He survived a helmet to the chest against Florida State and a couple of big hits last week against Virginia Tech.
There was, however, nothing Brad Kaaya could do to get out of the way Saturday.
Like a bull after a matador, Clemson’s 6-3, 270-pound defensive end Shaq Lawson ran right through the left side of the Miami Hurricanes offensive line — between tackle Kc McDermott and guard Alex Gall — and knocked Miami’s starting quarterback out of the game early in the second quarter.
As big an uppercut as the Tigers landed in Saturday’s 58-0 blowout (the biggest loss in Hurricanes football history), UM (4-3, 1-2 ACC) still has a shot at winning the Coastal Division. But the Canes have no idea yet if it will have its two biggest offensive leaders next week when it travels to take on Duke.
Like Kaaya, leading receiver Rashawn Scott was knocked hard on the ground in the fourth quarter after Clemson safety T.J. Green laid a vicious hit on Scott as he tried to extend his arms and make a catch. Scott, who has a history of shoulder injuries, did not return.
Kaaya failed a concussion test on the sideline and didn’t return to the sideline in the second half.
“I don’t know,” UM coach Al Golden said when asked if Kaaya and Scott would play next week in Durham, North Carolina. “The good news is [Kaaya] and Rashawn [Scott] are good, in terms of health and everything. But it’s too early to evaluate where they’re at for next week.”
Backup Malik Rosier entered for Kaaya on UM’s fourth offensive series — with UM already down 28-0 to the Tigers — and hardly looked sharp. Rosier finished just 7-of-22 passing for 42 yards (Kaaya was 6 of 10 for 51 yards and an interception) and threw two interceptions, including a pick-six to Clemson cornerback Cordea Tankersley to close out the first half.
“We knew going in how strong they were,” said Golden, whose offense produced only six first downs, 53 yards rushing, 93 yards passing and 146 yards of total offense (the fewest yards under Golden).
“We didn’t run the ball effectively, and we didn’t protect well enough — we got one quarterback knocked out, and the other one knocked around. [They were] what we thought they were going in the game — deep, strong, physical — and they outplayed us.”
Rosier, who was 2 of 6 for 24 yards passing entering the day, said offensive coordinator James Coley told him not to look at the scoreboard when he came into the game. He wanted him only to focus on leading the team down the field. The Hurricanes never crossed midfield with Rosier at the helm (except when they took over possession twice in Clemson territory).
“Brad is one of my best friends, one of the guys I’m closest to,” Rosier said. “We live together. We spend hours together on film study. To see your best friend go down and the way he did, it hurts. So it’s not like one of those things I had to prepare mentally, but emotionally.
“For me personally it was a chance to see how I could take being in the game. It was one of those things that the guys did a great job encouraging me even when I threw the pick-6. The first thing I did was go over to Scott and apologize and say ‘I’m going to get you better balls and get balls on point.’ I just have to get more accurate, get better timing with the receivers and just play better.”
Scott, who came in leading the team with 33 catches for 446 yards and four touchdowns, dropped a couple balls Saturday and finished with two catches for 21 yards. Stacy Coley led UM with a career-high eight catches for 54 yards.
“We always make jokes, call him the grandfather,” Rosier said of Scott. “He brings so much wisdom to this team. He’s such a motivational leader. He doesn’t care who you are, what position you play. If you’re messing up, he’s going to call you out on it if you don’t correct. Losing Rashawn Scott is a big loss. So we’re trying to rally around him and make sure he’s OK, that we can get him back.”