Jaquan Johnson agonized all afternoon about just how he would address his teammates the day before his last game at Hard Rock Stadium. Friday began with Mark Richt asking the defensive back if he could deliver a final motivational speech on the day before the regular-season finale and for hours Johnson wondered what he would say.
As he drove to the football facilities, Johnson thought he might use a rollercoaster as a metaphor because the Miami Hurricanes season had certainly been one. But that was too obvious, he decided. In the Hurricanes special teams meeting, it finally dawned on him. Keanu Reeves was the answer.
I was steady thinking, Johnson said after Miami took down the Pittsburgh Panthers for a 24-3 win on Saturday. It just came to me.
Currently ranked 18th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, the Bulldogs have been led by Nick Fitzgerald, who would be the toughest quarterback the Hurricanes defense have had to face. Fitzgerald is a natural dual-threat quarterback who had 2,633 all-purpose yards (1,615 passing and 1,018 rushing) and 27 touchdowns on the regular season. The Hurricanes havent had to face a player with Fitzgeralds rushing ability, so the defense may have their hands full.
Johnson thought of The Replacements, the 2000 movie starring Reeves as the quarterbacks for the fictional Washington Sentinels. When players go on strike, scabs like Reeves Shane Falco are called upon to keep the league afloat. Hijinks ensue.
At a climactic moment, Falco gives a speech to his teammates. Their coach wonders what some of the players fears are and Falco tells him quicksand.
Aw, s**t, yeah. Quicksands a scary motha, one of his teammates exclaims before Falco delves into the speech Johnson loves.
Youre playing and you think everything is going fine, then one thing goes wrong and then another, and another, Falco says with requisite dramatic pauses. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink until you cant move. You cant breathe because youre in over your head like quicksand.
Johnson decided quicksand was ultimately the apt analogy for this disappointing season in Coral Gables. A four-game losing streak mired a once-promising campaign as mistakes piled up and so did losses.
Video: Miami vs. Pittsburgh Condensed Game | 2018 ACC Football
The first game was like when we got started to get in quicksand when we lost to LSU, but we pulled our way out of it because we were united. We didnt fight one another. We helped one another get out of this quicksand, Johnson said. The more you are in quicksand and try to get out of it, you sink deeper, so I said those five games we won in a row, we were helping ourselves out of quicksand. When we lost four games in a row, thats when fingers started to point. We lost focus. We started to try to do it alone again, but we had to refocus, get united again and pull ourselves out of the quicksand.
Johnson and the seniors helped matters by dominating on the field. The defensive back forced a fumble in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 10 tackles. Fellow senior defensive back Michael Jackson added two sacks and senior defensive lineman Gerald Willis chipped in another.
Hurricanes passing game struggles as Miami moves on without Jeff Thomas
Jackson felt Johnsons speech was the perfect summary of the Hurricanes rocky season and the secondary played inspired, holding the Panthers to 131 yards on 15-of-24 passing.
It was just like how our season went, Jackson said after the win in Miami Gardens. As a secondary, we felt like we needed to stick together. Jaquan came out and said a perfect thing. All of us felt the same way, we needed someone to come out and say it. He took advantage of the opportunity Coach Richt gave him.
Video: Pittsburgh vs Miami Football Highlights (2018)
Before Richt had Johnson speak, the coach addressed the Hurricanes (7-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) by reading aloud some of the quotes the seniors had said about playing their last home game or deciding to play in the bowl game.
Johnson, he said, took the floor to a round of applause and drew another ovation when he was done. Richt decided it was an act he couldnt follow. Johnson delivered all the inspiration Miami needed.
Video: Miamis Deejay Dallas Returns Punt 65 Yards For TD vs. Pitt
Pitt shut down by Miami, loses 24-3 in regular-season finale
Entering Championship Weekend and the Bowl Games the Miami defense is second in the nation in total defense. Saturday’s performance against Pittsburgh was the crown jewel of 2018 by Manny Diaz’s unit.
