By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — 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.”
The officiating crew was from the Southeastern Conference, where Richt coached at Georgia in 2001-15.
Richt’s sideline tantrum was part of a meltdown by the Hurricanes, who led 14-3 after 13 minutes. They totaled 153 yards in their first three possessions, and 3 yards in their next four series.
Rosier threw an interception in the second quarter that jump-started the Badgers’ comeback. The Hurricanes’ last chance to rally ended when Michael Badgley’s 24-yard field goal attempt clanked off the right upright with 4:34 left and Wisconsin leading 34-24.