In anticipation of the 2021 season, the Miami Hurricanes considered themselves to be ready for prime time, possessing the talent to take a step forward as a program and prove they belonged when faced with competing against some of the best teams in the sport.
When the season opener against the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide began, it was clear that everything had come to an end.
The Crimson Tide, led by Bryce Young, a blue chip recruit who was making his first career start at quarterback after appearing in nine games in relief last season, and a monstrous defense that was hell bent on stopping anything and everything Miami tried to do on offense, slowly but steadily built a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter and coasted to a 44-13 victory over the outmatched and outclassed Hurricanes.
Young had a sensational first game as a starter. He finished the day 27/38 for 344 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions, and he was nearly perfect throughout the day. Miami attempted to influence Young’s performance with a variety of pressure and coverage packages, but they were unable to have any effect on his performance.
Young’s performance set a new standard; no other Alabama quarterback had ever thrown more than three touchdown passes in their first start. Until today, that is.
Miami, on the other hand, never appeared to be on the same level as the other teams in this game. It started slowly for Alabama. The defense struggled to stop either their run or pass game, and their best defensive player, S Bubba Bolden, was thrown out of the game on the final play of the first quarter after being called for targeting on the final play of the first quarter.
What was even more frustrating was Miami’s apparent lack of preparation for the situation. The offense lacked a cohesive gameplan, the defense lacked a cohesive gameplan that simply did not work, and Manny Diaz and the rest of the team were outcoached from the very beginning of the game to the very end.
Obviously, Miami will not have another opponent of Alabama’s caliber on the schedule for the remainder of the season. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, didn’t appear to be the caliber of team that they need to be in order to take the step forward toward the 10+ win regular season that everyone has been predicting.
To cut a long story short, this was a prime time game, and Miami quickly demonstrated that they were not prepared to play in prime time.
Well, that’s life. We’ll move on to the next one.
The Hurricanes will open their home schedule against Appalachian State on Saturday.
Alabama Crimson Tide thrash Miami Hurricanes in season-opening game, according to first impressions
Alabama has completely destroyed their opponent in the season opener for the second time in a row. The fact that this should have been one of the most anticipated games of the week has become such a rote tradition that it’s easy to forget that it should have been.
With normal teams, a matchup between No. 1 and No. 14 would garner national attention and excitement, especially when both teams featured quarterbacks who were ranked in the top 10 of preseason Heisman odds.
Alabama, on the other hand, isn’t your typical team.
Astonishingly, I observed a sense of resignation in the media, among the Miami fanbase, and even among the Alabama fanbase that a blowout was unavoidable in this game. Miami, despite their superior team speed and recruiting rankings, had about as much of a chance of upsetting Alabama as someone like Vanderbilt, and everyone was well aware of this fact.
Following the opening kickoff, Alabama moved the ball upfield with a combination of 10-yard runs and passes before QB Bryce Young eluded pressure in the pocket, stepped up through the offensive line, and delivered a strike downfield to an open receiver. For the Tide’s first touchdown, John Metchie raced down the sidelines and dove into the endzone from close range.
A number of drives in which the Alabama defense completely shut down Miami’s offense resembled those of 2009, including one in which the Tide ate up the entire first quarter and scored a touchdown as well as two field goals to take a commanding 20-point lead.
Later, super-pass rushers Will Anderson and Chris Allen combined down on D’Eriq King and forced a turnover/interception, which senior Phidarian Mathis snatched out of the air with deftness. The Tide took a 27-0 lead with a quick pass to tight end Cam Latu, who stiff-armed two different defenders into a different dimension. The game was effectively over at that point.
A field goal by Miami as the half expired came after their receiver tripped on a deep ball, and Alabama defensive back Daniel Wright was called for pass interference despite the fact that he clearly never even touched the receiver on video review of the call.
The Hurricanes were able to string together a good offensive drive right out of halftime thanks to a flurry of quick slant passes, but they were ultimately stopped on 4th and goal and turned the ball over on the next possession. When faced with a 99-yard field, quarterback Bryce Young narrowly avoided an intentional grounding after his offensive line failed to blitz. He then launched a deep ball to Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, who exploded past the defense and raced the length of the field for a 94-yard touchdown.
As a result, the Tide defense came up with a quick interception when the Hurricanes were caught reaching for the cookie jar too many times and going for another quick slant, and running back Trey Sanders converted the favorable field position into a 20-yard touchdown in only his second game since his car accident in 2020.
With Miami scoring on a perfectly executed deep ball and Alabama running up the middle for the remainder of the quarter in an attempt to kill time, it was essentially garbage time after that.
When it came to the offense, Bill O’Brien likely allayed many people’s concerns by sticking to much of the same play design and philosophies that Tide fans have become accustomed to under Steve Sarkisian over the past couple of years. Even though the passing game lacked the explosiveness of recent weeks, it did have a stronger emphasis on 10-yard chain-conversion plays than the previous few teams.
Bryce Young had a sensational first season. His pocket awareness is superior to that of most professional quarterbacks, and he is incredibly quick when avoiding defenders. Young appeared to be playing at a different pace than the rest of the team in terms of decision-making and overall feel for the game, which is incredible for a first-year starter. On the first drive, he did miss a deep pass to Williams, and he also overshot a couple of other downfield passes in general. He has a lightning-quick release and a lot of zip, but he lacks the touch and accuracy of his predecessors, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, at this point in his development as a quarterback.
