The Miami Hurricanes were seven-point underdogs entering Saturday night's season opener against the Florida Gators in Orlando. The good news is, the Hurricanes made it a compelling game, but they were unable to come out on top.
Miami fell to Florida 24-20 as both teams played a sloppy contest in the fourth quarter. There were some positives for the Hurricanes, which include the play of their redshirt freshman quarterback Jarren Williams, who had a solid first start.
Williams completed 19 of 29 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. Although he had his moments where he looked like an inexperienced quarterback, Williams played better than expected behind a Hurricanes offensive line that didn't give him much protection.
Miami's next game is Sept. 7 against the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. That gives head coach Manny Diaz, his staff, and the players plenty of time to improve their execution and tighten up other areas. Here are the Hurricanes' top three concerning issues.
1. The offensive line has to play better
Jarren Williams was sacked 10 times as he faced consistent pressure throughout the night. Miami's offensive line struggles were a combination of poor pass protection and Williams holding on to the ball too long. Also, the Hurricanes' scheme certainly didn't help things during the latter stages of the game.
Miami could have helped Williams by rolling him out and using his mobility to get away from defenders. It was also clear that Florida knew Miami's snap count, which helped the Gators time their jumps off of the line of scrimmage.
With an off week before the next game, the biggest question is will the Hurricanes shake up their offensive line? Guys like Zion Nelson and John Campbell are inexperienced and it showed, but the play of returning starters Navaughn Donaldson and D.J. Scaife wasn't much better.
2. Generate more of a pass rush
There were some positives with the Hurricanes defensive line as they were able to hold the Gators to 52 rushing yards on 27 carries. However, Miami was able to only muster just one sack on the night.
The Gators started four new offensive linemen, but the Hurricanes couldn't consistently get pressure on quarterback Feleipe Franks. Part of the reason the Hurricanes had one sack was because of Franks and his mobility. Another reason is the Gators were trying to get the ball out quick to negate the Hurricanes' potential pressure.
But considering Miami averaged three sacks per game a season ago, the Canes have to get more production from their front four.
3. Clean up the sloppy play
Miami finished with 14 called penalties for 118 yards. The Hurricanes also fumbled the ball three times (Jarren Williams responsible for two of those), but only lost one (by wide receiver Jeff Thomas).
The Hurricanes were very fortunate the Gators were unable to fall on the other loose balls. Going back to the penalties, there were a number of delay of game calls as Williams would receive the play call late and the play clock ran out.
It was the beginning of the season for everyone, and that was painfully obvious with a number of miscues the Hurricanes had on Saturday night. Despite that, Miami still had a chance to win the game but was unable to take advantage of Florida's mistakes (10 penalties, two interceptions, two lost fumbles).
Saturday night's loss will not define Miami's season as the Hurricanes still can accomplish their main goals in 2019. Double-digit wins are still possible, and this loss has no impact whatsoever on Miami's quest to win the ACC Coastal and play for the conference championship in. But for that to happen, Miami has a lot of work to do during the bye week as the Canes prepare to face North Carolina on Sept. 7.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of @CanesFootball)