Freshman Romeo Finley shines in Miami Hurricanes’ final scrimmage of 2016 preseason

Mark Richt after Miami's final pre-FAMU scrimmage.

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[LSU OT transfers to Miami Hurricanes]

[Replay Aug. 24 Facebook Live Canes chat]

[Laying out the possibilities for Miami 2016]

[One number-cruncher says UM likely to go 6-6]

Memo to Florida A&M: you can beat Miami.

If you’re ahead 28-0 at the half, and using Miami’s players.

Coach Mark Richt put his first-team offense and defense in that situation Thursday in UM’s final scrimmage of the preseason. They were down by four touchdowns with one half to play, facing a scout team mimicking the tendencies of their first opponent. He wanted the Hurricanes to sweat it out.

Sweat they did, coach included.

Miami got close to a comeback, but Brad Kaaya‘s late interception returned for a touchdown helped the scout team hold on to its sizable advantage. Miami’s first team wound up losing in a game that helped them prepare for next Saturday’s season-opener against its FCS opponent (6 p.m., ESPN3.com).

The media was not allowed to watch, so here’s what we know about the scrimmage based on Richt’s comments and information from sources who were present:

According to Richt, the Hurricanes were driving to get within three points and had enough time to try an onside kick. But that’s when a “catchable ball” that could have been “a sure first down, maybe touchdown” popped in the air and was intercepted and returned for a score by freshman safety Romeo Finley, who picked Kaaya twice.

“Romeo did a good job,” Richt said of the former four-star recruit from Niceville, praising him for being “opportunistic.” After his pick-six, the scout team could be heard celebrating from several hundred feet away.

Romeo Finley with UM safeties coach Ephraim Banda (left) and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph (right) (Twitter)

Romeo Finley, as a high school recruit, with UM safeties coach Ephraim Banda (left) and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph (right) (Twitter)

UM did not provide stats immediately after the scrimmage, but said Kaaya threw one touchdown (“a long screen” to sophomore running back Mark Walton). Miami’s other touchdowns were rushing scores, but Richt declined to describe them.

When asked about first-team defensive standouts, Richt said he was too focused on offensive play-calling to notice. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is scheduled to address the media after practice Friday.

A source said freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards and redshirt sophomore tight end David Njoku stood out among the Hurricanes’ first-stringers. That is excellent news in the case of Richards, who has been dealing with a turf toe injury in recent weeks. He and Njoku are expected to be major contributors.

There were  no “exceptional” defensive plays among the first-stringers, the source said, but said redshirt junior defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter played well. Freshman weak-side linebacker Michael Pinckney (hamstring) is “looking better,” the source said, but still hasn’t shown the speed he had in the spring, when he earned the starting spot. Redshirt freshman Jamie Gordinier continues to battle for the job.

The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, citing a UM official who watched the scrimmage, said Richards started in three-receiver sets. He also noted sophomore Jaquan Johnson started as the nickel defensive back.

Top wide receiver Stacy Coley, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace continued to work as first-stringers, which makes sense given that UM has not determined what, if any, discipline will be handed out in the luxury car investigation. A source with knowledge of the matter told The Post that the matter is likely to resolved this weekend.

Richt did not provide clarity on the backup quarterback race — they did not play. Malik Rosier and Vincent Testaverde remained on the sidelines as Kaaya took the reins, trying to lead a 28-point comeback.

However, Richt was happy with scout-team quarterbacks Evan Shirreffs and Jack Allison and their scout-team receivers (that would seemingly include freshmen Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins). Richt said the scout quarterbacks “made a couple of nice scrambles, a couple of nice throws,” including a long “bomb” for a touchdown to the left side of the field. A source said walk-on Mitch Davis caught the pass from Allison.

Manny Diaz (right), with Shaq Quarterman (AP)

Manny Diaz (right), with Shaq Quarterman (AP)

“I couldn’t have asked for a better practice game than what just happened,” Richt said.  “The scouts gave a great look. The scouts competed, and the offense and defense, we had to field a little anxiety trying to come back from a 28-point deficit. We were steadily getting there … We knew we had to score every time, get a stop every time in the last two drives, maybe three. But we turned the ball over.”

Richt, who will call offensive plays for the first time since turning over those duties at Georgia in 2007, said he “blew one call,” but an assistant helped him sort out the formation before Miami had to burn a timeout.

He expressed disappointment in turnovers (Miami had four) and ball security (“the ball got knocked out at least twice”), but said the Hurricanes’ penalty total wasn’t bad aside from one targeting penalty on defense. UM set a school record for penalty yards (1,094) and was the nation’s most penalized team on a per-game basis (9.3 for 84.2 yards).

“This is what you want,” Richt said. “You want to put your defense under stress. You want to put your offense under stress. You want it to be competitive. I told the scouts, ‘You’re not a punching bag today. Go compete.’ We put a lot of quality players on that side of the ball to make it a quality game.”

Now it’s up to FAMU to do the same.

Former Canes assistant Gary Stevens greets Mark Richt after today's scrimmage.

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