NCAA Football

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan's Promising Season Never Materialized

After nearly suffering an embarrassing defeat to Akron in September, Michigan's All-American offensive lineman Taylor Lewan broke down what it means to be a Wolverine football player.

"This is your job," Lewan told the media. "You came here to be a student-athlete. You go to school, get your degree and win Big Ten championships. If we prepare like we did this week, we won’t win another game."

After that narrow escape, Michigan was still 3-0 with those Big Ten Conference title hopes alive and well. But whether it was due to poor preparation, a lack of talent or subpar coaching, they would fall well short of the league crown.

Michigan's 31-14 season finale loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Kansas State was a fitting end to a promising season that just wasn't to come to fruition in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines gave up a long touchdown drive to open the game and trailed the entire contest. KSU quarterback Jake Waters gashed Michigan, finishing 21-of-27 passing for 313 total yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile the Michigan offense struggled mightily, rushing for just 65 yards—40 of which came on one run by backup quarterback James Morris late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Outside of that run, Michigan's rushing attack did very little.

That failure to produce on the ground was a recurring theme for the Wolverines this season, and it played a major role once again in the defeat to the Wildcats.

The loss also moved UM back to No. 2 behind Notre Dame in all-time winning percentage, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli tweeted:

That just further soured a season that once carried so much hope.

Michigan's aspirations were at their highest in Week 2. The Wolverines posted one of the biggest wins of the early season, taking down Notre Dame in front of a record crowd at the Big House.

That win vaulted them into national contention. They seemed destined to tangle with Ohio State at season's end for the Big Ten crown—a game that looked like it might also carry national title implications for both teams.

But then Akron happened. A week later, Connecticut happened and UM again needed a late rally to top a pedestrian opponent.

All of a sudden, the national title contender that beat the Fighting Irish was gone.

A few weeks later, the Wolverines suffered their first loss—a 43-40 overtime defeat to Penn State. That road defeat wasn't the end, but it was certainly the beginning of the end. Michigan dropped five of its last six games, topping only Northwestern in overtime. 

The stretch also included consecutive games with negative rushing yards against Michigan State and Nebraska. That lack of both push up front and protection for quarterback Devin Gardner would prove to be the Wolverines' biggest downfalls.

Those weaknesses showed up throughout the season and in the bowl defeat to K-State. And after months of woes up front, the whole season ended as just one big "what if?" 

On one hand: What if the ball had bounced in Michigan's favor a few more times?

Four of the Wolverines' regular-season losses came by four points or fewer, including a heartbreaking 42-41 defeat to archrival Ohio State. Looking at the season from that angle, Michigan was oh-so-close to being in Big Ten title contention.

On the other hand: What if Michigan had lost those close games to Akron and Connecticut?

Through that lens, the season could've been much worse—the Wolverines could've finished 5-7 and out of a bowl completely.

Michigan was supposed to compete for a Big Ten title. Gardner, Lewan and others were to lead the program to prosperity.

But for a multitude of reasons, that didn't happen.

And now, more and more fingers will be pointed at head coach Brady Hoke and his regression over his first three seasons. 

For Hoke, there is some hope for the future. Gardner will return in 2014, as will the majority of the UM defense. With plenty of key players coming back, Michigan will again bring promise into its season.

However, in 2014, the Wolverines must translate that promise into production, or it could cost Hoke his job.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan's Promising Season Never Materialized

After nearly suffering an embarrassing defeat to Akron in September, Michigan's All-American offensive lineman Taylor Lewan broke down what it means to be a Wolverine football player.

"This is your job," Lewan told the media. "You came here to be a student-athlete. You go to school, get your degree and win Big Ten championships. If we prepare like we did this week, we won’t win another game."

After that narrow escape, Michigan was still 3-0 with those Big Ten Conference title hopes alive and well. But whether it was due to poor preparation, a lack of talent or subpar coaching, they would fall well short of the league crown.

