This was, in so many ways, as highly-anticipated a season opener as the have had in years.
Miami arrived at AT&T Stadium on Sunday evening with its highest preseason ranking since 2004. The Hurricanes returned 14 starters from their first 10-win season in more than a decade and after winning the first Coastal Division crown in program history last year, Miami was voted the preseason favorite to win the division title again and return to Charlotte for another appearance in the .
The pervasive thought was that Miami would take advantage of an unproven team that was breaking in a new quarterback and had questions at several other positions, including running back.
That thought was very, very wrong.
Practically from the get go, No. 25 LSU thoroughly dominated every phase of the game in what was eventually a 33-17 win over the eighth-ranked Hurricanes at the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium. It was a game that was eerily reminiscent of the teams’ last meeting — LSU’s 40-3 drubbing of the Hurricanes in the 2005 Peach Bowl.
Just as very little went right for Miami that night, Sunday was the stuff of nightmares for the better part of three quarters. Despite all the preseason hype and expectations, the Hurricanes looked more like the team that dropped three straight to end 2017 and not one bit like the team that won 10 games to start last season and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings last November.
“We certainly had some things go well and some things not so well,” Hurricanes coach said. “A lot of self-inflicted wounds, not to take away from anything LSU di because they beat us soundly. … The good news was we did try to make a game of it. We got within two scores, actually had the ball, I think, with about 8:00 to go, a couple timeouts, if I’m not mistaken. … Still plenty of time. …I think we got it close enough to make them think about it a little bit, but just couldn’t finish.”
Against LSU, Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier — who at times struggled with his accuracy last season but was still named the Miami’s starter by coach Mark Richt in July — threw two interceptions. He’d finish the day just 15-of-35 for 259 yards.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes’ new-look defensive line, which was playing without a trio of former starters in Chad Thomas, RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton — had a tough time with LSU’s offensive line. And even Miami’s kicking game had issues, with freshman kicker Bubba Baxa missing an early field goal and sophomore Zach Feagles shanking his first three punts.
And the Tigers, who came into Sunday’s game posting an unblemished 3-0 record in games played at AT&T Stadium, took every possible advantage.
Senior running back Nick Brossette, called on to try and fill the void left after the departure of Derrius Guice, gashed the Hurricanes defense and scored practically untouched on a 50-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter that gave LSU a 10-3 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
That run also helped set the tone for the rest of the night, the Hurricanes conceding players felt demoralized after the play.
“You could just feel the energy sucked out of our sideline and that’s something coach Richt preaches about, adversity is going to hit in every game,” Rosier said. “I felt like we didn’t respond very well at first.”
Brossette finished the night with 125 yards and another touchdown run, this one a 1-yarder that put LSU up 17-3 with 9:21 left in the first half.
After that, Miami’s problems only got worse.
Two possessions later, LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips picked off an errant Rosier pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
By halftime, the Hurricanes had put together an ugly litany of stats. Among them, Miami was 0-of-6 on third-down conversions and was penalized eight times for 75 yards.
The second half brought more of the same punishment for Miami, which didn’t get a touchdown until Rosier scored on a 3-yard run with 13:57 left.
In the meantime, several Hurricanes — including receiver Lawrence Cager, running back DeeJay Dallas, receiver Ahmmon Richards, defensive ends Jonathan Garvin and Demetrius Jackson and defensive tackle Gerald Willis — dealt with at least minor injuries, though several returned to action.
The Hurricanes would add another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when freshman Brian Hightower caught a 32-yard scoring pass from Rosier, but it was too little, too late for Miami, which now turns its focus to its Saturday home opener against Savannah State.
“It’s a long season ahead of us. We have several games left with this season,” safety Jaquan Johnson said. “And we look forward to each and every one of them. We aren’t going to prepare no differently. We’re going to do the same preparation and go out and try to dominate the next opponent.”
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