Tyler Van Dyke may very well have thrown his last meaningful pass for the Miami Hurricanes.
That’s not to say the junior quarterback is necessarily headed for the bench as a road trip to Florida State looms.
It simply means, that the broken-beyond-repair gunslinger is out of bullets and even the good-looking ball here or there will pale in comparison to the barrage of game-defining interceptions that’s resulted in the once 4-0 Hurricanes dropping three of their past five games.
Mind-boggling to think that Van Dyke was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in college football a month into the season—11 touchdowns and one interception going into Georgia Tech weekend.
Since then, five touchdowns to 10 interceptions—and zero touchdowns these past two games against Virginia and North Carolina State, where Van Dyke threw five picks and coughed up a crucial fumble.
One would be hard-pressed to see a fall from grace like the Hurricanes have witnessed with Van Dyke. In two decades of unthinkable, irrelevant football at the University of Miami—chock full of forgettable, sub-par quarterbacks—these are absolutely uncharted waters as few have had moments of greatness like No. 9 in 2021 and earlier this season.
The cynic loves to point at Miami head coach Mario Cristobal as a quarterback killer, going back to his days at Oregon where some felt he’d handcuffed future NFL’er Justin Herbert, but even the most-egregious head coach in the world couldn’t do to Van Dyke what he’s mentally done to himself.
Miami’s quarterback has his own version of the yips and it’s been on display since his deer-in-headlights performance against Georgia Tech—an outing where Van Dyke was staring down receivers, completely missing open ones or throwing into triple coverage after not going through his progressions—losing all feel for the game along the way.
WHEELS OFFICIALLY OFF REGARDING QUARTERBACK PLAY
What’s taking place this season for the Miami Hurricanes regarding quarterback regression; it’s almost not even about football at this rate.
Once getting past the fandom, one almost has to feel bad for Van Dyke as a human being, as something has gone seriously awry for the Glastonbury, Connecticut native—a kid who had his eyes on the NFL after this season now most-likely needing to rely on that Business Real Estate degree he’s working on at the University of Miami, as any pro football career appears to be slipping away one errant pass at a time.
None of this is to say Van Dyke is the only problem as both Cristobal and first-year offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson aren’t blameless here.
Whatever Dawson did weeks back to game-manage against Clemson with Emory Williams in the shotgun in his first start; the play calling has been non-existent with Van Dyke these past two games—begging the question, if coaches can’t find a way to work with they have in their starter, is it time to burn it all down and toss the keys to a true freshman who can take some valuable snaps while closing out this season?
It worked in 1999 for Ken Dorsey, albeit the freshman got rocked against Virginia Tech when replacing the injured Kenny Kelly mid-game, but starts—and blowouts—against Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple the final three weeks of the season helped set up a successful 2000 campaign when Kelly bailed out to play pro baseball and Dorsey was the guy for the next three seasons.
Unfortunately Miami’s reality in 2023 will see a road trip to Tallahassee against No. 4 Florida State, a home finale against offensive juggernaut Louisville and a Thanksgiving weekend in Chestnut Hill against a feisty Boston College on-deck these next three weeks—a far cry from the Scarlet Knights, Orangemen or Owls of yesteryear.
As good as September was to kick off year two of the Cristobal era; business-as-usual wins over the other Miami, Bethune-Cookman and a road victory at Temple—as well as what felt like a breakthrough rout of Texas A&M in week two—November looks like it’ll make history for all of the wrong reasons.
Closing strong is the goal of every season—this final stretch of football separating pretenders from contenders—the Hurricanes now look like absolute frauds by way of a damaged-goods, non-threat quarterback that defenses can still beat by loading up the box, stuffing the run and daring to do something… anything, at this rate.
Even worse, Van Dyke’s body language in relation to his offensive teammates—the quarterback seems to have lost all and any visible support of that unit.
A far cry from the, it’s-on-me, rally-the-troops, let’s-get-back-out-there-and-deliver energy from the type of rah-rah guys who have defined the position over the years—begging the question, where do things really go from here if Van Dyke is too-far-gone and this team has lost all faith in him as their leader?
In the spirit of outing one’s self with a dated pop-culture reference, Van Dyke is giving off some serious Roy McAvoy vibes—the character Kevin Costner played in the nineties rom-com Tin Cup—envisioning the scene where the frazzled golfer is discovered in his trailer with a half dozen gadgety golf improvement devices hanging off of every orifice of his body, searching for anything under the sun that will get him out of his head and returning the mojo that once made him a contender.