Michigan's 31-14 season finale loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Kansas State was a fitting end to a promising season that just wasn't to come to fruition in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines gave up a long touchdown drive to open the game and trailed the entire contest. KSU quarterback Jake Waters gashed Michigan, finishing 21-of-27 passing for 313 total yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile the Michigan offense struggled mightily, rushing for just 65 yards—40 of which came on one run by backup quarterback James Morris late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Outside of that run, Michigan's rushing attack did very little.

That failure to produce on the ground was a recurring theme for the Wolverines this season, and it played a major role once again in the defeat to the Wildcats.

The loss also moved UM back to No. 2 behind Notre Dame in all-time winning percentage, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli tweeted:

That just further soured a season that once carried so much hope.

Michigan's aspirations were at their highest in Week 2. The Wolverines posted one of the biggest wins of the early season, taking down Notre Dame in front of a record crowd at the Big House.

That win vaulted them into national contention. They seemed destined to tangle with Ohio State at season's end for the Big Ten crown—a game that looked like it might also carry national title implications for both teams.

But then Akron happened. A week later, Connecticut happened and UM again needed a late rally to top a pedestrian opponent.

All of a sudden, the national title contender that beat the Fighting Irish was gone.

A few weeks later, the Wolverines suffered their first loss—a 43-40 overtime defeat to Penn State. That road defeat wasn't the end, but it was certainly the beginning of the end. Michigan dropped five of its last six games, topping only Northwestern in overtime. 

The stretch also included consecutive games with negative rushing yards against Michigan State and Nebraska. That lack of both push up front and protection for quarterback Devin Gardner would prove to be the Wolverines' biggest downfalls.

Those weaknesses showed up throughout the season and in the bowl defeat to K-State. And after months of woes up front, the whole season ended as just one big "what if?" 

On one hand: What if the ball had bounced in Michigan's favor a few more times?

Four of the Wolverines' regular-season losses came by four points or fewer, including a heartbreaking 42-41 defeat to archrival Ohio State. Looking at the season from that angle, Michigan was oh-so-close to being in Big Ten title contention.

On the other hand: What if Michigan had lost those close games to Akron and Connecticut?

Through that lens, the season could've been much worse—the Wolverines could've finished 5-7 and out of a bowl completely.

Michigan was supposed to compete for a Big Ten title. Gardner, Lewan and others were to lead the program to prosperity.

But for a multitude of reasons, that didn't happen.

And now, more and more fingers will be pointed at head coach Brady Hoke and his regression over his first three seasons. 

For Hoke, there is some hope for the future. Gardner will return in 2014, as will the majority of the UM defense. With plenty of key players coming back, Michigan will again bring promise into its season.

However, in 2014, the Wolverines must translate that promise into production, or it could cost Hoke his job.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Canes Offense Goes out with a Whimper in Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami went into the Russell Athletic Bowl knowing it'd have its hands full with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

What the Hurricanes didn't see coming—an absolutely suffocating performance, courtesy of the Cardinals defense.

Miami was held to a season-low 174 total yards, unable to get it done through the air, or on the ground. The Hurricanes were an abysmal 0-of-11 on third-down conversions and didn't notch an offensive score until early in the fourth quarter when running back Gus Edwards punched in a meaningless two-yard touchdown.

After self-imposing back-to-back postseason bans and earning their first bowl berth since 2010, the Hurricanes appeared to be ready. Head coach Al Golden and staff had 19 days to prepare, 18 practices to scheme and a roster full of supposedly pent-up kids, ready to relish the opportunity.

Instead, it was the Cardinals and a roster full of Florida-bred players who rolled into Orlando with purpose and passion. Miami couldn't even come close to matching Louisville's energy.

Bridgewater put together a career night, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Late in the game, the junior all-everything quarterback ran in a score from a yard out on fourth down—an effort to pad the highlight reel and to put an exclamation point on his season, should this be his final collegiate outing with the NFL calling.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes invented new ways to unravel.

