The football season that started with hope and continued with promise, pain and, lately, frustration, is nearing its finish for the University of Miami.
As the Hurricanes (6-5, 2-5 ACC) prepare to meet Boston College (6-5, 3-4) at noon Friday (ABC) in the final regular-season game of 2023, national and conference aspirations have long faded. After three consecutive losses, each of the past two by a touchdown to top-10 teams, the Hurricanes insist that finishing strong will make a difference.
A win at Alumni Stadium avoids another losing season after last year’s 5-7, and could turn into an 8-5 campaign should UM win its yet-to-be-determined bowl game. A loss would put the Canes at .500 going into the bowl.
Whether that bowl will include starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke is still unknown. On Tuesday, the fourth-year junior, who has thrown for 2,413 yards and 17 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions this season, was asked if he is returning to UM in 2024.
“Still day-to-day,” Van Dyke said. “Focused on this practice, tomorrow’s practice and the game on Friday. I’m just staying in the moment. That helps me play my best football, staying in the moment and not thinking about the future.”
Van Dyke, who could transfer to another program or enter the NFL draft, said it’s a decision he will make with his family.
“You talk to people that you’re close to and see what the best options for you are, I guess.”
When asked if he could say with certainty that he would play in the bowl game, Van Dyke’s reply: “Like I said before, I’m in this present moment right now. When I start thinking about the future, that’s when I don’t play my best football.”
Van Dyke and his teammates agreed that despite the disappointing season, the next two games could significantly boost their outlook.
“Obviously, we wanted to have a better record, but that’s all in the past,” said UM freshman running back Mark Fletcher Jr. “It’s going to be a great game, tough battle. We know what we’re capable of and we have to finish strong — and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Sixth-year senior defensive tackle Branson Deen, who transferred from Purdue before the season, said the past few weeks “haven’t gone the way we want, but finishing strong is really important because it keeps our guys optimistic, keeps our guys looking ahead for the future in a good way.
“We really have a great opportunity to turn the tide.”
The Hurricanes and Eagles have similar trajectories of late, UM with losses in five of the past seven games; and Boston College on a two-game slide after a five-game winning streak.
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Entering the week, Boston College quarterback Thomas Castellanos, listed at 5-10 and 196 pounds, was second in the country for rushing yards by a quarterback, with 827 — 45th among all rushers. His 10 rushing TDs was tied for 30th in the Football Bowl Subdivision and sixth most by a quarterback.
“He is really elusive. Small guy,” Deen said. “He avoids a lot of tackles, a lot of arm tackles (with) people trying to grab at him, but our pursuit has to be relentless. We have to get him on the ground and rally to tackle. It’ll be fun playing them.”
UM and BC played together in the Big East from 1991 through 2003, and Miami leads the series 24-6. Boston College has won three of the last four games dating to 2007. Miami last won in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, in 2012. The last time the teams met at Alumni Stadium was Oct. 27, 2018, a 27-14 Eagles win.
There have been some historic battles between the ’Canes and Eagles, including the “Hail Flutie” game on Nov. 23, 1984, also played on the day after Thanksgiving. In that game, Doug Flutie, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy that season, threw a 48-yard touchdown to Gerard Phelan as time expired to give BC the 47-45 victory in Miami.
And on Nov. 10, 2001, with 35 seconds left and the home-team Eagles — down by only five points — driving on first-and-goal from the Miami 9-yard line, Brian St. Pierre threw a ball that bounced off UM cornerback Mike Rumph’s knee, landed in the arms of UM tackle Matt Walters, was snatched out of Walters’ hands by safety Ed Reed and ended up in the end zone for an 80-yard Reed touchdown and 18-7 UM victory that preserved the eventual national championship.
“I’d rather not relive that (Doug Flutie) game,” UM coach Mario Cristobal said. “Seems like every single game with Boston College was a knockout, drag-out type of game. So, why would we expect anything else?”
“This is, in essence, a rivalry game — like, all right, the guys up north and the guys from down south,” Cristobal said. “Sometimes you got to play in the hot weather when you’re used to the cold, and sometimes vice versa. Tremendous amount of respect for them.”
Friday’s game is forecast for a 46-degree kickoff that feel like 40. Temperatures will drop into the low 40s by game’s end, with 11-mile-an-hour winds gusting to 18.
Van Dyke, who grew up in Connecticut, said he told his teammates, “As long as the sun’s out and it’s not windy, we should be alright.”
“We know it’s going to be cold,” Fletcher said, “but we’re just excited to play.”
©2023 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.