The beauty of college football is that it’s Ground Zero for raw athletes being molded into gems every week before our very eyes. However, pressure doesn’t always make diamonds. Welcome to the D-List, Deadspin Dean’s acknowledgment of college football’s most woeful performances. This is a nod to college football’s unrefined talents, gridiron underachievers, notorious figures, galaxy-brained coaches, cancelled Heisman campaigns and any ugly blemishes on the college football scene.
College football isn’t just a training ground for the next generation of NFL stars, it’s also a graduate-level course in game management for coaching minds who’d rather focus more on recruiting and identifying talent than gameplans. Against Duke, Marcus Freeman’s coveted defense lost count of how many men were on the field and failed to take a penalty to rectify the situation, leading to the Golden Domers’ first loss of the season. When faced with his own game management test on Saturday night against Georgia Tech, Miami head coach Mario Cristobal failed so spectacularly in Game Management 101 that he might end up in a textbook multiple choice question question.
Try this one on for size: Coach Mario has fewer than 40 seconds remaining, is ahead by a field goal and the opposing team has no timeouts. Should he: a) throw for the first down; b) run the ball; c) kneel in victory formation; or d) run up the score and take a shot at the end zone.
If, like Cristobal, you chose anything but C, you might need remedial work barking out plays at the Pop Warner level for a year. Just as college football players have to maintain a minimum GPA to remain eligible, flagged coaches should be compelled to retake an annual competency exam.
With 34 seconds remaining, Miami had the temerity to tempt the football gods by running one last draw play. The decision was so inexplicable that prior to the snap, the broadcast team was questioning Cristobal’s imprudence as soon as they lined up. Amazingly, Miami’s Don Chaney Jr. fumbled on the ensuing carry and Georgia Tech recovered.
Georgia Tech was still 75 yards from the end zone. Yet, two plays later, Miami’s secondary somehow allowed receiver Christian Leary to slip behind them and gallop into the endzone untouched with two seconds remaining. Adding insult to grievous injury, the Yellow Jackets kneeled the ball on the extra-point attempt to avoid the possibility of a blocked kick.
Cristobal’s Saturday blunder was enough to get his coaching license revoked. Situationally, there’s no better spot than the one Miami found themselves in. Prior to Chaney’s fumble, the Hurricanes had a 99.9% win probability according to ESPN Analytics. All they had to do was run out the final 34 seconds of the clock by having the quarterback bend the knee. To make matters worse, what seemed like a once-in-a-generation loss is somehow a semi-annual occurrence for Cristobal.
In 2018, while at the helm of Oregon, the Ducks lost a 24-7 second half lead, but still led 31-28 with 89 seconds remaining. Instead of having Herbert kneel it out to the final 16 seconds, Cristobal entrusted running back CJ Verdell. As you can imagine, he fumbled as well and Stanford tied it in 51 seconds, then clinched the come-from-behind win in overtime. Let’s just say that Cristobal wasn’t hired for his innovative offensive or defensive schemes. Cristobal’s recruiting acumen is his claim to fame. Since being named Recruiter of the Year at Alabama in 2014, he’s risen the coaching ranks. and he’s done yeoman’s work getting his alma mater into the mix again with their best class since 2008, but this is a program that should be running the ACC amid Clemson’s downfall.
Coral Gables keeps waiting for The U to be back, but losses like this keeps pushing them deeper into the has-beens realm. Even the neon green and black ‘Miami Night’ uniforms have a cosplay feel to them compared to the The U’s golden era. In year two, Cristobal is only just beginning his rebuilding project, but this is one of those stinging gaffes that can tank a coach’s reputation.
Miami has been an unserious football program for so long that this generation of players has only seen them as a parody of a national title championship contender. They’re the Bluth Company of college football as a scandal-ridden mom and pop shop that doesn’t realize they’re a laughingstock or that their empire is built on sand.