Inexplicable, self-inflicted loss puts Miami, Mario Cristobal at top of Misery Index

The Miami Hurricanes shouldn’t be here right now. They should be back in Coral Gables, quietly celebrating a 5-0 start to the season and hoping to sneak up on North Carolina and Clemson over the next couple weeks with control of the ACC up for grabs.

Have you heard of victory formation? That’s what football teams do when the game is mathematically over. They get up to the line of scrimmage, snap the football and tell the quarterback to take a knee. Then the quarterback hops up, hands the football to a referee and starts celebrating because the clock is going to run out before they have to run another play.

It’s the goal of every team to fight for 59 minutes so that they can run victory formation for last one.

Miami coach Mario Cristobal has been part of football teams for nearly all of his life. And yet, at age 53, he still apparently does not know about this not-so-revolutionary football play. Because if he did, he would have run it Saturday night when the Hurricanes led Georgia Tech 20-17. The Yellow Jackets had no timeouts. There were 34 seconds left on the clock when the ball was snapped, which meant the game was over if Miami simply took a knee.

And yet, for reasons that 99.99 percent of functioning humans would not be able to understand, Cristobal decided to run a regular handoff play for running back Donald Chaney.

Chaney fumbled, Georgia Tech recovered, and quarterback Haynes King completed passes of 30 and 44 yards the final 21 seconds to give the Yellow Jackets a 23-20 win that you had to see to believe.

Even though Chaney committed the turnover, it’s not his fault that the Miami coaching staff decided to spit in the face of the football gods to that extent. It’s as if Cristobal was sitting at a blackjack table, looking at 20 and decided to hit anyway. When you challenge karma to that extent, you get what you deserve.

But the bizarre thing is that Cristobal, when he was the head coach at Oregon, lost a game in a similar way back in 2018 against Stanford. It wasn’t quite as egregious because Oregon would have had to punt with a little bit of time on the clock − maybe 15 seconds or so − but failing to take a knee in the situation also led to a turnover and a Stanford drive down the field to win on a last-second field.

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This time, the game was over − literally − if Miami does anything other than what they actually did.

Is that stubbornness or inexcusable stupidity? Either way, it’s the reason Miami lands at No. 1 on the Misery Index, a weekly measurement of which fan base is feeling the most angst about the state of their favorite program.

Texas A&M

If a normal person had a window into the mind of Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, it might be more frightening than the new Exorcist movie. As it stands, Aggie fans will probably want to orally expel their pea soup after watching Fisher’s situational decision-making in a 26-20 loss to Alabama. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was in College Station for the game, but he wasn’t the most conservative guy in the building. That would be the $95 million man on the sidelines who punted on fourth-and-1 from Alabama’s 45 late in the third quarter in a tie game, punted again on fourth-and-6 in Alabama territory while trailing early in the fourth quarter and kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from Alabama’s 2-yard line with a little more than two minutes left after using a timeout. It’s all bizarre, especially for a guy who has the most ridiculous contract in college sports. What are they going to do, fire you? At least go down swinging, Jimbo. But Fisher is who he is, and this pattern has repeated itself numerous times over the course of his career. He even told the media after the game that he might have gone for the fourth-and-1 if it was less than a yard. But because it was a full yard he punted. Huh?

TCU

When a non-traditional program like TCU accomplishes what the Horned Frogs accomplished last year, we hail the coach as a genius and speculate about whether some kind of threshold has been broken that will allow them to do it again and again. But that’s not fair to the fans, and we should strive for more honesty in our coverage. If we could rewind back to 2022, what we should have said about Sonny Dykes and TCU’s run to the national championship game is that it was likely a fluke and would probably never happen again in any of our lifetimes. That’s not the story anyone wants to read, but it’s the more honest story. And we see why this season as TCU dropped to 3-3 with a 27-14 loss to a pretty unimpressive Iowa State team. TCU deserved everything it got last year, but it was a season with an extremely small margin for error and a lot of wins that required good fortune. After a season like that, the bill typically comes due. And TCU is making its karmic payments in the form of struggling for bowl eligibility. It was always going to be downhill for Dykes after his incredible debut season, but even reasonable expectations were considerably higher than this.

