Miami Hurricanes Red Zone Offense is a Concern

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 11: The Miami Hurricanes take the field during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Hard Rock Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 11: The Miami Hurricanes take the field during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Hard Rock Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Settling for field goals over touchdowns in the red zone this season has hindered the Miami Hurricanes. They have been better over the last few weeks.

ESPN sideline analyst Maria Taylor mentioned to Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Mark Richt about his offense having to settle for field goals at halftime.

The problem was examined in an ESPN article by Mark Schlabach yesterday. Schlabach ranks the Miami Hurricanes first in his personal rankings. The Hurricanes red zone struggles have been an issue all season. They have one of the nation’s best kickers which as the games get tighter will become more important.

The Hurricanes lack of a big running back and a fullback near the goal line hurts them.  The Hurricanes do have a plethora of options in the passing game to give them an advantage in the end zone. Tight end Chris Herndon and wide receivers Darrell Langham, Lawrence Cager and Ahmmon Richards can all be used in the fade pattern.

Langham’s receptions to defeat Florida State and help defeat Georgia Tech will always be among Miami Hurricanes legend. If the Hurricanes can fix their issues in the red zone, the season can end as special as it has been so far.

Schlabach examined how the Miami red zone offense has affected them this season, where the defenses they play coming up rank in the red zone and which teams have similarly struggled in the red zone.

"1. Miami: red zone offenseMark Richt has done a remarkable job in his second season as coach of his alma mater, guiding Miami to a 9-0 record and a 14-game winning streak dating back to last season. Any doubts about the Hurricanes’ legitimacy as a CFP contender were answered the past two weeks, when they beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 28-10 and No. 3 Notre Dame 41-8 at home.The Hurricanes didn’t have any problems crossing the goal line against the Fighting Irish, but their red zone offense has been an issue. Miami ranks 93rd in the FBS in red zone touchdown percentage (56 percent) and 120th in goal-to-go TD percentage (57 percent), just below winless Georgia Southern (60 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Info.Miami’s offense has done a great job of taking care of the ball, turning the ball over nine times in nine games. And the Hurricanes have feasted on takeaways to generate offense and field position. They scored 24 points off Notre Dame turnovers on Saturday and have forced four turnovers in four consecutive games.But they’ll need to be more consistent in the red zone down the stretch. Their last two regular-season opponents, Virginia and Pittsburgh, rank in the top 20 nationally in red zone defense. Clemson, which will be Miami’s opponent in the ACC championship game on Dec. 2, has allowed opponents to score touchdowns on only 10 of 22 red zone attempts."

The Miami Hurricanes offense has forced 16 turnovers in the last four games. One of the key moments in the Notre Dame game came when the Canes had to settle for a field goal eartrly after they took over at the Fighting Irish nine-yard line. Miami had kicked a 30-yard field goal that made the score 20-0.

The first drive into the red zone that was stopped by Notre Dame, Miami only had one run attempt by Malik Rosier. That was followed by two incompletions and then the Michael Badgley field goal.

Miami’s first two touchdowns came inside the red zone. The Hurricanes had been relying on long touchdowns earlier this season. Rosier connected with Braxton Berrios on a seven-yard touchdown for the Canes first score. The Hurricanes signal caller then ran it in from 16 yards out for the second touchdown.

Freshman running back DeeJay Dallas had two four-yard touchdown runs later in the game. The improvement in the running game the last two weeks is encouraging. Miami ran for 219 yards and 6.3 yards per carry against Virginia Tech. They increased that to 237 yards and 5.6 yards per carry against Notre Dame.

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If Miami can keep the running game strong over the next few weeks the ability to score inside the red zone should come with it. Add to the size the Hurricanes have at the receiver position and UM should become more prolific inside their opponent’s 20.