Miami allowed an incredible 78 yards against Savannah State, held Florida State to 200 yards to total offense and allowed 10 points and scored three defensive touchdowns against North Carolina. Saturday’s performance against Pittsburgh was their best performance of the season with everything taken into account.
Savannah State is an FCS team headed to NCAA Division II after this season that finished 2-8 in 2018. Florida State will miss their first bowl game in over 40 years after losing 41-14 to Florida on Saturday to finish 5-7.
North Carolina finished last in the ACC Coastal Division with a record of 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. The Tar Heels fired Head Coach Larry Fedora following their second consecutive nine-loss season. Ironically their lone win was against Coastal Champion Pittsburgh.
After the Miami Hurricanes 24-3 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz began to list off some of his players who made valuable contributions to the teams success this year.
Saturday’s dominant performance by the Miami Hurricanes defense came against one of the hottest offenses in the country. In their four games prior to facing Miami, the Panthers averaged 40.75 points per game and 346 rushing yards per game.
Everybody eats, Diaz said, and I think thats the neatest thing about it, and they know its not about just one guy. Its about everybody doing their job and theres plays to be made for everybody.
Five takeaways: Travis Homer wakes up offense, defense dominates as Hurricanes conclude regular season with convincing victory over Pitt
The Miami defense allowed nearly half as many total (bold) yards against the Panthers as they had averaged in rushing yards during their four-game winning streak. In Saturday’s game, Pittsburgh had 200 total yards on 62 offensive plays. They ran for 69 yards on 38 attempts for 1.8 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh’s previous lows on offense in 2018 before Saturday were 109 yards rushing and 272 total yards in a 45-14 loss to Central Florida.
Miami’s defense obliterated that number. It was about as dominant performance defensively as you can expect. For good measure, the Hurricanes defense added 14 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Hurricanes defense, Travis Homer shine in Miamis 24-3 win over Pittsburgh
Jaquan Johnson gave everything he had in the last home game of his career. Johnson had ten tackles including five solos. Cornerbacks Trajan Bandy and Michael Jackson and defensive end Joe Jackson all made big plays for the Hurricanes defense.
Miami has come out of the 2018 season with a 7-5 record and awaiting their bowl destination. SB Nations Jason Kirks projections have Miami facing off against the USF Bulls in Tampa for the Gasparilla Bowl. Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl will be played on Thursday, December 20th at Raymond James Stadium.
Miami Hurricanes end chaotic season with payback win over Coastal champion Pittsburgh
A Senior like Johnson, Jackson finished with four tackles and two tackles for loss, both sacks. Bandy was all over the field for Miami. He finished with five tackles, three solo, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Joe Jackson had six tackles, five solo, and 2.5 tackles for loss, both sacks.
In Pitts bounceback season, team chemistry is both chicken and egg
Joe Jackson could also have played his last home game for the Hurricanes. Jackson is a Junior with a strong possibility of heading to the NFL after this season. Bandy, a true Sophomore will definitely return in 2019.
The other question about who might and might not return for Miami in 2019 is the all Junior linebacking corps. Strongside linebacker Zach McCloud is almost a certainty to return.
Pitt-Miami: Open Gamethread
Weakside linebacker Michael Pinckney and middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman are likely to gather information about their draft status and make a decision in the next couple of months.
Build your own custom daily newsletter with updates on your favorite teams, sent directly to your inbox.
Your privacy is safe with us. Well never pass along your email address to spammers, scammers, or the like.
A sweet week turned sour for Hurricanes before Pitt. Can Miami hurdle its obstacles?
Welcome! To bring you the best content on our sites and applications, Meredith partners with third party advertisers to serve digital ads, including personalized digital ads. Those advertisers use tracking technologies to collect information about your activity on our sites and applications and across the Internet and your other apps and devices.
By clicking continue below and using our sites or applications, you agree that we and our third party advertisers can: