BOONE, N.C. — Wearing an easy smile and a backwards ballcap, Brad Kaaya couldn’t have looked more comfortable. He was so loose after playing so well in a 45-10 road win, he commented on another lopsided result from that afternoon.
“Florida State lost, too,” he said to a few reporters on his way out of the press conference. “It’s a good day.”
Sure was for Miami’s junior quarterback. He sliced and diced Appalachian State, throwing for 368 yards and three touchdowns, and made everyone forget about a few shaky throws in his two previous games.
Kaaya went 21-of-27 and completed four passes longer than 50 yards to three receivers: freshman Ahmmon Richards (four catches for 142 yards), Stacy Coley (five catches for 85 yards and two scores), and David Njoku (three catches for 69 yards) had the other receiving touchdown.
All this after Kaaya threw two interceptions against Florida Atlantic last week, his first two-pick game since his freshman season. They were 6-of-11 on third down and hit six receivers for passes longer than 10 yards. Starting with the second series of the game, when he opened 5-for-5 with bubble screen passes and fast tempo before throwing a 9-yard touchdown to Njoku, Kaaya was on-point.
“Last week was not a good representation of our passing game,” he said. “We had to come out and make a statement through the air. We did.”
The only unpleasant sequence came with three minutes into the third quarter, when Richt said he was “a little greedy” on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Kaaya’s pass, intended for fullback Marquez Williams, was intercepted. As he attempted to make the tackle, Kaaya’s left foot planted in the turf and his knee twisted. He limped off with assistance from UM trainer Vinny Scavo, favoring his left leg.
Kaaya called it a “slight jolt” to the knee, which “got a little bit twisted up.”
“I feel pretty good,” he said afterward. “My knee is a little bit swollen, but the doctor on the sideline was tugging on it and he said the ACL’s fine. We’ll see what it is. … I was still able to finish the last quarter and a half.”
He bounced back from the pick and the injury to throw two expertly placed deep balls to Richards, for gains of 61 and 62 yards. He also threw a touchdown pass to Coley to put Miami up 38-10.
“I don’t know if it was adrenaline, but I felt really good,” he said. “No matter how I was feeling, I had to finish the game for my team. There’s no personal agendas out here. It’s all about this team and making coach Richt’s first away game a really solid win. Just making a statement.”
After the game, Richt said he wasn’t “holding his breath” about Kaaya. “I think he’ll be OK.”
Richt noted how much pressure is on Kaaya, as the face of a once-great program trying to reestablish itself nationally. “There’s a lot of weight on his shoulders, whether he realizes or not,” Richt said. “But Brad’s been here two years. He’s had tremendous success.”
Kaaya can lay low this week. Miami is on a bye.
“I’m looking forward to a week off and just chill and decompress. Might go over to the Rat and have a beer with Marquez,” he said. “I’m 21 now. Playing quarterback here’s pretty stressful.”
But not so much right now.