CORAL GABLES — Unless something truly remarkable happens next Saturday, Miami won’t be down 24-0 at the half against Bethune-Cookman.
The Hurricanes blanked the Wildcats 45-0 the last time they met, in 2015. UM has allowed three touchdowns and a field goal in its last five games against FCS teams. The composite score of those games: 271-24.
So don’t expect much back-slapping from Mark Richt if his team barrages Bethune from start to finish in the season-opener at Hard Rock Stadium (12:30 p.m. Sept. 2, RSN).
No major congratulations came Thursday after the first-stringers dominated a scout team mimicking next week’s foe. In the scenario, Malik Rosier, Mark Walton and the first-string offense were down 24 points at halftime. They won 33-24.
Last fall, UM’s scout team beat the starters in that type of late-camp setting. As a reward, Richt bought them a meal of steak and lobster. The No. 1 unit had to eat “beans and weenies,” he recalled.
“Walton remembered that and said, ‘Do we get the good meal?’” Richt recalled, breaking into a laugh. “I said, ‘No, you’re supposed to win.”
Maybe Richt will buy them a good meal next Saturday. In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts on Thursday’s performance, the stats from which Richt shared with reporters afterward (scrimmages are closed):
Rosier-run offense appeared capable
Read into scrimmage stats at your own peril, but Rosier was 18-for-32 for 222 yards and two touchdowns against UM’s scouts. Richt said Rosier, the redshirt junior named starting quarterback on Tuesday, “missed a couple” throws, but his 14 incompletions included “a couple” drops “three or four” bat-downs from the scout-team defensive line.
Since UM was trying to mount a 24-point comeback, No. 2 quarterback Evan Shirreffs did not play. N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon ran the scout team, though they will train with UM’s first-stringers once the season begins.
Richt said Rosier “did well. There was just inconsistencies in the passing game.”
Also a factor: a “torrential downpour” at the start of practice. UM didn’t tackle to the ground, Richt said, because he’s “learned what we need to learn about our players.”
A nice surprise: UM’s jumbo package, a concern as of last week, might actually be OK. After UM overcame the 24-point deficit with two minutes remaining in the simulated half, the offense faced a fourth-and-inches at the opposing 40.
“We could have punted and tried to pooch it in there,” Richt said. “There were two minutes to go in the game, two and a half. If we get one more first down, we’re going to win. So we put our big unit in, our heavy, two-tight [end] kind of thing in there, and we ran the ball on 4th and 1. If we get the first down, the game is over. As it turned out, we broke it open for a long touchdown run.
“If we got stopped at that moment, the defense has got a short field to defend, and they’re defending there and they’re in field goal range. Would we have really done that in a game or not? If you have a lot of faith in the play, then you call it. If you’re a little concerned, you try to punt them down and give them a long field. A lot of those types of situations came up.”
Miami won’t need Richards until FSU
Star sophomore wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, battling a hamstring injury, watched the scrimmage from the sidelines. He is likely to do the same thing next Saturday. Richt called him “questionable” for the opener. Braxton Berrios (groin strain) also sat out.
That meant more opportunity for Jeff Thomas, who, like Mike Harley, could follow Richards as freshman standouts. Their emergence, along with that of freshman DeeJay Dallas, redshirt sophomore Lawrence Cager and camp surprise Darrell Langham, means Miami should be more than OK in the first two weeks, should Richards and/or Berrios need time to heal.
Thomas led all receivers Thursday with six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, making grabs on the run and turning them into big gains. That’s despite having a hamstring strain of his own, which UM protected by removing him from the game late. It’s also despite his inexperience, which Richt made note of afterward.
“You could see his talent, but you see he’s not still sure of what to do,” Richt said. “I don’t know if he has more of a problem of what to do or how to do it. There was a route or two that he probably didn’t take the proper angle. If he takes a better angle he may score instead of catch-and-fall-down kind of thing – at least one time, I know for sure. We want all of those guys to get ready to play.”
Miami’s defense is deep
More confirmation of this came Thursday. A scout-team defensive line that included freshman ends Jonathan Garvin and DJ Johnson and tackle Jon Ford, along with redshirt sophomore end Scott Patchan, broke up multiple passes — Richt estimated “three or four” — and “put pretty good pressure on the quarterback,” according to the coach.
The first-string defense faced the aforementioned freshmen quarterbacks and a walk-on (freshman Augie DiBiase). But according to stats Richt gave afterward, in one half of play, UM’s top unit allowed:
- zero points
- 10-of-27 passing
- 78 passing yards
- 13 rushing yards
- five sacks
They also intercepted three passes. Starting cornerback Malek Young, who “seems to get one every time we scrimmage,” Richt previously noted, had one. Cornerback Michael Jackson, who is likely to start at dime, snatched another. Backup safety Robert Knowles had the other.
The starting defensive line, without widebody tackle Kendrick Norton (ankle), produced all five sacks and made the second-string offensive line miserable. Tackles Anthony Moten (three tackles for loss, sack) and RJ McIntosh (sack) and ends Joe Jackson, Chad Thomas and Trent Harris (sack each) got in on the action. On special teams, linebacker Zach McCloud blocked a punt. He’s had an excellent camp, according to coaches, as has Shaq Quarterman.
The expectation for this defense: create havoc for four quarters, for 12 games, plus whatever happens after. Nothing less will do — especially with a first-timer at quarterback.