The way the Miami offense has stalled out in recent weeks, there aren’t enough training aids under the sun to fix what’s going on with Van Dyke and these Hurricanes.
TEAMS ARE WHAT THEIR RECORD SAYS THEY ARE
Unfortunately for Cristobal and staff, whatever is happening with their derailed quarterback—that will be a footnote when this final record is in the books—and at this rate, one would be hard pressed to make a case for these Hurricanes winning another game this year.
That’s not to say the sun can’t shine on a dog’s ass here or there, but on paper how could anyone expect Miami to outscore Florida State, Louisville or Boston College in these coming weeks based on such garbage offensive production against Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina State?
The only game in recent memory where Miami won the turnover battle was against Clemson—whose own self-implosion saw the Tigers coughing up the ball three times to the one Canes’ miscue on a Williams interception, while Van Dyke was in street clothes playing cheerleader.
Three head-scratching interceptions against the Yellow Jackets, two against the Tar Heels—and a fumble when mishandling an errant snap—as well as the two picks against Virginia and now this abortion of an outing against the Wolfpack; three interceptions and one fumble as the Hurricanes finished with 292 total yards, was 4-of-15 on third down and was held without a touchdown for the first time since last year’s bed-shitting outing against the Seminoles, 45-3.
Unexpected circumstances like this are a nightmare for a head coach, but it’s also the reason someone like Cristobal earns a whopping $8,000,000 annually—to figure out how to negotiate this rugged terrain and to find a way to get this thing back on some semblance of a track—which will also require bigger cojones than Miami’s second-year head coach showed in Raleigh on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes settled for early field goals, leaving eight points on the field by early in the second quarter—as well as answering a fumble recovery with a Van Dyke interception, only to pick off the Wolfpack and then give it back when the Canes’ errant quarterback fumbled.
After a first half of red zone struggles, Cristobal and Dawson went conservative on Miami’s opening drive of the second half—choosing a 45-yard field goal attempt on 4th-and-3—instead of drawing something up that could’ve kept the possession going, only to get stuffed on 4th-and-1 from the three-yard line, when choosing to blast Mark Fletcher up the middle as uncreative and obvious as possible in what was still a 10-6 football game with 9:47 remaining.
Eight plays, 97 yards and just under five minutes later the Wolfpack—who offensively had only five yards the entire second half going into a drive they started from their three-yard line—found pay-dirt; sparked by a 16-yard pick-up on 3rd-and-7 from the six-yard line that rejuvenated a North Carolina State offense that had been held in check by Miami most of the night, before the Canes’ defense understandably broke.
Zigging when one should zag—it wasn’t just Van Dyke who was off; it was a coaching staff with the wrong call at the wrong time, it was boneheaded penalties by frustrated players and it was a complete inability to make a play when needed—Kevin Conception or Brennan Armstrong keeping drives alive with big plays for the Wolfpack, while someone like Cam McCormick went full-blown stone-hands for the Canes on a key early third down that arguably kept Miami out of the end zone and set the wrong tone.
From top to bottom, the entire outing was a disaster and any confidence Miami had weeks back about facing Florida State this fall—based on a productive September—it’s gone completely out the window.
The Noles might not be as good as advertised and the Hurricanes not as bad a unit as their quarterback has them looking—but the difference between year four for Mike Norvell versus year two for Cristobal are impossible to ignore and ready to come to a head this weekend as one program has an identity and is playing up to its potential, while the other is officially reeling.
Two years ago it was the Seminoles coming off of a November home loss to North Carolina State, knocking them to 3-6 on the season as 5-4 Miami loomed. Weeks prior, Norvell and the Noles fell at home on a time-expiring touchdown against Jacksonville State—which on the heels of 3-6 in a COVID-defined 2020—had Florida State faithful talking buyout and ready to run their second-year head coach out of town.
Then 4th-and-14 happened and the Noles beat the Canes—and while both programs were effectively in the shitter—the victory gave Florida State something to build on; beating Boston College in Chestnut Hill a week later before dropping a close on in Gainesville to finish 5-7—which was still a down year, but two games better than the season prior and marked improvement.
