To put it mildly, the 2019 Miami Hurricanes football team endured a tumultuous campaign.
Week after week a different uncertainty loomed.
Who will be quarterback?
Do we have a kicker?
Why does Dan Enos constantly throw to the short side of the field?
How can we beat Virginia but lose to FIU?
Many repetitive questions went unanswered and the doubt piled on.
The Hurricanes finished the regular season with a 6-6 record.
A perfectly balanced mediocrity sandwich, with some hints of flavor but mostly stale.
So how did we get here?
And where do we go?
Bookends Tell the Story
The 2019 season ended as it started, with a two game losing streak.
In his first season as Head Coach, Manny Diaz could never quite turn the corner and build momentum.
A 24-20 loss to Florida to open the year lent false hope of being competitive with the upper tier in college football.
Yet also showed how far Miami had to go as the offensive line allowed ten sacks and looked completely overmatched.
Miami would follow that close game with an embarrassing effort at North Carolina, the first of many ACC tragedies that played out this year.
Bubba Baxa missed short, crucial kicks in both games which would haunt the Hurricanes.
Jarren Williams was one of the few bright spots for the offense early as they struggled under offensive coordinator Dan Enos, whose system did not exactly mesh well early on.
Williams opened the year with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his first four games before the wheels came off.
Miami would cruise to a no-contest win against Bethune Cookman for their first victory of the year, followed by a closer than it should be escape against Central Michigan.
ACC Hunt a Wild Goose Chase
Sitting at 2-2 and with the heart of the ACC slate on the horizon, the season still had plenty of promise and potential.
Which would evaporate like perspiration in the South Florida sun.
Williams was pulled from the Virginia Tech game even though none of his passes hit the ground.
Only problem was out of his seven attempts, his guys caught four while Virginia Tech intercepted three.
N’Kosi Perry would lead a near epic comeback which fell just short as Miami fell 42-35 in front of a shook Miami Gardens crowd.
Perry would tie a career high with four touchdowns and set a career mark with 422 yards through the air.
That game exemplified the struggles of the Hurricanes early in games. Virginia Tech jumped out to a 21 point lead in the first quarter which made Miami one dimensional.
Miami would only gain 94 yards on the ground and turned the ball over five times, themes which would continue as the year rolled on.
Somehow the Hurricanes would rally at home with Perry at the helm the next week, beating the eventual ACC Coastal champs Virginia 17-9.
The Hurricanes defense had an uneven year but the emergence of defensive end Gregory Rousseau is the main story.
Rousseau was mysteriously absent from the starting group early in the year but quickly became undeniable, finishing with 14 sacks and ACC Rookie of the Year honors.
While the defense was finding footing the offense was once again stagnant in a shocking 28-21 home loss against Georgia Tech.
Special teams would again prove fatal as Miami would have a chip shot field goal blocked which would have won the game late.
The Yellow Jackets would also score on a fake punt and a fumble recovery, proving the Hurricanes could be creative when giving games away to lesser opponents.
Return of Williams Stops the Bleeding
After the Georgia Tech game Miami sat at 1-3 in ACC play before they would finally go on to find some sustained success, winning three straight.
A 16-12 thriller at Pitt would mark the return of Williams to the starting quarterback job and the best stretch of football during the season.
Winning at Florida State is never easy, no matter the records. Miami put forth a suffocating effort on defense and cruised to their most convincing win to that point 27-10 and were riding high when they returned home to face Louisville.
Against the Cardinals, the Hurricanes would put up their most complete performance of the season in a 52-27 dismantling. Williams would set a school record with six touchdowns and the Hurricanes had a season high three-game winning streak heading into a seemingly easy victory the following week.
Butch Davis and FIU Ruin the Hurricanes
Miami had managed to turn their season around and reached bowl eligibility at 6-4, with games against FIU and Duke to close out the regular season.
Like previous underdogs, FIU stole the thunder early and had the Hurricanes on the ropes from jump street.
Butch Davis was twisting the knife and his defense engaged in some gamesmanship to slow down Williams and the offense.
On the site of the old Orange Bowl, Marlins Park, the ghosts of the past haunted the Hurricanes once again.
The last time Miami played in the Orange Bowl they were shutout by Virginia 48-0.
This could have been worse.
A game like this has little plausible explanation, other than a severe lack of preparation and composure.
There was no rebounding from the FIU game as Miami would lay one more egg to close out the year, a 27-17 humbling experience at Duke.
Williams and Perry would share the misery in that one as Miami finished the regular season as it began.
Few Bright Spots on Offense
The bad far outweighed the good for the 2019 Miami Hurricanes, but there were several players that emerged and made real contributions.
Before being injured for the season against FIU, running back DeeJay Dallas was having a solid season despite a severe lack of carries.
Dallas finished with a team high 693 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. In his relief Cam Harris stepped in and played very well, finishing with 545 yards and five touchdowns.
Tight end Brevin Jordan led the Hurricanes with 495 receiving yards, while senior receiver KJ Osborn led the team with his 45 receptions and five touchdowns, he was also second on the team with 491 receiving yards.
The Buffalo transfer was a key addition and an excellent leader with his tough play. Miami spread the wealth through the air as 11 players caught at least one touchdown pass.
Wil Mallory came on late and led the team in receiving yards in each of the last two games, unfortunately his impact was limited for most of the season prior.
Numbers Tell the Story
A major downfall for the Miami offense was their lack of success on third down. The Hurricanes finished dead last in the FBS, converting just 26.4% of their attempts on the money down.
Part of that could be the poor offensive line play, or the shuffling of quarterbacks. Williams led the team in passing yards in the first four games and the final four, while Perry was on top during the middle third.
Neither could take a firm grasp on the job despite intermittent stretches of excellent play.
Miami was 120th in FBS converting red zone opportunities and left points on the field almost every week.
Only three teams gave up more sacks than Miami’s 47, the offense was unable to find rhythm or sustain any type of continuity for long.
All but one of their losses was by single digits, this season was defined by missed opportunities.
The Hurricanes were outscored 72-20 in the first quarter of those losses, showing they simply did not come out ready time and time again.
Although they had lapses, the defense was by far the best group on the team. Miami allowed a respectable 197.9 passing yards per game (22nd FBS) and an even better ranking against the rush, finishing 16th allowing just 109.7 yards per game.
Unfortunately as the season wore on the lack of offensive success took a toll, Miami could not run the football with any consistency and finished 120th in FBS with just 121.8 yards rushing per game.
Combine that with a lack of third down conversions and the defense simply could not hold. The Hurricanes scored 17 or fewer points four times, yet managed to win three of those games thanks in large part to the defense.
So, now What?
After all is said and done, the Hurricanes still have a bowl game to play.
Miami will face Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26th, in Shreveport Louisiana naturally.
No matter the result, the Hurricanes will finish off a disappointing 2019 season searching for answers.
Dan Enos is undoubtedly on the hot seat, his offense simply did not put the skill players in position to succeed.
The offensive line will need to be upgraded and who knows who will be under center in the spring.
Manny Diaz must take a look inward and make some tough decisions in both his coaching staff and roster.
Another highly ranked recruiting class is likely, but the development and deployment of those players will be key.
Diaz must quickly seize control of a program in purgatory, or another lackluster season will follow.
Photo courtesy of Tony Capobianco.