It was halftime of the University of Miami spring game, and quarterback Brad Kaaya strode up and down the Lockhart Stadium sideline, imploring his offense to, as he put it, “Wake up!”
And the offense did, to an extent, but never to the point where the defense sagged enough to relinquish its dominance.
With running back Joe Yearby suspended for missing curfew and fellow tailback Gus Edwards on the bench for much of the game with his left shoulder iced, the Hurricanes’ defense nabbed four interceptions and defeated the offense 54-47 on a windy Saturday in Fort Lauderdale.
“Wherever the ball was at, that’s where we went,” said linebacker Jermaine Grace, who had one of the interceptions and was pumped about how his fellow defenders attacked. “We came together and played physical.”
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UM did not release statistics after the game, but at halftime Kaaya had already thrown all three of his interceptions and had completed 8 of 17 passes for 63 yards. His 6-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Lewis came in the second half.
Safety Jamal Carter had two interceptions, and cornerback Corn Elder had the other when receiver Rashawn Scott bobbled a Kaaya pass that should have been caught. The ball bounced out of Scott’s hands and into the arms of Elder, who was lying on his back when it came into his arms.
The scrimmage format had the defense earning points for plays such as turnovers and three-and-outs, and the offense earning points by scoring or making first downs.
The offense, as is always the case in the spring game, kept it basic.
“We came out kind of slow as an offense,” said Kaaya, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year who set the single-season UM freshman record for passing yards with 3,198 and passing touchdowns with 26. “The defense jumped on us in the first half.”
Two of Kaaya’s picks came off tips, and there were a few drops.
“You just have to keep playing,” he said. “… There are always ups and downs in every game.”
Kaaya’s backup, Malik Rosier, had another solid outing. At halftime, Rosier had completed 10 of 18 passes for 101 yards, with a 4-yard touchdown strike to receiver Braxton Berrios.
Reserve quarterback Gray Crow led one long drive that resulted in his 12-yard touchdown pass to walk-on Clayton Turner.
In the first half, Berrios had five catches for 31 yards and the touchdown, while tight end Jake O’Donnell had four catches for 50 yards. Stacy Coley had two catches of 27 and 29 yards.
Rosier’s second-half pick went to Grace, but the quarterback’s closing minutes of the first half were impressive. On Rosier’s 13-play, 82-yard touchdown drive, he threw four consecutive completions to Berrios (with a running play after the third one), and had seven consecutive completions before his only miss.
“The defense looked great,” Rosier said. “They gave us a lot of different coverages. They stayed solid and really didn’t bite on any play actions. They covered their ground.
“I applaud them, especially the safeties. The safeties were everywhere.”
Safety Deon Bush was one of four players who registered sacks in the first half. The others were ends Chad Thomas, Trent Harris and Ufomba Kamalu.
The defensive line dominated the offensive line, which didn’t help the quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator James Coley wasn’t pleased.
“That’s why we went out and signed five offensive linemen,” Coley said. “… Am I thrilled with the offensive line today? No.”
On special teams, kicker Mike Badgley impressed with a 45-yard field goal into the wind and a 56-yard field goal with the wind at his back. Artie Burns blocked a 61-yard attempt by Badgley.
UM coach Al Golden would not elaborate on Yearby’s suspension. Two sources told the Miami Herald that he broke curfew Friday night and said he was visiting his baby daughter.
Walk-on quarterback Isaac Hoza was also suspended for violating team policy.
Linebacker Tyriq McCord, who is coming back from a knee injury, was injured again near the end of the game.