Clutch runs, missed throws and ‘heartbreak’: Breaking down Tyler Van Dyke’s start vs. UNC

·5 min read

Tyler Van Dyke had mostly shaken away the demons of another awful start. The missed throws started to happen less frequently. Those two second-quarter interceptions suddenly seem so costly when he was trying to lead the Miami Hurricanes to a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

It wasn’t too dissimilar from his first Atlantic Coast Conference start last month: It took him some time to figure out what to do, but once he did the offense started to move. He made smart checkdowns, drew penalties with deep shots and used his legs — a surprising weapon for the seemingly statuesque quarterback — to give Miami a shot to win after trailing by 18 in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels.

He had the Hurricanes down at North Carolina’s 16-yard line, in range for a game-tying field goal with less than 30 seconds to go, and then one final mistake. A pass batted at the line and juggled around finally wound up in Cedric Gray’s hands for an interception. Miami lost 45-42 on Van Dyke’s third interception of the game at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Miami Hurricanes fall again in heartbreaker to UNC, drop to 2-4 for first time since 1997

“He was throwing an RPO for a touchdown and it got tipped at the line of scrimmage,” coach Manny Diaz said. “It’s heartbreak.”

Each of Van Dyke’s first two starts against non-FCS opponents have been rollercoasters. They’ve started low, hit high points in the second half and ended with a crash. On Saturday, it was Van Dyke visibly upset — at least on the verge of tears — while the Tar Heels took a knee and ran out of final six seconds after another near comeback.

His final line wasn’t anything spectacular — he went 20 of 45 for 264 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, with 36 yards on nine carries — but Diaz called his performance “courageous,” and it was an apt descriptor given the way he ran for first downs, manufactured yardage despite only one complete pass longer than 20 yards and bounced back from an abysmal first half.

As good as his second half was, Van Dyke’s first left the Hurricanes (2-4, 0-2) in a bind. He went 5 of 15 for 59 yards and two interceptions in the first half, missed open receivers too frequently and made two awful decisions. As Miami tries to evaluate him as a long-term option, Van Dyke is providing a mixed bag so far.

He was shaky right from the start. On the Hurricanes’ first play of the game, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee dialed up a flea flicker and wide receiver Key’Shawn Smith got open down the field with time for Van Dyke to make the pass. His throw went behind the wide receiver, then he did the same with Smith on a third-and-9 crossing route to end the drive.

Accuracy and touch were issues all game. He even went just 7 of 17 in the fourth quarter.

“I honestly didn’t just finish through my throws,” Van Dyke said. “I had them both there. Those two throws were on me.”

Van Dyke’s two interceptions were indefensible, too. On the first, he pulled the ball on a run-pass option and threw a fastball into a crowd, and Gray grabbed the interception after a deflection by North Carolina defensive back Tony Grimes. On the second, he tried to hit Smith in the middle of the field, but didn’t see Cam’Ron Kelly sitting there and the Tar Heels defensive back picked him off again.

North Carolina (4-3, 3-3) scored 10 points off the interceptions and led 34-17 at halftime.

In the first half, Van Dyke played like an unworthy successor to D’Eriq King, and a player whose job was mostly secure only because of injuries to King and fellow quarterback Jake Garcia. In the second, he played like the former four-star recruit he is.

“We’re going to keep working, Van Dyke said. “They just told me to calm down and just be yourself.”

The complexion of the offense changed after halftime. The Hurricanes ran for just 21 yards on 11 carries in the first half, then exploded for 136 yards on 23 carries in the second. With the pressure off, Van Dyke started to move the ball.

He scrambled for 11 yards on fourth-and-10 to keep the Hurricanes’ first drive of the third quarter alive. He threw a 60-yard swing pass to running back Jaylan Knighton for a touchdown on third-and-5 to cut the Tar Heels’ lead to 38-34 later in the third. In the fourth quarter, he cut North Carolina’s lead to 45-42 with 3:08 left when he rolled to his left and made a sidearm throw back against the grain for a two-point conversion.

On the final drive, he did enough to at least force overtime. He took Miami from its own 28 all the way into the red zone by completing a 13-yard swing pass and breaking off runs of 14 and 12 yards before heartbreak.

He had wide receiver Charleston Rambo open in the middle of the field, he said, only he didn’t get the ball up high enough. Gray came up with another interception and the Hurricanes fell to their worst start since 1997.

“We had them,” Van Dyke said. “It was just an unfortunate break.”

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