Travis Homer came up big for the Hurricanes following the season-ending injury to starting running back Mark Walton
While the Miami Hurricanes had a disappointing finish to the regular season, the team was better than most expected. Miami finished 10-2 in Mark Richt's second season and will wrap up things against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.
Before that, let’s take a look at the Hurricanes' awards for the 2017 season.
Offensive MVP: Braxton Berrios, WR
While other players could have been chosen, Berrios was the most consistent Hurricane in 2017. Berrios finished the year with 52 receptions for 634 yards and nine touchdowns. All were team highs for the captain, who was named third-team All-ACC.
Defensive MVP: Jaquan Johnson, DB
There also were a lot of options to choose on the defensive side of the ball, but Johnson was the heart and soul of a unit that's tied for 19th nationally in scoring defense (19.9 ppg). A safety, Johnson leads Miami in tackles (85, three for a loss) and is tied with teammate Michael Jackson with four interceptions (tied for third in the ACC). Johnson also is credited with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Best Freshman: Navaughn Donaldson, OL
Donaldson made nine starts at right guard this season and was an All-ACC honorable mention. He was consistent on the right side of the offensive line all season. Donaldson will be a mainstay up front for the Hurricanes in 2018 and hopefully beyond.
Best Play of the Season: Darrell Langham's game-winning catch vs. Florida State
Down 20-17 with less than a minute left in the game, Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (above, right) threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Langham that gave Miami the lead with just six seconds remaning. The 24-20 victory snapped Miami's seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles.
Best Performance by a Player in 2017: Travis Homer vs. Georgia Tech
In his first start as Miami's starting running back, Homer (see below) gashed the Yellow Jackets for 170 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching a TD pass. For the game, Homer averaged 8.5 yards on his 20 carries, and he had eight gains of at least 10 yards on the ground. Homer's efforts helped the Hurricanes rally from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to come back and win 25-24 on a last-second field goal.
Best Game (Team Performance): 41-8 Thrashing of Notre Dame
Miami played its most complete game of the season in the highly anticipated showdown with then-No. 3 Notre Dame. The Hurricanes dominated the Fighting Irish from start to finish, behind a balanced offensive attack and an opportunistic defense that forced four turnovers. Notre Dame's offense could not get anything going, as Miami recorded its second-biggest margin of victory in the head-to-head series between these two programs.
Defining Moment: End of the Florida State game
With 1:24 remaining in the game, down 20-17, it appeared Florida State was going to give the Hurricanes their eighth straight loss in the series. But quarterback Malik Rosier and Miami's offense had other plans. The Darrell Langham touchdown catch capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive by the Hurricanes that took less than a minute and a half (1:18) to execute. The thrilling victory not only got the FSU monkey off of Miami's back, it also gave the team confidence as ACC play started heating up.
Biggest Surprise: Travis Homer, RB
After Mark Walton was lost for the season due to an ankle injury in the fourth game, Homer stepped up and the Hurricanes' offense did not miss a beat. Homer enters the Orange Bowl with 902 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on just 151 carries. He is avearging six yards per attempt and also has had an impact as a receiver (18 receptions for 219 yards and a TD).
Biggest Disappointment: Passing Inconsistency
In Miami's reular-season finale against Pitt, quarterback Malik Rosier struggled, finishing 15-for-34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Rosier was briefly benched in the fourth quarter of that game as the Panthers upset the Hurricanes 24-14, putting an end to their chances of getting into the College Football Playoff. Rosier didn't fare much better the following week against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, as he tossed two picks and completed less than half of his pass attempts.
Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Michael Badgley, K
Badgley has been one of the most consistent players for the Hurricanes the last four seasons. A four-year starter, he is Miami’s all-time field goal leader with 76 made. Badgley was named first-team All-ACC after connecting on 16 of his 20 attempts during the regular season. He kicked the game-winner with just four seconds left to seal the 25-24, come-from-behind victory against Georgia Tech.
Player to Watch in 2018: Jeff Thomas, WR
While Thomas didn’t put up big numbers as a freshman, he certainly left an impression when he did make a play. Thomas has 16 receptions for 326 yards, meaning he is averaging 20.4 yards per catch. He's also scored two touchdowns, one that covered 78 yards the other 48. With Braxton Berrios moving on, expect Thomas to be more of a focal point in the Hurricanes' offense in 2018.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Quarterback
Despite the team’s success in 2017, Malik Rosier is not guaranteed the starting quarterback spot in 2018. Rosier, who will be a redshirt senior next year, will compete with redshirt freshmen N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon and redshirt junior Evan Shirreffs. Rosier has thrown for 2,917 yards, which is good for fourth in the ACC, and he tied for the conference lead in touchdown passes with 25. However, he also tied for the lead in interceptions (11), was fifth in passer rating (133.30), and had the second-worst completion percentage (54.8) of any qualified starter. After two terrible performances to end the season, Rosier needs to have a great game in the Orange Bowl if he wants to be considered the favorite to start under center next year.
— 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.