Down 16-2 late in the second quarter, Stephen Morris was sacked and fumbled away a gimmie scoring opportunity inside the red zone. A few plays later James Burgess Jr.—another former Miami commit—delivered a crowd-silencing hit on Dallas Crawford. Early in the third, a backward pass and some trickery resulted in a 19-yard loss.

Miami was also stuffed twice on fourth down over the course of the game, giving away both field position and momentum in crucial situations.

Five games after losing running back Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes remain identity-less offensively.

Neither Crawford nor Edwards has been able to carry the load, which absolutely crippled what had been a run-first approach all season. Even worse, the fact that the Hurricanes offensive line—thought to be the team's strongest link—was absolutely manhandled by the Cardinals' front seven all night. 

Miami tried to utilize speed and create some magic with receiver Stacy Coley, but the go-to bubble screen that worked late season was sniffed out early by Louisville. Coley finished with three receptions for 32 yards and was a non-factor, opposed to a scene-stealer.

Allen Hurns did break UM's single-season record for receiving yardage—1,164 yards on 62 catches—but did so in limited action, held to two grabs for 24 yards on the night.

And 10-3 was the revised goal. Instead, it's 9-4 and back to the drawing board. Golden and staff will make the short trek back to Coral Gables with more questions than answers—not because of the loss itself, but in the manner that Miami failed to show up and went down without a fight.

Thirteen games into the season and most of this roster never having seen the postseason, the lack of heart and subpar effort are inexcusable.

Miami has 29 verbal commitments on board for the 2014 recruiting class, and job No. 1 is making sure the Hurricanes staff can spin this loss into a playing-time positive.

Come on down to "The U." We need you. Every position is open. True freshmen, JUCO transfers or fifth-year seniors—get on board and may the best man win.

Miami commit Kiy Hester—a 4-star safety from New Jersey—made it clear via Twitter after the game that he's headed to Coral Gables on a mission in 2014.

Outside of safety, the Hurricanes have glaring holes on the defensive line, which will only get worse as five seniors are moving on. The offensive line will take a hit, too, losing three veteran players.

Morris is also gone under center, meaning that quarterback is wide open in the spring, while Johnson needs some help at running back as he can't shoulder the burden alone.

Miami can't get back what it lost in a lopsided bowl loss against Louisville—but it has to learn from the setback and keep moving forward.

Close strong on the recruiting front, get the right players in the mix, put every position up for grabs and let both competition and increased talent dictate which direction "The U" goes over the next few years.

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Canes Offense Goes Out with a Whimper in Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami went into the Russell Athletic Bowl knowing it'd have its hands full with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

What the Hurricanes didn't see coming—an absolutely suffocating performance, courtesy of the Cardinals defense.

Miami was held to a season-low 174 total yards, unable to get it done through the air, or on the ground. The Hurricanes were an abysmal 0-of-11 on third-down conversions and didn't notch an offensive score until early in the fourth quarter when running back Gus Edwards punched in a meaningless two-yard touchdown.

After self-imposing back-to-back postseason bans and earning their first bowl berth since 2010, the Hurricanes appeared to be ready. Head coach Al Golden and staff had 19 days to prepare, 18 practices to scheme and a roster full of supposedly pent-up kids, ready to relish the opportunity.

Instead, it was the Cardinals and a roster full of Florida-bred players who rolled into Orlando with purpose and passion. Miami couldn't even come close to matching Louisville's energy.

Bridgewater put together a career night, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Late in the game, the junior all-everything quarterback ran in a score from a yard out on fourth down—an effort to pad the highlight reel and to put an exclamation point on his season, should this be his final collegiate outing with the NFL calling.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes invented new ways to unravel.

Down 16-2 late in the second quarter, Stephen Morris was sacked and fumbled away a gimmie scoring opportunity inside the red zone. A few plays later James Burgess Jr.—another former Miami commit—delivered a crowd-silencing hit on Dallas Crawford. Early in the third, a backward pass and some trickery resulted in a 19-yard loss.

Miami was also stuffed twice on fourth down over the course of the game, giving away both field position and momentum in crucial situations.

Five games after losing running back Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes remain identity-less offensively.

Neither Crawford nor Edwards has been able to carry the load, which absolutely crippled what had been a run-first approach all season. Even worse, the fact that the Hurricanes offensive line—thought to be the team's strongest link—was absolutely manhandled by the Cardinals' front seven all night. 

Miami tried to utilize speed and create some magic with receiver Stacy Coley, but the go-to bubble screen that worked late season was sniffed out early by Louisville. Coley finished with three receptions for 32 yards and was a non-factor, opposed to a game-breaker. 

And 10-3 was the revised goal. Instead, it's 9-4 and back to the drawing board. Golden and staff will make the short trek back to Coral Gables with more questions than answers—not because of the loss itself, but in the manner that Miami failed to show up and went down without a fight.

Thirteen games into the season and most of this roster never having seen the postseason, the lack of heart and subpar effort are inexcusable.

Miami has 29 verbal commitments on board for the 2014 recruiting class, and job No. 1 is making sure the Hurricanes staff can spin this loss into a playing-time positive.

Come on down to "The U." We need you. Every position is open. True freshmen, JUCO transfers or fifth-year seniors—get on board and may the best man win.

Miami commit Kiy Hester—a 4-star safety from New Jersey—made it clear via Twitter after the game that he's headed to Coral Gables on a mission in 2014.

Outside of safety, the Hurricanes have glaring holes on the defensive line, which will only get worse as five seniors are moving on. The offensive line will take a hit, too, losing three veteran players.

Morris is also gone under center, meaning that quarterback is wide open in the spring, while Johnson needs some help at running back as he can't shoulder the burden alone.

Miami can't get back what it lost in Orlando Saturday night against Louisville—but it has to learn from the setback and keep moving forward.

Close strong on the recruiting front, get the right players in the mix, put every position up for grabs and let both competition and increased talent dictate which direction "The U" goes over the next few years.

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Russell Athletic Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Miami's Loss vs. Louisville

The Miami Hurricanes were seeking their first postseason win since 2006, but the Louisville Cardinals hammered "The U" into the ground, sending the 'Canes to a 36-9 blowout loss Saturday in Orlando.

Offensively, Miami had trouble throughout the entirety of the game, failing to convert a single third down. Quarterback Stephen Morris was constantly under duress, and the running game continued to be lost without Duke Johnson.

The much-maligned defense actually played well during the first half, but Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's 447-yard performance can be summed up as a clinic.

After the brutal loss, Miami finishes the once-promising 2013 campaign at 9-4, and a few brutal lessons were learned about the 'Canes.

Begin Slideshow

Russell Athletic Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Miami's Loss vs. Louisville

The Miami Hurricanes were seeking their first postseason win since 2006, but the Louisville Cardinals hammered "The U" into the ground, sending the 'Canes to a 36-9 blowout loss Saturday in Orlando.

Offensively, Miami had trouble throughout the entirety of the game, failing to convert a single third down. Quarterback Stephen Morris was constantly under duress, and the running game continued to be lost without Duke Johnson.

The much-maligned defense actually played well during the first half, but Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's 447-yard performance can be summed up as a clinic.

After the brutal loss, Miami finishes the once-promising 2013 campaign at 9-4, and a few brutal lessons were learned about the 'Canes.

Begin Slideshow

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville Blowout Shows Miami Was Never Elite in 2013

In November, Miami (Fla.) was ranked in the Top 10 and considered a dark-horse national title contender ahead of its clash with rival Florida State.

After the Hurricanes were outclassed 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl by Louisville on Saturday, we're left wondering how this Miami team was ever considered one of college football's best.

The U first faltered in that key tilt against FSU, but it was exposed long before its trip to Tallahassee.

The 'Canes began the season unranked, and after scorching Florida Atlantic 34-6 in their opening contest, they faced their first test against rival Florida.

Running back Duke Johnson starred in that first victory, tallying 186 yards and a touchdown. Even after the first victory, Johnson and Miami remained a bit of a mystery. The production of No. 8 was a given, but it was still unknown just how good this team might become.

As Miami entered its first test, UF was ranked No. 12 and expected to compete for the SEC title. This game, one way or another, looked as if it would set the table for the rest of the season in Coral Gables.

The 'Canes found a way to edge the Gators 21-16, despite being outgained 413-212. That win vaulted them from out of the rankings all the way to No. 16. In one win, they took their dubious outlook and became a legitimate contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Since then, that key win has rusted considerably. Florida skidded to a 4-8 finish, losing its final seven games—a stretch that included a loss to FCS Georgia Southern.

After that first "signature win," Miami did its job and just kept winning. A soft schedule benefitted the 'Canes for nearly the next two months. Their ACC contender status took a boost in their league opener, where they dropped Georgia Tech, a Coastal Division favorite.

From then on, Miami kept winning while other Top 10 squads, including Clemson and Missouri, fell to tough opponents. But the way the Hurricanes won showed even then that they weren't an elite team. In consecutive weeks against North Carolina and Wake Forest, they needed touchdowns in the final minute to rally for narrow victories.

But still, with an undefeated record, they climbed to No. 7 before facing the Seminoles. In that game, the 'Canes were finally exposed, as the 'Noles finished what UNC and Wake Forest started.

While that loss vanquished Miami's national title hopes, it also took away its biggest star. Johnson suffered a broken tibia in the loss, sidelining him for the remainder of the season.

The loss of Johnson proved to be a major blow, as Miami compiled three straight losses, averaging only 99 rushing yards in the three defeats.

In those three consecutive weeks, the Hurricanes fell from national title consideration to the middle of the pack in their own division. Duke ended up as the champion of that division after posting the best season in school history.

Eventually, the Blue Devils were annihilated by Florida State in the ACC title game, exposing the Coastal Division as weak.

Miami rebounded with wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia to close the regular season, but the ACC title and a New Year's Day bowl were out of the question.

Still, given its reputation throughout the year, Miami earned a strong bowl opponent in Louisville. The Hurricanes had one final opportunity to show that they were "back" to being a national power.

But in the loss to the Cardinals, it was apparent throughout that the Hurricanes weren't up to par. They were outgained 554-174 and didn't convert a single third down all night in Orlando.

A close loss would've shown that they were worthy of some of the high rankings they received early in the season—but looking at their body of work, that just isn't the case. 

Miami didn't beat a team that finished with more than seven wins.

Now, as head coach Al Golden said afterward, The U will go back to the drawing board, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos, Sun-Sentinel:

We got beat in all three phases. There’s no excuses. We didn’t play well enough. Give a lot of credit to Louisville. They played really well. They executed well. It’s my responsibility. I’m disappointed in our execution in all three phases. As I just shared with the team, despite that, I’m proud of Stephen [Morris] and this group of seniors for what they’ve been through and what they’ve endured in moving this program forward.

Golden's squad will bring Johnson back next year, but its quarterback situation will be in flux with the departure of Stephen Morris.

The good news going forward for The U is on its defense, where it is expected to return several key players, including Tracy Howard, Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo.

With several core players coming back, the Hurricanes will head into 2014 with another promising outlook. But just like this season, they'll have to prove that they're a contender by beating quality teams.

Miami might be several years away from being "back," but the first step will be beating another national contender—something this squad just wasn't capable of doing.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville Blowout Shows Miami Was Never Elite in 2013

In November, Miami (Fla.) was ranked in the Top 10 and considered a dark-horse national title contender ahead of its clash with rival Florida State.