By year three, Norvell officially had a quarterback in Jordan Travis—who looked like a complete joke as a starter in 2021, yet now has the Noles on a 15-game win-streak with the reeling Hurricanes headed to town.
MIAMI AND FLORIDA STATE MARCH TO THEIR OWN BEAT
If there’s one thing to trust that Cristobal does understand, it’s the sentiment that everything goes out the window when Miami and Florida State strap it up and go to war.
During his time as a player, the former No. 72 was on a losing end of his first showdown in Tallahassee—a 24-10 stumble when starting quarterback Craig Erickson was sidelined and freshman Gino Torretta got the nod—the Canes winning out and capturing the program’s third national championship with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
Come 1990, a convincing 31-22 win in the Orange Bowl when underdog Miami rolled, followed by back-to-back thrilling Wide Right seasons, with Dan Mowrey sailing his kick in Tallahassee in 1991—paving the way for the undefeated Hurricanes to win a fourth title—as well as another thriller in 1992 where Gerry Thomas also went wide in Miami as Bobby Bowden played for the tie, the Canes eventually falling in the Sugar Bowl where Alabama claimed the national championship.
A different era for both Miami and Florida State, the fact remains that both teams generally tend to show up when these two tussle—though it wasn’t the case last fall when Van Dyke was injured and Jacurri Brown got the nod—which isn’t a good look for those clamoring for Williams get his second start in such a hostile road environment next Saturday night.
Unfortunately for all who don the orange and green, it’s busted-up Van Dyke or bust this coming weekend against Florida State—which will take a yeoman’s about face effort for this entire coaching staff—Cristobal needing to put on his CEO cap, making sure Dawson dials up a plan that can expose some of the Noles’ glaring defensive weaknesses, while Lance Guidry will need his unit to bring pressure on Travis, which is the only way to get the Florida State quarterback to make some mistakes of his own.
Cliché as it sounds, the pressure is on undefeated Florida State as Miami truly has nothing to lose sitting at 6-3—outside of pride and the stinging that will come from a fourth loss with two remaining.
The Seminoles are playing for an ACC Championship and a Playoff berth—and the Hurricanes are merely looking to assume the role of spoiler, tapping into some early-season mojo and notching a win over a rival riding a three-game win streak in the series, as well as hopefully ending FSU’s bid for a fourth national championship.
A tall mountain to climb, but again—what’s the alternative? Just sitting a the foot of the hill, looking upwards and wondering what it’d be like to accept the challenge? A miraculous win over Florida State would save what’s turned into a dismal season and as unlikely as that miracle would be, what else is there but hope until that clock hits 0:00 next Saturday evening?
The main goal for 2023 was marked improvement—which coming off of 5-7 was a rather low bar—and up until a couple of weeks ago, it felt like the Hurricanes were ahead of schedule with yet another rebuild.
A mulligan for a coaching blunder against Georgia Tech was acceptable, but seeing the Van Dyke turnover machine repeating the same disastrous outing in Chapel Hill a week later—the performance wasn’t a one-off for the quarterback—and when it happened again against Virginia, this was now a pattern, Miami was officially in trouble and the chaos rolls on in November.
Rolling out a broken Van Dyke with the hopes the yips are gone, or throwing Williams into the fire with a scaled down playbook in a raucous Doak Campbell Stadium next Saturday afternoon? Everyone could make their case for either, but only this coaching staff, these players and a select handful of key figures involved know all the intangibles that go into making this critical decision.
Regardless, it’s undeniably stop-the-bleeding and figure-shit-out time, whatever that looks like—three one-game seasons remaining as the Hurricanes are only partially playing for today—next year and the future of this program holding more weight than the difference between 9-3 or 6-6.
Keep grinding. Keep recruiting. Keep developing. Keep stockpiling. Keep building depth… and as impossibly as it feels, keep the faith—if you can.
Few sadder phrases in the college football lexicon than”we’ll get ’em next year”, but such is the case in year two of another rebuild for Miami—the program trying to riddle-solve with its third head coach over a five-year span and Cristobal the Canes’ sixth head coach in 17 seasons, attempting to do something so many have tried and failed over the past couple of decades.
Six days of getting busy on a game plan to raise some hell in Tallahassee. Where it goes it goes, but six points, four turnovers and a head-slung-low energy isn’t the remedy. Tap into the deep rooted hate—and current jealously regarding a rival’s success—and do all this program can to not bring a knife to a gunfight next weekend.
Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.