University of Miami running back Mark Walton was rolling — until he got rolled on, or stepped on.
Waves of nausea likely hit Hurricanes fans as Walton, clearly the most valuable player of UM’s offense, went down in seemingly horrible pain midway through the second quarter.
The 14th-ranked Hurricanes must have felt sick, too. Playing for the first time in three weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, they relinquished the next 10 points for a six-point deficit — before igniting for six touchdowns in the second half to defeat Toledo 52-30 on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Well, that was enough drama for three weeks,” said UM coach Mark Richt.
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Nothing short of amazing.
After getting his left ankle stepped on, the 5-9, 205-pound junior captain returned to the game on the final play of the third quarter and finished with a career-high 204 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries.
That’s 18.5-yards-per-carry for Walton, whose touchdown run was 44 yards and whose longest run of the game was an 82-yard sprint to the 3-yard line.
Reaching a milestone
When Walton got to 199 yards, he pleaded to running backs coach Thomas Brown for one more carry so he could surpass 200 yards (marking the seventh time in UM history that a player would rush for at least 200). Nothing there. So he went to the head honcho.
“He was like, ‘Please let me carry one more time!’” Richt said. “I said, ‘I’ll let you back in the game if you promise not to get hurt.’”
Walton said he cried after going down, partly from pain and partly from the emotions.
“The first time I’ve been in that type of pain,’’ he said, noting that he thought “someone rolled on it’’ and that the medical staff tried various ways of taping the ankle before getting it just right. “I didn’t want to let my team down. I thought about emotional things like my family and not letting my team down — and like that was my last play for this year.’’
Added the tailback: “It was pain, but the adrenaline was rushing through me.”
After the game, Walton said he felt pretty good, and that doctors didn’t even need to do any diagnostic tests.
As for the Hurricanes (2-0), they kept it nerve-racking, giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns — a 6-yard pass, and 8-yard pass following UM quarterback Malik Rosier’s first interception of the season — on completions from quarterback Logan Woodside to Diontae Johnson.
Rosier made amends with a 23-yard touchdown run down the left side with 6:01 left to give UM a bit more breathing room with a 45-30 lead, and Walton backup Travis Homer added his second touchdown of the day — a 15-yard rush — with 2:30 left to make it 52-30.
Toledo (3-1) was led by Woodside, who completed 28 of 48 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
Rosier completed 27 of 36 passes for 333 yards, three touchdowns and the interception.
“This game is a big psychological game,” Rosier said. “It’s hard to stop a team that believes in itself. It’s all about confidence.”
Another big day
Senior receiver Braxton Berrios had a career game, catching five passes for 105 yards and a 19-yard touchdown. His 55-yard, career-long catch late in the third quarter led to receiver Dayall Harris’ first touchdown as a Hurricane to put UM up 24-16.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was incredible,” Berrios said of his day.
“Twenty-one days since we’ve played a game. It takes a second to get back into it. We jumped off to a good start and then we lost energy. We lost focus.”
UM’s defense allowed 429 yards, but only 85 yards rushing. Joe Jackson and Malek Young each had seven tackles, with Trent Harris adding two sacks and Sheldrick Redwine recovering a second-half fumble that led to a UM touchdown.
UM, which gained 587 yards and won its sixth consecutive game dating to last season, travels to Duke next week for a Friday night game that will be televised by ESPN.