Mark Richt walks off the field. (Getty Images)
Notes from Mark Richt‘s Monday morning segment on WQAM radio and his Sunday evening conference call with beat reporters:
FSU week is here: Miami (4-0, 1-0 ACC) is unbeaten and ranked 10th heading into rivalry week, and Florida State (3-2, 0-2) is causing fans on social media to demand the defensive coordinator be fired.
While Miami still has to prove itself against a high-quality opponent and FSU has played a much tougher schedule so far, Hurricanes fans might feel a lot better about their team right now than their neighbors to the north feel about theirs.
Richt doesn’t care about that, of course. “They’re a really good team,” he said Monday morning, noting that he did “a couple hours” of FSU film study after returning home Sunday. “I know they’ve got two losses, but they’ve played some outstanding football teams. You play Ole Miss, you play Louisville, you play North Carolina, that’s a murderer’s row in the first five games. We’re about to hit our murderer’s row. Let’s see how we do. I know we’ll be excited.
Richt added a message for Miami fans who plan to party before the 8 p.m. kickoff.
“I know our fans will be off the chain,” he said. “I want to ask the fans to save a little energy for the game. I know it’s a long tailgate. You’ve got to pace yourself.”
They meet again: FSU still has Dalvin Cook, and that means Miami has to try and stop him.
Cook, who has broken the Hurricanes’ backs in two previous meetings, enters this week ranked fifth nationally in rushing yards (635 yards, seven touchdowns on 107 carries) thanks in large part to a 267-yard performance against South Florida. He leads the nation in yards from scrimmage (921).
Mississippi (3.96 yards per carry) and Louisville (3.38) held him in check. Cook went for 140 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries (4.83 per) last week against North Carolina.
Though they haven’t faced anyone like Cook, Miami ranks 10th nationally in yards per carry allowed (2.6). Just six of 178 attempts have gone for 20-plus yards. A 38-yard rushing touchdown by FAU’s Greg “Buddy” Howell is the longest play UM has allowed this season.
But Cook, Joe Yearby‘s teammate at Miami Central High, brings it when playing his hometown team. He rushed for 22 carries, 222 yards, two touchdowns in 2015, and caught three passes for 47 yards and another score. In 2014, he scored twice and had 92 yards on just seven carries.
Richt, who coached 15 years in the SEC, and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (two) chatted Monday morning about how he compares to the best backs they saw, a list that would likely include Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram, Darren McFadden and Knowshon Moreno.
“He’s right there with the best of them,” Richt said. “And of course, they know what they’re doing up front,” he said. “They really are geared to run and throw the ball equally well, and he’s the main centerpiece of that.”
Sophomore Jacques Patrick (39 carries, 253 yards, three touchdowns) has been good in relief. Like Cook, he produced in bulk at USF (20 carries, 124 yards, touchdown). He also went for 11-plus yards per carry against Louisville and North Carolina.
State of the offense: After reviewing Miami-Georgia Tech film, Richt said the 14 “huge” points UM’s defense scored bailed out an offense that executed “very well” for “moments,” but remains inconsistent.
“We were very fortunate to win the game,” he said. “Bottom line: we’ve got to get better.”
UM’s power run game has broken big plays and drained the clock in the second half of victories. Richt said Mark Walton, Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards (who saw a little action at Georgia Tech) are “healthy and fresh and doing a good job.” Walton (63 carries, 445 yards, eight touchdowns) and Yearby (44 carries, 321 yards, five touchdowns) are averaging more than 7 yards per carry (Cook is at 5.93).
Could this be the week we see more from Kaaya, who ranks 12th nationally in pass efficiency (170.46) and threw for a career-high 405 yards (with three touchdowns) in last year’s FSU game? Another talented passer, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, put up that exact same stat line last week. FSU also couldn’t handle Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, but then again, no one has.
Miami ranks 118th nationally in pass attempts (99). Richt said Kaaya, who threw three interceptions in his previous two games, has been efficient. “Great accuracy, decision making, technique in ball-handling,” Richt said, adding that he threw one inaccurate (though catchable) pass — a slant to Stacy Coley that, if caught in-stride, could have gone for a touchdown. “The rest were throwaways and good decisions,” Richt said.
Richt is pleased with Braxton Berrios at punt returner (“very, very sure-handed, and we know he can take it to the house as well”) and UM’s kicking and punting.
Miami enters the week ranked 90th in penalty yards per game, but had its best performance in that department (39 yards on four penalties) against Georgia Tech. Also, Richt said 15 of those yards should not have counted. David Njoku, who picked up 30 yards in one sequence (illegal block, personal foul) made a legal block according to Richt. He said ACC officials admitted their mistake to Miami. But “the [personal] foul at the end of the play,” Richt said, “there’s no excuse for that.”
Miami didn’t turn the ball over against Georgia Tech, which pleased the coach. Other than Kaaya’s picks, UM’s only turnover is freshman Travis Homer‘s lost fumble in the opener (while leading by 67, but still).
Quiet down, kids: Miami’s true freshmen have shined in the first month of the season. Against Georgia Tech, linebacker Shaq Quarterman (fumble recovery for touchdown), defensive end Joe Jackson (fumble recovery for touchdown), wide receiver Ahmmon Richards (31-yard catch that set up a touchdown) and linebacker Michael Pinckney (game-sealing interception, sack) made impact plays.
Richt likes that, but is not happy about their interview performances.
“They’ll probably not talk to the media for a while, either, because they don’t do a real good job of that yet. It’s fun to watch them have success though, I can tell you that.”
“It’s all the media’s fault, coach,” WQAM host Curtis Stevenson said. “Blame us.”
“Oh, it’s not your fault,” Richt said, chuckling. “They just cant help themselves.”
The loquacious Pinckney, who received an earful last week from Richt about toning down his interviews, Quarterman and Jackson spoke after Saturday’s game. Richt did not allow freshmen to speak to the media before Florida Atlantic, saying he didn’t want them to get big-headed over their success in the opener against Florida A&M.
The longer those freshmen (and linebacker Zach McCloud, roommate of Quarterman and Pinckney) are not allowed to speak, the more disappointing it will be. They are interesting and quite colorful, in an age of bland player quotes.
- Richt on being ranked No. 10: “If you win, you stay there, if you lose, you don’t. It’s not really important where we’re ranked right now.”
- How is UM preparing for the potential of Hurricane Matthew affecting its preparation? “You should start praying, first,” Richt said. After that, they’ll move part of practice to UM’s wellness center if necessary. UM Athletics Director Blake James said UM is “monitoring the storm and at this time do not plan any changes to our schedule.”
- Richt said trainer Vinny Scavo told him “we were good” regarding injuries after Saturday’s game, and didn’t mention anything serious as of Sunday afternoon. “I think if something popped up today new, he would let me know.” Pinckney, who is playing with a wrapped left hand, has “something bothering him, nothing that can keep him from practicing or playing. I don’t know if it’s a bone bruise or what.” Left tackle Trevor Darling appeared to hurt some part of his lower body and missed seven plays, but returned to the game.
- UM hopes to impress a long list of recruiting visitors this weekend. “I think our fans are going to do an awesome job of supporting the team on Saturday evening,” Richt said. “I think the recruits will see that and get excited about that.”
- The ACC has six teams ranked this week, its most in a decade and tied with the SEC this week. Based on what he’s seen, how strong is the ACC? “A heck of a lot better than I want it to be,” Richt said, “but that’s good for the league.”