Arkansas

The most unintentionally hilarious college football story of the last week originated the way many great college football stories have come to light − through the Freedom of Information Act. Arkansas fans, in particular, understand this. When Houston Nutt started losing, his text messages to a local TV anchor were weaponized to make him look bad. And now we have Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who was sending snarky replies to angry fans via email just a couple hours after the Razorbacks’ offense collapsed against Texas A&M last week. We know this because the HawgBeat Web site obtained those emails via FOIA this week, and it isn’t the best look for Enos. He should probably just let that stuff roll off his back because criticism from random fans comes with the territory when you’re an offensive coordinator in the SEC. However, it’s very relatable. None of us would enjoy hearing about it if we’re struggling at our jobs, and we’d all be tempted to respond. But Arkansas’ offense really is bad. It gained just 286 yards in a 27-20 loss at Ole Miss, dropping the Razorbacks to 2-4. Honestly, Arkansas should just let Enos spend all of his time responding to hate mail the rest of the season. Keeping him away from the playbook couldn’t hurt at this point.

Vanderbilt

There are bad quotes, and then there are quotes that make you wonder whether someone has any concept of reality. At SEC Media Days in 2022, Commodores coach Clark Lea said, “We know in time Vanderbilt football will be the best program in the country.” Lea played for Vanderbilt. He knows Vanderbilt. But as much as he loves Vanderbilt, he had to know the words coming out of his mouth were complete nonsense. Earth to Clark: Just get to a bowl game or two before you start on the big goals. Vanderbilt fans would be happy with that, but it’s going to be immensely difficult just to avoid complete embarrassment for Lea in Year 2. The Commodores dropped to 2-5 with a 38-14 loss to Florida, which means they’ve lost their three SEC games by an average of 19 points. And their schedule actually gets a lot tougher with Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee still to come. Vanderbilt fans have endured a lot of pain over the decades, and they have seen enough football not to be gaslit by their own head coach. If Lea truly thinks Vanderbilt can be the best program in the country, he might want to start with actually competing with the lower-tier teams in his own league.

Trending toward misery

Notre Dame

On one hand, the Fighting Irish have had a pretty brutal stretch of emotional games in three consecutive weeks. They lose a heartbreaker to Ohio State, pull a near-miracle to win at Duke, then have to go back out on the road to a resurgent Louisville team that was confident and ready. It’s not an easy task. On the other hand, if you’re Notre Dame and you aspire to win national championships, boo hoo. It’s not like they are playing the 1985 Bears. Go get the job done. They didn’t. The Fighting Irish lost at unbeaten Louisville, 33-20, in a game that Notre Dame never seemed to have much juice. Sam Hartman threw three interceptions, and the Irish could only muster 298 offensive yards. That’s a bad performance, and it knocks Notre Dame out of the College Football Playoff race before another tough game next week at home against Southern California. As Marcus Freeman develops in his head coaching role, the week-to-week consistency must be a focus or else he’s going to be on the hot seat sooner rather than later.

Arkansas State

If we are measuring coaches by the warmth of their seats, Butch Jones’ goes into a pizza oven just to cool down. Barring a dramatic turnaround, he’s toast. A once-dominant program in the Sun Belt, Arkansas State has been a disaster under Jones, who is now 8-22 overall and 3-15 in the Sun Belt after a 37-3 spanking by Troy. It was a strange hire at the time, and the results have been even worse than anyone could have imagined. Arkansas State fans care deeply and have invested in the program at a high level relative to their competition. They will not stand for this incompetence much longer.

Temple

Longtime Temple fans have traumatic memories of getting kicked out of the Big East in 2001 due to lack of success and commitment to football. That’s unlikely to happen again, but the Owls’ current home − the American Athletic Conference − might need to consider some drastic measures to jolt this program back to life because it’s becoming an anchor on yet another league. Temple coach Stan Drayton is now 5-13 and 1-9 in the AAC after a 49-34 loss to Texas-San Antonio. But it’s even worse than that. Among Drayton’s five wins, two are FCS schools, one is Akron and one is Massachusetts. This season, the Owls have lost by 22 to Tulsa, by 34 to Miami and by 29 to Rutgers. If Temple can’t do better than that, what’s the point of even fielding an FBS-level program?

 

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