Middle Tennessee went into Hard Rock Stadium and handed No. 25 Miami a 45-31 upset loss as a 26-point underdog on Saturday. The loss will spark a quarterback debate for the Hurricanes and plenty of uneasy fan feelings following a second straight defeat and 2-2 start to the Mario Cristobal era. The win was Middle Tennessee's first over an AP Top 25-ranked opponent in program history, and shockingly enough, moves the Blue Raiders to 3-0 all-time against the Hurricanes after wins in their previous meetings in 1931 and 1932.
Middle Tennessee jumped out to a 24-3 lead and continued to have answers at every turn as Miami tried to make its run back into the game. The Hurricanes benched starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke in favor of Jake Garcia, but they could not stop Chase Cunningham and Middle Tennessee's offense from moving the ball against a defense that had just held Texas A&M to 17 points the week prior in College Station, Texas.
Miami did have plenty of notable injuries in this game, including in the secondary, but this game was a lot about how Middle Tennessee handled its business that added insult to injury for the Hurricanes frustrations. The offense struggled to hit explosive plays throughout the afternoon, while Middle Tennessee had touchdown plays -- not drives, plays -- of 71 yards, 69 yards and 98 yards as it took the Hurricanes two and a half quarters and a quarterback change to even see their first play of more than 20 yards.
That 98-yard score was particularly painful; it came right on the heels of Miami failing to score despite having second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Hurricanes started the fourth quarter with a chance to cut the lead to seven, but instead found themselves in a three-touchdown deficit with less than 15 minutes remaining.
The quarterback change is going to be the biggest storyline for a Miami team that is going to fall out of the top 25 in the rankings and now must refocus its efforts on winning the ACC Costal. Miami is 2-2 overall but has not yet played a conference game, meaning the decisions about the offense will dictate whether the Hurricanes can live up to the preseason projections of winning their side of the standings.
Tyler Van Dyke, last year's ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, completed just 16 of 32 pass attempts for 138 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before he was benched in favor of Jake Garcia, who finished with 161 yards on 10-of-19 passing but led a couple late touchdown drives. The Miami fans in Hard Rock Stadium began chanting Garcia's name as Van Dyke continued to struggle, and when Garcia entered the game, he did provide a spark for the offense and gave some life to the Canes' comeback efforts.
Now, both Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis have a decision to make regarding the future of the quarterback position. The team heads into an off week before returning to action against North Carolina at home on Oct. 8.