A breakthrough for Miami; an ACC statement vs. SEC; Colorado is no coincidence

Last September Texas A&M-Miami game was a slog that meant bad, disappointing and losing seasons for both programs.

A little more than a year later, the Aggies and Hurricanes played a game that barely resembled the same sport, one that would bring hope to both programs — and perhaps a real breakthrough for coach Mario Cristobal and Miami.

The Hurricanes broke a five-game losing streak against Southeastern Conference teams. running away from No. 23 Texas A&M 48-33 on Saturday in one of Miami’s most encouraging performances of the last decade.

“We work hard, we practice hard, we train hard,” Cristobal told reporters. “We felt like if we eliminated mistakes at some point, we would take control of the game.”

Celebrations of Miami’s biggest non-conference win since the Canes pounced on Notre Dame at deafening Hard Rock Stadium in 2017 were marred by a frightening late-game injury to All-America safety Kamren Kinchens, who was carted away on a stretcher.

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Cristobal said the first report he received about Kinchens was positive.

It can’t be overstated how bad Cristobal’s first season was last year in Miami. Not only did the Hurricanes finish the game 5-7, but they also had a series of embarrassing performances and team chemistry that was poor enough to be visible.

Everything looked different for the Hurricanes against the Aggies, starting with Tyler Van Dyke, who rushed for 374 yards and five touchdowns. Miami has discovered weapons in Jacolby George (three touchdown catches) and Brashard Smith (98-yard kickoff return).

The offensive line, bolstered by members of a top-10 recruiting class, held up against the Aggies’ D-line, which was loaded with top-notch players.

They helped erase an early 14-3 deficit.

“I think last year we would have quit, honestly,” Van Dyke told reporters.

The Hurricanes’ win also capped a big Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the SEC in two weeks. The ACC went 4-1, including wins over LSU and South Carolina. The last time the ACC got four wins against the SEC in a full season was 2017.

As for the Aggies, it will be difficult to sell moral victories to the folks in College Station after going 5-7 last season.

Coach Jimbo Fisher now appears to have an offense coordinated by Bobby Petrino and led by Conner Weigman (336 yards, two touchdowns and two picks) and Evan Stewart (11 catches for 142 yards). That’s the good news.

The Bad: A&M has a 3-9 record in its last 12 games against Power Five teams.

In front of a packed house at Folsom Field, Deion Sanders and Colorado showed that last week’s stirring upset at TCU was no fluke.

Colorado will be a heavy favorite at home against rival Colorado State next week before facing No. 13 Oregon the following week. After that, No. 6 Southern California comes to Boulder.

The more notable story in Boulder on Saturday was the other team with a famous first-year coach.

Matt Rhule is taking a different approach to rebuilding Nebraska and there are already signs that, similar to his other college stops, the Huskers could take a step back before moving forward.

Rhule hoped to win the lottery with Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims as his quarterback. Sims has a four-star pedigree and the athleticism to make something out of nothing, but he was a turnover machine.

The Cornhuskers’ offense lacks big players. The defense is promising, but not nearly enough to compensate for the offense.

Rhule has talked a lot about how Nebraska is in much better shape than the previous programs he took over in Temple and Baylor. That may be true, but it usually takes a minute to set up. Temple had a 2-10 record in Rhule’s first season. Baylor was 1-11. Both made big jumps in their second year and won double-digit games in their third year.

“I think we are better than we show. But what does that mean? It’s just words,” Rhule said. “I told the team, ‘We’re going to get this done.'”

Nebraska fans can be forgiven for their lack of patience after six straight losing seasons under Mike Riley and Scott Frost. The Huskers have home games against Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech in the next two weeks, but there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix in sight.

THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY: Virginia returned to Scott Stadium for his first game since the deaths of three teammates last November. The Cavaliers looked poised for a fairytale comeback, taking a 35-24 lead against James Madison in the third quarter when shootout survivor Mike Hollins scored a touchdown. The Dukes secured the victory with a late touchdown, but Virginia may have found something to build on in freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea. … Thunderstorms in ACC Country wreaked havoc on the early part of the day’s schedule. Games at North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami experienced delays. No. 10 Notre Dame’s 45-24 win against the Wolf Pack was delayed by 1 hour and 45 minutes early on. Sam Hartman, in his fourth career start against NC State after three years at Wake Forest, helped the Irish end their streak of 16 straight games in which opponents had fewer than 30 points. … No. 12 Utah improved to 2-0 without starting quarterback Cam Rising by coming from behind Win at Baylor. Utah almost brain-frozen the win in the final 20 seconds, and there may have been a bit of a break on the final play due to uncalled pass interference. Still, the two-time defending Pac-12 champions get a break at Weber State next week before jumping into the conference slate, perhaps when Rising is ready to go. … I owa defeated rival Iowa State in a typical CyHawk affair. The Hawkeyes had a pick-6 and a blocked field goal. After two games, the Hawkeyes are averaging 22 points per game. The magic number for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to ensure he keeps his job is 25.

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Brian Ashcraft

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