clock.

Down 10 Miami still did not give up on the run, gaining a first down on consecutive carries by Travis Homer. Then Rosier unleashed his best throw of the game to Jeff Thomas.

The bomb set up Miami with first and goal and they went back to the ground using DeeJay Dallas in the Wildcat again. Then disaster happened when Badgley missed a chip shot 23 yarder to end all hope for a Hurricanes rally.

That dagger allowed Wisconsin to start running out the clock and send the Hurricanes faithful home with their third straight defeat. Miami did get the ball back with under two minutes left, but Rosier got picked again to seal it. The Hurricanes started the season with 10 wins in a row but injuries and inconsistent play finally caught up. Despite that it was a resurgence for The U, the Turnover Chain was all the rage and the future is bright in Coral Gables. With a top flight recruiting class on their way, there will be plenty of moments under the bright lights to come.

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