Middle Tennessee uses big plays to stun No. 25 Miami, 45-31

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Chase Cunningham passed for 408 yards and three touchdowns, including a 98-yarder to DJ England-Chisholm, and Middle Tennessee State stunned No. 25 Miami 45-31 for its first win in 21 tries against ranked opponents.

England-Chisholm caught two passes – the first of them being a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter, the other being the 98-yarder in the fourth – to help the Blue Raiders (3-1) seal the upset.

Cunningham completed 16 of 25 passes for Middle Tennessee State, including a 69-yard scoring throw to Elijah Metcalf. Cunningham and Frank Peasant also ran for scores for the Blue Raiders, and defensive end Zaylin Wood returned an interception for a touchdown.

Key’Shawn Smith returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown for Miami (2-2), which turned the ball over on its first three possessions and never escaped the early hole it dug. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke – the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year last season – was pulled in the third quarter and replaced by Jake Garcia.

Van Dyke completed 16 of 32 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown to Henry Parrish Jr., and two interceptions – those coming on Miami’s first and third plays from scrimmage. Garcia completed 10 of 19 passes for 161 yards for the Hurricanes, who heard plenty of boos from the fans who showed up to what was not even a half-filled stadium; most were long gone before the final whistle.

Garcia entered midway through the third quarter and brought an immediate spark. He engineered a five-play, 72-yard touchdown drive – fueled by passes of 39 and 23 yards, Miami’s two biggest gains of the day to that point – and got the Hurricanes within 31-17 on a 1-yard rush by Thaddeus Franklin.

That was the first of two touchdowns by Franklin, the other coming from a yard out with 6:05 left to get the Hurricanes within 45-31.

The win was a long time coming for MTSU coach Rick Stockstill, who played his college football at Florida State – Miami’s rival. The Seminoles went 0-2 in games that Stockstill played against the Hurricanes in 1980 and 1981.

Those games were close. This one wasn’t.

And while a blowout might have been expected with Miami entering as a 25.5-point favorite, few, if anyone, would have dared to say it would be the Blue Raiders doing the romping. It even had oddsmakers scrambling; MTSU actually became the betting favorite to win by the midpoint of the second quarter, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

It was 10-0 before Miami got on the board, 24-3 early in the second quarter when Cunningham scored on a 9-yard rush. The Hurricanes never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

Miami had a chance to get within a touchdown on a 4th-and-goal from the Middle Tennessee 1 on the opening play of the fourth quarter; Garcia’s pass couldn’t be controlled by tight end Will Mallory, causing a turnover on downs.

The next play, England-Chisolm got loose down the left sideline for the biggest pass play ever allowed by the Hurricanes, two yards longer than the 96-yard pass Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey caught from Sam Hollenbach in 2006.

From there, it was only a matter of time before MTSU could truly start the celebration.

THE TAKEAWAY

Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders went to the upper level of college football, now called FBS, in 1999. Entering Saturday, they were 0-20 against opponents that were ranked in the AP Top 25 poll when those games were played and outscored by 585 points – 868-283.

Miami: According to SportRadar, the Hurricanes became the first Power 5 school this season to commit three turnovers in a first quarter. The last Power 5 school to achieve that ignominious feat was … Miami, last season against Florida State.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It’s over for Miami, for now. The Hurricanes were No. 25 and will fall out of the poll Sunday. At 2-2, it’ll be difficult for the Hurricanes to be considered again by many voters anytime soon.

NEVER LED

MTSU is now 3-0 all-time against Miami, with the other wins coming in 1931 and 1932. The Hurricanes never held the lead in any of those games.

UP NEXT

Middle Tennessee State: Hosts UTSA on Friday in the Conference USA opener for both clubs.

Miami: A bye week, then Atlantic Coast Conference play starts Oct. 8 at home against North Carolina.

No. 15 Miami pulls away in 2nd half, tops Southern Miss 30-7

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Some in-game adversity hit Miami for the first time this season. The Hurricanes responded.

A pair of third-quarter touchdowns – barely 2 minutes apart – changed the game, Henry Parrish rushed for 102 yards and a score, and No. 15 Miami pulled away in the second half to beat Southern Miss 30-7 on Saturday.

The Hurricanes (2-0) trailed for most of the second quarter, then shook off the slow start by scoring the game’s final 27 points.

“I think it’s a good thing, actually,” said Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 230 yards, a touchdown and an interception. “Obviously, we want to move the ball with ease … but I think adversity, we needed that for the rest of the season, just to experience that a little.”

Thaddius Franklin Jr. rushed in from 7 yards out for a 17-7 third-quarter lead, Van Dyke connected with Key’Shawn Smith for a 35-yard flea-flicker touchdown on Miami’s next offensive snap, and the outcome wasn’t in doubt again.

“Certainly, when you’re 1-0 for the week, that’s your goal,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. “But certainly, we want to play more polished, more precise, football. So, we’ve got to practice better, we’ve got to keep coaching better and we’ve got to keep working it better. We’ve got to go get better.”

Parrish had a 1-yard touchdown run late in the first half for the Hurricanes, who have started with two wins for only the seventh time in the past 18 seasons.

Jason Brownlee caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Zach Wilcke for Southern Miss (0-2). That capped a six-play, 75-yard drive for the Golden Eagles — but they managed only 122 yards on their next seven drives, five of which ended in punts, one with an interception in the end zone and the other with a fumble.

