MIAMI GARDENS — Mark Richt was hot at halftime, and still cooking after after the Orange Bowl.
“What do you think? Can you guess?” he asked a reporter in a press conference, who inquired what it was that had him so upset. The answer: holding calls he and the rest of the Hurricanes believe officials missed.
In a wildly uncharacteristic move, the typically calm, serene 17-year head coaching veteran bumped and grabbed an official as he argued one of the non-calls in the first half, leading ESPN’s commentators to state he should be ejected from the game (he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 5-yard penalty). On the play, a video replay showed defensive end Trent Harris being held before Wisconsin scored to go up 24-14 with 28 seconds left in the first half. The Badgers won the Orange Bowl 34-24.
“I know I lost my cool, I thought rightfully so as far as being mad, but not rightfully so using some of the language I used,” Richt said. “Not particularly proud of myself there. I apologize to anybody who can read lips.”
UM fans were also incensed over a perceived hold against Lawrence Cager on a Malik Rosier interception in the end zone:
The non-calls were “a shame, in my opinion,” he said. “But I’m probably not supposed to say that.”
In the locker room, his players echoed his comments. Miami’s speedy defensive linemen, who drew one holding call this game and three all year despite being one of the top units in the country, had no issue speaking up on what they termed a year-long problem.
Defensive end Joe Jackson estimated opposing linemen hold UM’s D-line “70 percent of the game. You can see it on film. Nothing’s lying. We just try to play no matter what. You’re going to get some calls, some you’re not.”
Jackson was glad Richt stood up for his players, since it’s “frustrating to see when it’s a blind hold, the refs ignore it or stare you down and tell you it’s not a hold, or they’ll look for it next play. It makes you want to go ballistic. … I’ve been held a lot this year. Coach tells us all the time, don’t worry about the calls. Definitely gets frustrating.”
Who gets held the most?
“Probably me or Norton,” McIntosh said. “Everybody gets held a lot.”
“All of us get held our fair share. I would say the D-ends get held the most,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of speed coming off the edge. Their last resort is to hold.”
Norton said all of Miami’s defensive linemen have drawn would-be holding calls this year. “Frustrating,” he called it.
Richt, still annoyed in the press conference, was asked if the lack of calls could be addressed in another way, other than his outburst.
“Well, let’s just be hypothetical, OK,” he said. “When the ball is in the air, a defender is not supposed to be able to have a lot of contact before the ball gets there. That’s not supposed to be legal. When a guy is rushing the passer and is about to get to the quarterback and somebody grabs him and keeps him from getting there right in front of the official — again, this is a hypothetical situation — that’s not supposed to be allowed, over and over and over, in my opinion. That’s just how I feel right this minute. I’m sure I’ll cool down in a minute.”
He then asked if the reporters could turn their focus away from him, and toward the players sitting next to him at the table.
“They deserve to be asked some questions,” he said, nodding toward Malik Rosier, Jaquan Johnson, Lawrence Cager and Shaq Quarterman. “I know you’re probably loving what I’m saying right now, but we can continue that later.”