Next weekend is when it could get really rough.
Unyielding optimists would say there’s no place to go but up.
After quarterback Tyler Van Dyke again struggled mightily in an abysmal overall offensive performance (except for freshman running back Mark Fletcher) during a 20-6 loss at NC State, the Miami Hurricanes head to Tallahassee to face archrival, undefeated No. 4 Florida State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.
The Seminoles (9-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) clinched a spot in the ACC title game on Saturday with their 24-7 victory over Pitt. The Hurricanes fell to 6-3 and 2-3 and have scored 20 (NC State), 23 (Virginia) and 17 points (Clemson) in regulation of their past three games. The Virginia and Clemson games went to overtime, both of which Miami won.
Now, Hurricanes fans are in an uproar and clamoring for Van Dyke to be benched and replaced by true freshman Emory Williams, who has played in four games and led UM to a double-overtime victory in his lone career start Oct. 21 against Clemson.
Fourth-year junior Van Dyke finished 21 of 38 (55-percent) for 173 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions — one of the picks on his final throw of the game. He has thrown 10 interceptions his past four games (three vs. Georgia Tech, two vs. UNC, two vs. UVA and his eighth, ninth and 10 on Saturday) and also lost a fumble Saturday. He has not scored a touchdown the past two games.
Pro Football Focus gave Van Dyke on Saturday the worst grade of his career: 42.1 overall and 38.9 for passing. The previous week was his second-worst grade of 54.2 (54.6 passing) for 2023.
Coach Mario Cristobal sidestepped the question of whether he and his staff have considered making a change at quarterback.
“I think it’s not just pointing a finger at Tyler,’’ Cristobal replied. “Offensively, there’s things that we need to do better... It’s a little bit of everything. Little bit of we’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to get our guys to perform better. We’ve got to design a couple things that might help us see things a little bit more clearly.
“...He’s tough,’’ the coach said of Van Dyke. “He’s tough and he’s upset. He competed the whole way.”
For the first game since injuring his right leg on Oct. 14 at North Carolina and missing the Oct 21 Clemson game, Van Dyke didn’t wear a brace over his knee on Saturday. He also hurt his back and ribs at UNC, and said Saturday that he was “alright now’’ in regards to the injuries. “It’s football, he said. “Just got banged up a little bit.”
At times, Van Dyke looked as awkward and uncomfortable, even when being perfectly protected, as he has all season.
“He’s doing pretty well,’’ Cristobal said regarding Van Dyke’s physical condition. “At this point of the season a lot of guys are banged up. He’s like anybody else. He’s fighting through...’’
Cristobal will be asked about the quarterback situation again on Monday, when he has two local media sessions.
Williams hasn’t played since Clemson. He is 36 of 48 (75 percent) for 295 yards and one touchdown in four games, with one interception this season. He has been sacked twice. If he plays again, he will be ineligible for a redshirt. But at this point it appears, at least judging by offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s comments last week, that UM had decided to “burn’’ the redshirt and get him playing time.
Third-string sophomore quarterback Jacurri Brown is another option at quarterback, at least to get some game experience after not playing since last year. Brown hasn’t played this season. He can now compete in the final four games, which includes a bowl game, without jeopardizing his redshirt status. But that doesn’t mean coaches will play him. Last year he started two games (win at Georgia Tech and loss at Clemson) and was 27 of 45 (60 percent) for 230 yards and three touchdowns, with three interceptions.
Van Dyke said his Hurricanes must press forward.
“Win, lose or draw we’ve got to move on,’’ the quarterback said about Florida State. “They’re our next opponent. Obviously it’s Florida State, a rival. Like I said before, I had a great week of practice last week. Got to continue that and show out on game day and be ready for them.’’
Cristobal indicated the team will be able to recover emotionally and be ready to tackle a daunting FSU opponent on the road.
“No. 1: You never compromise effort,’’ he said. “If you do.... This program won’t have that.’’
“We had every opportunity to take control of that game and we didn’t do it. We have to own that. We know we can be a really good football team. We’ve shown it in spurts.... The guys buckled down to the end, finding a way to get a stop at the goal line. That’s a high-character team that wants to be tough, wants to play hard and wants to win. I don’t doubt that. We’ve just got to make sure we do our best job as an organization to get better.
“We’ve gotten better in so many ways. We had a couple ups and downs early in the season. We had some momentum going into this game. We didn’t finish the job. We didn’t get it done.
“Let these guys get a little bit of rest. But we’ll be working on it right away and we’ll get them prepared for next week.”