CORAL GABLES — Asked if Malik Rosier‘s completion percentage last week against North Carolina was a concern, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown didn’t hold back.
“I think the whole game was a concern, if you watched us play on offense,” Brown said. “Obviously the worst performance we had this entire year. Maybe the worst one we’ve had since we’ve been at Miami.”
Brown saw “a lack of focus, a lack of execution. … It was embarrassing to see. It was embarrassing to be a part of, coaching-wise.”
Who was accountable, primarily?
“Everybody,” Brown said. “Everybody who has a Miami shirt on.”
He was upset about the completion percentage, certainly. Including Evan Shirreffs’ 1-for-3 performance when he played for a series, Miami was 17-for-41 (41.5), its lowest completion percentage since Oct. 22, 2011 against Georgia Tech (34.8).
But it was more than that.
“Guys having missed assignments — guy that are veterans, have done things a million times and never screwed it up, for whatever reason, screwed it up,” Brown said. “Ran the wrong route, cut it short, dropped ball, incomplete pass, missed blocking scheme, missed read from a tailback standpoint. Flat-out, that guy across from you hit you in the face and you didn’t do anything about it. Which is embarrassing.”
Mark Richt said in his press conference Tuesday that he was happy Rosier “has thrown very few balls up for grabs.” The interception he threw against UNC came when he “got fooled on a coverage,” he said. Brown said Rosier typically understands the mistakes he makes, which is a positive.
Rosier, who injured his shoulder against UNC, took Sunday and Monday (UM’s off day) to rest. Richt said he was full-go Tuesday, but was “a little sore.” Shirreffs, he added, is “doing very well,” and takes “a lot” of reps in practice.
Another major concern: a lack of a running game.
Removing two sacks from the equation, Miami rushed for 2.4 yards per carry against UNC (30 carries, 71 yards). It was its lowest output of the season, and is a major concern with another good Virginia Tech defense coming to town Saturday.
“We’re not getting a lot of movement,” Richt said Monday on WQAM. “I know twice if we hand the ball off it’s going to spring out big. One might have been a 70-yard house call, so all of a sudden we’re a good running team.
“That’s how it goes sometimes in the running game. You’re banging away and banging away and then all of a sudden, bang, it spits out for a long one. Just like that long touchdown run to finish the game against Syracuse. Every once in a while it takes a minute to find a crease and then all of a sudden you’re going the distance … and your run stats are different.”
The Hokies rank ninth nationally in yards per carry allowed (3.07) and in last year’s 37-16 win in Blacksburg, saddled UM with its second-lowest output (1.45) of 2016. That includes sacks (a season-high eight on Brad Kaaya, for a loss of 57 yards). In total, UM lost 69 yards on the ground.
Rosier is a more mobile quarterback than Kaaya, and UM’s offensive line has, to the eye test, marginally improved. Pass protection has been decent, but the run blocking — at all positions, Richt said — has been poor.
Another big-time issue: third-down woes. Virginia Tech is third nationally in third-down defense (24.03 percent conversions allowed). Miami is 119th in conversion success (30.68). Winning on first and second downs on Saturday will be critical.
What’s going well on offense for Miami? Big plays through the air.
It’s fair to call UM the most explosive passing attack in the ACC. The Hurricanes are tied for the league lead in passing plays of 40-plus yards (nine). Six different wideouts have caught a pass of that long. The team Miami is tied with, Wake Forest, has two.
Against UNC, Miami had five passing plays of 30-plus yards, produced by Rosier and Travis Homer (35 yards), Braxton Berrios (42 yards), DeeJay Dallas (49 yards), Chris Herndon (51-yard touchdown) and Jeff Thomas (78-yard touchdown). Those five plays accounted for 255 of Miami’s 356 passing yards and two of its three touchdowns.
“It’s good we’ve got playmakers,” Richt said on WQAM, noting teams are stacking the box against the run and covering Miami wideouts one-on-one.
“I think we’d all rather control the ball a little bit more and have a drive that’s 10, 12 plays, that kind of thing, but explosive plays, they count too.
Richt noted that according to numbers UM keeps, the X receiver – Richards and Darrell Langham’s position – have been targeted most. Next up, in order: Y (Berrios) F (Herndon, the tight end), Z (Thomas was moved there last game) and tailback (Homer). “We’ve spread it around pretty good,” Richt said.
Before the season, UM “had a long debate” about where to play Thomas, the speedy true freshman from Illinois. Richt commented Saturday that Thomas was “one of our best three” receivers. UM is also using Dallas differently, giving him carries at tailback and splitting him out (where he turned a short pass into the aforementioned big gain with a single cut).
Freshman Mike Harley, who has played outside (Z), has been struggling with an ankle injury the last two weeks.
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