The simplistic reaction by University of Miami fans after watching Duke Johnson gain 135 yards on just seven carries Saturday against Boston College is to start yelping for the freshman running back to get more carries — many, many more carries.
Hold on, says UM coach Al Golden . Take a deep breath and exhale, fans. Johnson, after his spectacular debut in a UM uniform, will certainly get his touches, but so will fellow running backs Mike James and Eduardo Clements. James was the starter in the 41-32 victory over B.C. and don’t expect that to necessarily change.
“I think we’re going to continue to give all those guys opportunities and touches,” Golden said Sunday. “All of them have a role and clearly, on the two series that Duke scored [on runs of 54 and 56 yards], if he didn’t break them he would have had more touches, but he ended up scoring. We want to make sure we get them all touches.”
“I’m real pleased with those three running backs. Hopefully, they will complement each other.”
That said, Golden is well aware that Johnson — a 5-9, 188-pound Miami Norland High graduate — and his 19.3 yards per carry are the talk of the town, creating that hue and cry of give the kid the ball.
“I’m happy for the young man,” Golden said. “But No. 1, it’s one game, so we all have to temper it. This might be your first exposure to seeing him in a Miami Hurricane uniform, but what I see every day is someone who works hard, is unselfish, who finishes. Duke comes from a family that will not let him be anything but level-headed and humble and industrious.”
Golden does not expect Johnson’s attitude to change.
“I hope not,” he said. “I hope he relies on the coaches and players around him and his family. I know he will just stay humble and work. I don’t think this will change him one bit. It’s a long season. We have a long way to go. I’m certainly glad he is on our team, and certainly glad he made an impact in the game. But we have a long way to go in terms of where we want to get to as a program, so I hope one guy getting recognition hopefully will not knock him or us off kilter.”
In general, Golden liked what he saw of his team in the opener — particularly its effort.
“I was pleased with the way we competed,” he said. “I thought we finished, we were in good condition, and we played hard. We were down 14-0 in a tough environment and guys stuck together. That’s a credit to our team and our leaders.
“They kept fighting. They went on a 41-9 run after being down 14-0. It didn’t look good early, we were dropping passes, we deflected another one that was intercepted and it wasn’t looking good at all. The guys just hung in there and kept chopping away.”
What Golden wasn’t pleased with was UM’s defense at the start of the game as the Eagles almost nonchalantly grabbed a 14-0 lead. The Canes’ defense looked like it forgot to include a secondary in the early minutes as Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig tossed completion after completion to wide-open receivers.
By game’s end, Miami’s defense gave up a frightening 542 yards with 441 of them coming through the air.
“We had some blown assignments that led to wide-open receivers — simple as that,” Golden said. “There’s no excuse this year. We have to do a better job coaching it and the kids have to do a better job executing it. They [the Eagles] came out in the first 16 plays and ran off a script without us really distorting that at all.”
Golden knows he has an extremely young team, and that might have led to some of those defensive lapses.
“I think we had 12 freshmen and two redshirt freshmen play — so 14 freshmen that played for us in the game,” Golden said. “They played with a lot of energy and a lot of spirit. Now we just have to get them more poised, a little bit calmed down and hopefully settled in between Game 1 and Game 2.”
Game 2 will be Saturday against No. 22 Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. The Wildcats put a 51-9 beat-down on Missouri State in their opener.
“I understand how hard it is to play there,” Golden said. “I understand the kind of atmosphere it is it’s a really tough place to play. You take the veteran team they have, and you couple that with the home-field advantage and the crowd, it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Golden said his team sustained no significant injuries Saturday.