“We came out here to win the game,” Southern Miss coach Will Hall said. “Credit to Mario and his guys. Man, I’ve got great respect for him and a lot of the guys on their staff for making the adjustments to win the game. I thought they wore on us as the game went on.”

Frank Gore Jr., the son of Miami Hall of Famer Frank Gore, was held largely in check by the Hurricanes’ defense in his return to his hometown. Gore Jr. had seven carries for 10 yards, and two catches for 18 more yards. That’s after he rushed for 178 yards last week in Southern Miss’ opening-game loss to Liberty.

Wilcke completed 16 of 27 passes for 207 yards for the Golden Eagles. Brownlee had five of those catches for 102 yards.

Andy Borregales kicked three field goals for Miami.

THE TAKEAWAY

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles were 20 seconds away from doing something that the program hasn’t done in nearly 12 years. The last time Southern Miss led an AP-ranked team on the road at halftime was Nov. 13, 2010 in what became a win over then-No. 25 UCF. That week marked UCF’s first-ever appearance in the AP poll; Miami was ranked this week for the 511th time.

Miami: There will be much on the film, especially the first-half film, for the Hurricanes to correct before going to Texas A&M next week. The offensive line will be a key point of emphasis, after it let Southern Miss sack Van Dyke four times and get in his face on several other occasions.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Hurricanes will remain ranked, probably right around the No. 15 spot they held this week and set up a ranked-vs.-ranked game in College Station next week. The last three of those games – when both teams enter ranked – haven’t exactly gone great for the Hurricanes; they’re 0-3, having gotten outscored 148-56.

INJURIES

Miami DE Akeem Mesidor, who had four tackles, a sack and a pass breakup in last week’s win over Bethune-Cookman, was held out with a lower body injury.

UP NEXT

Southern Miss: Host Northwestern State on Sept. 17.

Miami: Visits No. 6 Texas A&M on Sept. 17.

Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke ready for his encore performance

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Tyler Van Dyke has studied every play from his 2021 season at Miami. There are some plays he’s evaluated much more than the others.

And they’re not the highlight-reel entries, either.

Van Dyke’s right arm is carrying a significant amount of No. 16 Miami’s hopes entering this season, for good reason. Over the final six games of the Hurricanes’ schedule a year ago, his numbers were among the very best in the country. He started the year as a backup; he ended it as a full-fledged NFL draft hopeful.

But in the film room, it’s the mistakes that motivate him.

“When I watch the film of games last year, when I really look back, I always look at the negative things,” Van Dyke said. “If I had two bad plays or a few bad plays, I’d be like, `Was that really a good game with those bad plays I had?’ ”

To be fair, the answer to that question would be “yes,” particularly in his final six games and after finding his footing as the starter.

The Connecticut native completed 66% of his passes in that six-game span, with 20 touchdowns, just three interceptions and threw for 2,194 yards. The only other FBS quarterback during those weeks to have that many yards, that sort of accuracy, that many touchdowns and that few interceptions was Mississippi State’s Will Rogers – who had a 77% completion rate, 21 touchdowns, three interceptions and 2,287 yards.

If Miami had gone to a bowl game – the Hurricanes’ trip to the Sun Bowl was derailed by virus-related issues – Van Dyke almost certainly would have finished with 3,000 yards. He ended up 69 yards short. Still, not bad for someone who played only nine games a year ago and got the starting job only after D'Eriq King was lost early in the season with a shoulder injury.

“After all the work we’ve done, I can’t wait to get back out there,” said Van Dyke, who will lead the Hurricanes into their season debut at home Saturday against Bethune-Cookman.

Inheriting a quarterback like Van Dyke is something first-year Miami coach Mario Cristobal calls “a tremendous blessing.”

“You have a natural leader that’s one of your hardest workers, competing to be recognized as the hardest worker, that demands as much of himself as he does of anybody else,” Cristobal said. “That type of mentality and that work ethic, he has also displayed in the classroom and the way he approaches community service and everything he does.”

It’s probably hard for Van Dyke to totally ignore the highlights when he looks at those films.

There were plenty of them.

He ended last season on an absolute tear – with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns in each of his final six games. No quarterback at the major college level had six such games over that span; Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe had five, and three others had four apiece.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, there are just six players with better odds of winning the Heisman Trophy this season than Van Dyke.

“Last year, when he was the starting quarterback, he was more of the offensive leader,” Miami receiver Xavier Restrepo said. “But this year, I feel like everybody listens to him. He controls the whole entire team.”

That said, Van Dyke gets legitimate competition every day in the Miami quarterback room.

Jake Garcia, who wanted to play through a broken ankle last year, excelled in his lone appearance a year ago – throwing two touchdown passes against Central Connecticut, the game in which he got hurt. Freshman Jacurri Brown is a highly regarded newcomer who had offers from Auburn, Florida, Mississippi and others.

“I mean, all those guys are just insane,” Restrepo said. “You know, their arm talent is ridiculous. And sitting behind TVD and just listening to TVD, they’re also gaining knowledge about football, so I think that’s very important for them.”

Van Dyke is already mentioned as a potential first-round pick if he chooses to enter the 2023 NFL draft. He’s been in high demand as an endorser, thanks to the NCAA’s policy that now allows student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness.

It’s all nice. He enjoys the attention. But he insists that his focus is on the field.

“I’ve played this game my entire life and obviously it’s pretty cool to see all that stuff,” Van Dyke said. “But at the end of the day, all that stuff is projections. I only played like three-fourths of a season last year. I just can’t wait to play a full season this year.”