With regard to his receiving targets, Metchie showed excellent hands on a couple of sideline passes and led the team in receiving with six catches, while Jameson Williams is clearly the preferred deep ball target. Slade Bolden also hauled in a couple of catches across the middle from his position in the middle. All three receivers performed admirably in their respective roles and should form a strong trio for Young. In contrast, none of them exhibited the kind of tackle-breaking and yards after the catch ability that Alabama has relied on since the beginning of this season.
Javon Baker and Jojo Earle were both given a few opportunities on screen passes and converted them into positive gains, but nothing spectacular has yet to happen in that department.
Cam Latu was the tight end who received the majority of the playing time. It wasn’t all bad for him, though. He had some nasty pancake blocks and also missed a couple of shots. He also had three catches for 43 yards and two touchdowns, all of which I thought were fantastic. It was a seam route off of playaction in which he absolutely destroyed the poor linebacker, and it was a huge catch and run across the middle in which he stiff armed two different defensive backs that gave him his second touchdown of the game. In the third, he flew through the air and brought a ball down as he was being struck. It was an impressive performance on his part, and he appears to be a major factor throughout the season.
In spite of the fact that Jahleel Billingsley did not appear in the first half, he was able to enter the game in the second, though he did not receive any shots on goal.
Brian Robinson Jr., the team’s running back, had a respectable 5 yards per carry on the season. His first down came after breaking through a couple of tackles and pushing the pile a couple of times. As soon as he gets past the line of scrimmage, his speed and power will allow him to run right through second level defenders. Despite the fact that he didn’t show much early in the game, he had a solid performance.
Jase McClellan, on the other hand, didn’t quite get the start he desired. He managed to gain positive yardage on the majority of his attempts, but he didn’t break many tackles and only gained an average of 4 yards per carry on the day. He was also pushed into the quarterback as a pass protector on one occasion, and he completely botched a blitz pickup on another. A couple of carries were given to his recruit-mate, Roydell Williams, who fumbled as well.
After reversing field and bouncing off-tackle, Trey Sanders raced to the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown. After a year of recovery from hip surgery, he didn’t look quite as explosive as he had before the procedure. Hopefully, this will change as he gets back into the groove.
Darrian Dalcourt appears to have won the competition for the center position, and Chris Owens has been promoted to right tackle, relegating Kendall Randolph to his former position as a hybrid tight end. Overall, the offensive line did an outstanding job of pass blocking, with LT Evan Neal in particular standing out as particularly strong. Owens did have a couple of whiffs, which is a little disappointing for a 6th-year senior in the league. Though he did a good job at center last season, I don’t believe he has the athleticism to be a full-time tackle on the outside this season. Be prepared to see some people rotating around in that area.
Miami, on the other hand, appeared to be overwhelmed at times by the constant blitzing, and they struggled to run block in short yardage situations. While it is a cause for concern, we have seen a similar situation the previous three seasons, with pass blocking being superior to run blocking for the first three games of the season or so.
Pete Golding’s defense, man, what can you even say about it at this point in time? On offense, the Hurricanes have one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the class of 2020 and have added a star transfer receiver while not losing anyone to graduation. In addition, the Tide limited the opposition’s passing attempts to 5.6 yards per attempt and their rushing attempts to 2.8 yards per carry, while forcing three turnovers and allowing only one play of more than 20 yards (a deep ball in single coverage at the end of the game with a debatable no-call for offensive pass interference).
The pass rush was absolutely terrifying, with Will Anderson wreaking havoc on the defense throughout the night. When the game ended, the Tide had four sacks and would have had four more if King hadn’t been so slick. Chris Allen’s foot injury was the most significant negative aspect of the game. He had to be carted away, and it is expected that he will be out for the season. While it is extremely disappointing for the 5th year senior who turned down the opportunity to play in the NFL, it is also a significant setback for Alabama’s pass rush, as the Tide will now have to find someone else to bookend Anderson.
Henry To’o To’o lived up to the expectations placed on him. Speedy, instinctive, and an unstoppable tackling machine He was responsible for shutting down multiple read option plays and assisting in the diagnosis and flattening of a receiver when the Hurricanes were beginning to have some success with slant passes. He did appear to have injured his arm, but he was seen running around on the sidelines with a large protective sleeve on, so hopefully it was nothing serious.
Jalyn Armour-Davis and Josh Jobe both had near-perfect games at defensive back for their respective teams. I’m not sure if either of them allowed a single catch, but they both made multiple open-field tackles in the process. Alabama is located on the outskirts of the state. Star quarterback Brian Branch was all over the field destroying screen plays before cramps forced him to leave the game in the third quarter. Malachi Moore filled in admirably for the injured DeMarcco Hellams at safety, though I believe he would be a better fit at the position of star.
Overall, the Alabama defense lived up to the expectations that many of us had for them throughout the off-season. They have a lot of experience, are quick, and have an absolutely terrifying pass-rush. Meanwhile, the offense appeared to be a step ahead of the game’s schedule. Bryce Young didn’t show any signs of nervousness, and the passing game was absolutely flawless in his absence. Running backs and wide receivers will both need to find someone who can break tackles when the game is on the line, but it will be difficult to do so.