Five takeaways: No. 8 Miami Hurricanes fall to No. 25 LSU Tigers in disappointing start to season

The preseason hype was fun while it lasted. 

All of the accolades and polls didn’t mean anything Sunday. All that mattered was what happened on the field at AT&T Stadium.

And there wasn’t much good that happened for the Hurricanes, as No. 25 LSU defeated No. 8 Miami 33-17 to open the season Sunday. The Hurricanes have now dropped four consecutive games, a losing streak that began in last year’s regular-season finale against Pittsburgh on Nov. 24.

Despite all of that, Hurricanes coaches and players remained hopeful they could salvage this season.

“We didn't win obviously, but there have been championships won by teams that have lost the first game,” Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said. “If you're going to lose a game, it might as well be the first one. People tend to kind of forget about it. If you play well as the season goes along -- that's what I told the team -- if we just get better and better and better and better and you know, begin to win and continue to win, then you know, I think all of our hopes and dreams are still alive.”

The Hurricanes entered as the favorite in the matchup, but the Tigers dominated from the start. LSU took advantage of Miami’s shaky offense and penalty issues to enter halftime with a 27-3 lead.

The Tigers never looked back, as the closest the Hurricanes got in the second half was when freshman Brian Hightower caught a touchdown to cut LSU’s lead to 33-17 with 8:43 remaining in the game.

Sophomore wide receiver Jeff Thomas’ performance was one positive for the Hurricanes. Thomas recorded a team-high five catches for 132 yards on nine targets.

Here are five takeaways ...

A night to forget for Malik Rosier: After all of the offseason talk about Malik Rosier’s improved mechanics and accuracy, Sunday was the first chance to evaluate him. The Hurricanes’ quarterback was underwhelming, completing 15-of-35 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown while throwing two interceptions. There were plenty of off-target throws, as it brought back memories from the three-game season-ending losing skid. Rosier has now thrown for four touchdowns and seven interceptions in his past four games dating back to the start of that losing streak. If the Hurricanes are ever going to live up to their top-10 preseason ranking, Rosier has to be better. 

“[LSU] did a really good job,” Rosier said. “Sometimes they would drop eight. They made me fill in the tight windows. There were a couple of times where I almost missed Jeff [Thomas], and he made a great catch for me. Sometimes it’s a bad play. Sometimes I get hit as I’m throwing. Rhythm was off. They did a really good job of getting those three guys in my face and making me throw under pressure.”

No turnover chain for Miami: On Sunday, LSU deserved a turnover chain. The Tigers won the turnover battle 2-0, with two interceptions. One of the picks was returned for a touchdown by LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips in the second quarter. This obviously wasn’t the only reason the Hurricanes lost, but it was a big one. Turnovers were a key part of Miami’s winning formula last year, as it tied for the fifth-best turnover margin at plus-13 during their 10-win season. Following one game this season, the Hurricanes are at minus-two.

Ahmmon Richards hurts knee: The Hurricanes’ No. 1 wide receiver is the talented Ahmmon Richards, and he was finally healthy entering the season after playing through lingering injuries last year. But after the season opener, Richards’ health is already in question again. The former Wellington High standout played limited snaps against LSU after hurting his knee in the loss. The hope is that it’s just a bone bruise and not a serious injury. Richards finished with one catch for nine yards on just two targets. Along with Richards, running back Travis Homer also turned in a quiet night with seven carries for 30 yards. Richards and Homer are expected to be two of the Hurricanes’ top playmakers, but they didn’t have much of an impact Sunday.

“We don't know for sure,” Richt said when asked about Richards’ health. “It didn't look really bad. I don't think there's any kind of ligament damage. I don't know. I shouldn't even speak because I don't know. I know when he landed on the ground, he banged his knee. And hopefully, it is nothing more than a good bone bruise, you know? Sometimes that happens and it just doesn't recover that night but it is something that can be recovered from relatively quick. That's what I hope.”

Offensive line shaky in debut: The Hurricanes’ new starting offensive line played its first game together Sunday, but the group is already facing questions. The combination of Tyree St. Louis at left tackle, Jahair Jones at left guard, Tyler Gauthier at center, Hayden Mahoney at right guard and Navaughn Donaldson at right tackle struggled at times against LSU. The Tigers finished with four sacks and pressured Rosier into numerous errant throws. The Hurricanes also finished with just 83 rushing yards.

“So we went against premier athletes, and there's a lot of times we protected extremely well and gave the quarterback time,” Richt said. “And we got people open and threw and caught it and then those few times we didn't. But really we ran the ball well. You know, maybe we should have kept banging away and running the ball a little bit more early on. But, just from my vantage point from the sideline, I didn't feel like the offensive line was the reason why we were struggling.”

Freshmen get a chance: Even with 14 starters returning from last season’s team, a few Hurricanes freshmen got an opportunity to make their college debut on Sunday. At least seven true freshmen played against LSU. That list includes cornerbacks Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey, tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, defensive end Gregory Rousseau, kicker Bubba Baxa and Hightower. Blades and Ivey were called on to play more than expected after sophomore starting cornerback Trajan Bandy was ejected during LSU’s first offensive drive of the game.

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