After the Hurricanes were outclassed 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl by Louisville on Saturday, we're left wondering how this Miami team was ever considered one of college football's best.

The U first faltered in that key tilt against FSU, but it was exposed long before its trip to Tallahassee.

The 'Canes began the season unranked, and after scorching Florida Atlantic 34-6 in their opening contest, they faced their first test against rival Florida.

Running back Duke Johnson starred in that first victory, tallying 186 yards and a touchdown. Even after the first victory, Johnson and Miami remained a bit of a mystery. The production of No. 8 was a given, but it was still unknown just how good this team might become.

As Miami entered its first test, UF was ranked No. 12 and expected to compete for the SEC title. This game, one way or another, looked as if it would set the table for the rest of the season in Coral Gables.

The 'Canes found a way to edge the Gators 21-16, despite being outgained 413-212. That win vaulted them from out of the rankings all the way to No. 16. In one win, they took their dubious outlook and became a legitimate contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Since then, that key win has rusted considerably. Florida skidded to a 4-8 finish, losing its final seven games—a stretch that included a loss to FCS Georgia Southern.

After that first "signature win," Miami did its job and just kept winning. A soft schedule benefitted the 'Canes for nearly the next two months. Their ACC contender status took a boost in their league opener, where they dropped Georgia Tech, a Coastal Division favorite.

From then on, Miami kept winning while other Top 10 squads, including Clemson and Missouri, fell to tough opponents. But the way the Hurricanes won showed even then that they weren't an elite team. In consecutive weeks against North Carolina and Wake Forest, they needed touchdowns in the final minute to rally for narrow victories.

But still, with an undefeated record, they climbed to No. 7 before facing the Seminoles. In that game, the 'Canes were finally exposed, as the 'Noles finished what UNC and Wake Forest started.

While that loss vanquished Miami's national title hopes, it also took away its biggest star. Johnson suffered a broken tibia in the loss, sidelining him for the remainder of the season.

The loss of Johnson proved to be a major blow, as Miami compiled three straight losses, averaging only 99 rushing yards in the three defeats.

In those three consecutive weeks, the Hurricanes fell from national title consideration to the middle of the pack in their own division. Duke ended up as the champion of that division after posting the best season in school history.

Eventually, the Blue Devils were annihilated by Florida State in the ACC title game, exposing the Coastal Division as weak.

Miami rebounded with wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia to close the regular season, but the ACC title and a New Year's Day bowl were out of the question.

Still, given its reputation throughout the year, Miami earned a strong bowl opponent in Louisville. The Hurricanes had one final opportunity to show that they were "back" to being a national power.

But in the loss to the Cardinals, it was apparent throughout that the Hurricanes weren't up to par. They were outgained 554-174 and didn't convert a single third down all night in Orlando.

A close loss would've shown that they were worthy of some of the high rankings they received early in the season—but looking at their body of work, that just isn't the case. 

Miami didn't beat a team that finished with more than seven wins.

Now, as head coach Al Golden said afterward, The U will go back to the drawing board, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos, Sun-Sentinel:

We got beat in all three phases. There’s no excuses. We didn’t play well enough. Give a lot of credit to Louisville. They played really well. They executed well. It’s my responsibility. I’m disappointed in our execution in all three phases. As I just shared with the team, despite that, I’m proud of Stephen [Morris] and this group of seniors for what they’ve been through and what they’ve endured in moving this program forward.

Golden's squad will bring Johnson back next year, but its quarterback situation will be in flux with the departure of Stephen Morris.

The good news going forward for The U is on its defense, where it is expected to return several key players, including Tracy Howard, Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo.

With several core players coming back, the Hurricanes will head into 2014 with another promising outlook. But just like this season, they'll have to prove that they're a contender by beating quality teams.

Miami might be several years away from being "back," but the first step will be beating another national contender—something this squad just wasn't capable of doing.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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