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Even the Hurricane with the last name Rambo and a freshman kicker’s 55-yard, fourth-quarter field goal couldn’t save the University of Miami from destruction Saturday against Michigan State.
The Spartans exposed a multitude of Miami flaws, defeating the No. 24 Hurricanes 38-17 in front of 46,427 fans at Hard Rock Stadium.
Fumbles, drops, interceptions, penalties, inept tackling, poor offensive line play — not necessarily in that order — doomed Miami to a 1-2 record for the first time since 2019, when UM finished 6-7 in Manny Diaz’s inaugural season as head coach.
The pressure on Diaz now seems nearly as insurmountable as the Spartans’ fourth-quarter, 21-point lead after three late MSU touchdowns and quarterback D’Eriq King’s second interception with 4:05 left.
“Everyone has the right to be disappointed with the way the first three games started,’’ Diaz said. “There’s no defending that. We have not performed the way that we should perform and this coaching staff will get that corrected, will get that fixed. We’ve got the guys in that locker room that want to stay together, that want to be a family and fight hard for each other, and fight our way out of this.”
Before King’s second pick crushed UM’s final chance at a comeback, he was pummeled by defensive end Drew Beesley on the second play of the fourth quarter and fumbled the ball 15 yards into the hands of Jacub Panasiuk. Three plays later, Michigan State had a 24-14 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Reed with 13:10 left.
It was King’s second fumble of the day and fourth of the season. King had hurt his right shoulder after a 1-yard rush in the third quarter. He briefly entered the medical tent and then jogged with Dr. Lee Kaplan into the locker room, just seconds after left offensive guard Jalen Rivers returned to the field wearing a brace over his right knee. Rivers was hurt on UM’s third offensive drive.
King returned to finish the game, completing 38 of 59 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns, with the two interceptions and two fumbles. He was sacked three times.
MSU quarterback Payton Thorne finished 18 of 31 for 261 yards and four touchdowns. His nationally heralded tailback Kenneth Walker III ran for 172 yards on 27 carries and added three catches for 17 yards and a touchdown.
‘Turnovers and execution’
“The game came down to turnovers and execution,’’ said King, who wore a splint over his right arm, the lectern supporting his body weight. “I gotta get better. We gotta get better.
“It’s my job to not turn over the ball. I take pride in that. The first drive there was a big fumble. I should never fumble. I gotta protect the ball at all costs. I got the ball in my hands every single play. I gotta do better for everybody.”
The Big Ten’s Spartans rose to 3-0.
Miami began what it had hoped would be a comeback with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Charleston Rambo, who somehow clutched the ball at 3:53 of the third quarter while being engulfed by safety Angelo Grose and cornerback Chester Kimbrough. An emotional Rambo slammed the ball behind him as officials reviewed the play but ultimately did not rule it targeting by Grose.
Rambo’s touchdown catch, his 12th reception of the game for 156 yards at that point, tied UM’s single-game record for receptions, done twice, most recently by Phillip Dorsett in 2012, vs. USF. That would be Rambo’s final catch of the day.
Any personal satisfaction in that record?
“Nah,’’ Rambo said. “Its there but it’s nothing right now. We took an L, so that doesn’t matter.”
No joy at Hard Rock
Andy Borregales’ 55-yard field goal came with 8:11 left in the game and made it 24-17. Borregales kicked the 43-yard game-winner the previous week against App State, but there would be no joy on this day.
“Obviously, we are disappointed in our performance and disappointed in the outcome,’’ Diaz said. “Turnovers and the red zone told the story today. Missing opportunities and not creating any turnovers hurt – they won basically all the critical moments of the game.
“It was tough on the guys in the locker room.”
After a scoreless first quarter, in which the Hurricanes were driving until King fumbled at the Michigan State 29-yard line, the Spartans got on the scoreboard with a 23-yard field goal at 13:58. But the 3-0 lead could have been averted had UM cornerback Tyrique Stevenson not dropped a potential interception at the MSU 24-yard-line.
The Hurricanes came back on the next drive looking strong, King tossing a 28-yard completion to Rambo to put UM on the Spartans 11. A 9-yard pass to Rambo gave Miami the ball on third down at the MSU 2. But with tight end Will Mallory wide open at the front of the end zone, King instead overthrew tight end Elijah Arroyo. This time, on fourth down, King hit Rambo, who stood in the rear of the end zone like a statue with his arms outstretched for the 3-yard touchdown.
The 10-play, 75-yard drive gave Miami the 7-3 lead at 10:08.
End zone drop
UM escaped another Michigan State field goal when Matt Coghlin went wide right from 39 yards. The Canes took over with about nine minutes left in the first half, and came out with nothing after 1. Mallory dropped a perfect pass in the end zone, and 2. Borregales missed wide left three plays later from 27 yards.
At halftime, former Hurricanes coach Dennis Erickson and his 1991 players were honored at midfield on the 30th anniversary of that national championship season, when the Canes went 12-0 and beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for Erickson’s second ring —a depressing juxtaposition for UM fans who stayed in their seats to watch.
By then, Miami had six penalties for 53 yards. It ended with 10 for 84 yards.
Miami returns to Hard Rock at 12:30 p.m. next Saturday to face FCS member Central Connecticut State. At this point the Canes would take a win over anybody.