Miami Gardens, Fla. — The Miami Hurricanes took an early 11-point lead over Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl and lost it.
Then coach Mark Richt lost it, too.
Angry that Wisconsin wasn’t flagged for holding on a pivotal play, Richt drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and grabbed head linesman Gus Morris by the arm during a sideline tirade. The Badgers scored on the next play en route to a 34-24 victory Saturday night.
Richt yelled at length at three officials, even after being restrained by Miami strength coach Gus Felder. Referee Matt Loeffler stepped in to separate Richt from Morris.
Richt was still yelling as he walked through the tunnel at the end of the first half, and his mood didn’t improve thereafter. The No. 10 Hurricanes (10-3) finished the season with three consecutive losses and were dominated in time of possession on their home field by No. 6 Wisconsin (13-1).
“I know I lost my cool,” Richt said, “I thought rightfully so as far as being mad, but not rightfully so using some of the language I used. I’m not particularly proud of myself there. I apologize to anybody that can read lips. …
“I didn’t agree with a lot of things that were called or not called … to the very end of the game as well. It was a shame, in my opinion.”
The play that triggered Richt’s outburst came with Wisconsin leading 17-14 but facing a third and 11 in the final minute of the first half. Right tackle David Edwards grabbed defensive end Trent Harris’ right arm, giving Alex Hornibrook time to throw a 21-yard completion to the 10.
Richt drew the penalty before he touched Morris.
“That was not a factor whatsoever,” Loeffler said. “It was an unsportsmanlike conduct foul when he came out onto the field to argue the call. We went back to the sideline, and it was over.”
Following the penalty, Hornibrook threw a touchdown pass on the next play to make it 24-14. Again Edwards appeared to hold Harris, and again there was no flag.
Harris said he was held on the third-down play that so upset Richt.
“I went up to the ref and said, ‘Did he hold me?’ ” Harris said. “And he was like, ‘Yeah, he held you, but he didn’t hold you enough.’ So I guess I’ve just got to make the play.”
Another non-call came in the third quarter, when Miami’s Malik Rosier’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Derrick Tindal. The cornerback appeared to hold intended receiver Lawrence Cager before the ball was thrown.
“Let’s just be hypothetical, OK?” Richt said, still steaming half an hour after the game. “When the ball’s in the air, the defender’s not supposed to be able to have a lot of contact before the ball gets there. That’s not supposed to be legal.
“When a guy is rushing the passer and is about to get to the quarterback and somebody grabs him and keeps him from getting there right in front of the official — again, this is a hypothetical situation — that’s not supposed to be allowed either, over and over and over, in my opinion.
“That’s about how I feel right this minute. I’m sure I’ll cool down in a minute.”
Even with more than a month to prepare and a season’s worth of tape to analyze, the game plan for 14th-ranked Notre Dame and No. 16 LSU is straightforward heading into today’s Citrus Bowl in Orlando: have success on the ground and stop the run.
Both teams are ranked in the top 30 nationally in rushing offense and are powered by junior running backs. That is where the similarities end, though.
Notre Dame, which is seventh in the nation at 279.1 rushing yards per game, has a dual-threat quarterback in Brandon Wimbush and a big-play running back in Josh Adams.
“There’s a lot of different offenses we have to defend — their quarterback runs, their power game, big offensive line coming right at you,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said.
Wimbush has excelled in his first season as a starter. The junior set school records for rushing yards (765) and rushing touchdowns (14) by a quarterback. Adams is averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has eight carries of 60 yards or more, which is tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
No. 10 Central Florida will be playing for a perfect season — and respect for the team and its conference — when it faces No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl today in Atlanta.
If not for a loss in its last visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium one month ago, Auburn might have been playing for even more.
A loss to Georgia in the SEC championship game kept Auburn out of the College Football Playoff.
“We knew that it was an opportunity to play for the playoffs and potentially a national championship,” Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “It was definitely a slump that we had to get over.”
Coach Gus Malzahn says his players returned to practice with a more serious approach than for other bowl games.
“Our mindset is more of a business trip probably than it has been in the past with a bowl,” Malzahn said, adding the approach was the “design” of the team’s seniors.