Miami's football team had one of the worst losses in not just its own history, but in the entire history of college football. Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal walks on the field in the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

While Miami’s football program has had some great triumphs in the past, it’s also had some harsh defeats. And while the stage might have been bigger for some of those defeats, it’s hard to imagine a more inexplicable loss than what happened against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Hurricanes held a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. Georgia Tech did not have a time-out and only 35 seconds were left in the game. One kneel-down was all that was needed to end the game. For some reason, coach Mario Cristobal elected to have the Hurricanes run one more actual play.

Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke handed the ball off to Donald Chaney Jr. Naturally, Georgia Tech’s defenders weren’t terribly worried about tackling Chaney and instead were trying to knock the ball out of his hands. One of them eventually did, forcing a fumble. The Yellow Jackets recovered.

Georgia Tech had the ball deep in its own territory so the odds were still long, but nowhere near as long as they should have been.

Haynes King and Malik Rutherford got a big chunk of the yardage needed on one 30-yard completion. Two plays later, King scrambled to his right and found receiver Christian Leary, who had gotten behind the Miami defense. King floated a pass to Leary, who caught the ball and went into the end zone for the improbable go-ahead score.

Georgia Tech tried to run the remaining clock off with a squib kick, but it went out of bounds. That gave the Hurricanes one final chance at the end zone. But while Miami’s lateral play lasted a long time, it ultimately went nowhere.

Make no mistake, the Yellow Jackets deserve a lot of credit for forcing the fumble. Also, even after recovering the fumble, they still needed to go 74 yards to score the winning touchdown with only 26 seconds remaining and without a time-out.

But as great as Georgia Tech was in the final seconds, there was no reason for this. This wasn’t even a situation where Miami needed to kill a few seconds before taking a knee. With 35 seconds remaining, the Hurricanes had a five-second buffer.

So naturally, people were wondering what Miami — and more specifically, Cristobal — was thinking.

A similar scenario happened to the Buffalo Bills against the Minnesota Vikings in 2022. The difference was, the Bills were pinned against their own goal line. They couldn’t simply take a knee. Josh Allen’s fumbled snap was bad, but he did have to do more than just fall to the ground.

The obvious comparison is Joe Pisarcik, the New York Giants quarterback whose botched handoff led to a fumble, which Herm Edwards returned for a Philadelphia Eagles touchdown, completing the Miracle at the Meadowlands.

More recently, we saw Oregon in a similar position against Stanford in 2018. Up three and across midfield, the Ducks could have taken two knees. If they took enough time, they might have been able to run the clock out. If not, they would have punted and pinned the Cardinal deep in their own territory with time to run one, maybe two plays. Instead, Oregon ran a play and fumbled.

Stanford kicked the game-tying field goal, then won in overtime. Oregon’s coach in that game? Mario Cristobal.

Football coaches, like all humans, have their blind spots. Being able to successfully navigate taking a couple of knees, though, should not be something that gives coaches trouble.

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