A dozen thoughts and notes from UM’s 52-30 win against Toledo on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, a game in which the Hurricanes trailed 16-10 at halftime:
• The key word on Malik Rosier, which we’ve used all summer, is streaky. And this was quintessential Rosier on Saturday.
He was inaccurate on several throws during four consecutive possessions that ended in punts spanning the second quarter and the start of the third.
But beginning with UM’s second possession of the second half, Rosier was extraordinary for a 17-minute stretch, firing a bunch of terrific throws to Dayall Harris (for a perfectly placed touchdown), Michael Irvin Jr., Mike Harley, Chris Herndon (a bunch of them, including one for a touchdown) and a couple to Braxton Berrios during a 28-0 second-half run.
And then Rosier had a bad overthrow that was intercepted and returned to the UM eight yard line. Toledo quickly converted and closed to within 38-30.
But Rosier rebounded with three completions and a 23-yard touchdown run on UM’s ensuing series.
So Rosier, who along with the whole offense was booed early in the third quarter, took UM fans on a rollercoaster ride but ultimately emerged with a victory and very good overall numbers: 27 for 36 for 333 yards, three touchdowns and the one pick.
UM will need to live with Rosier’s streakiness, because when he’s on target, he’s clearly the best of what UM has available, considering exceptionally talented N’Kosi Perry isn’t ready (from all indications) and Evan Shirreffs is limited.
• Junior Mark Walton showed why one NFC executive said he’s UM’s best draft eligible prospect.
He opened with 132 yards rushing on his first five carries before the ankle injury. He returned later and scampered for 17 yards on his first carry back in the game and 18 on his next.
His final numbers: 11 carries for 204 yards. It marked the seventh time a UM runner has rushed for 200 yards, according to WQAM, which is absurd considering he had fewer than a dozen carries.
The 18.5 per rush average is UM’s fifth-best ever in a game.
Walton now has 28 touchdowns in 28 games and is closing in on Edgerrin James’ and Stephen McGuire’s Hurricanes career record for touchdowns (35). James, incidentally, had his 35 TDs in 28 games.
• With Walton sidelined for parts of the second and third quarters because of the ankle injury, Travis Homer ignited UM’s go-ahead drive with two catches for 39 yards and a 12-yard TD run.
He closed the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run, easily getting to the outside and flashing the acceleration that UM loves.
• Harley had a drop but made several excellent catches, closing with three catches for 34 yards.
Irvin, who has improved in recent weeks, had two catches for 28 yards. With those two and Homer, the young skill position players are showing encouraging signs.
Dionte Mullins made his first catch as a Hurricane, for 14 yards, after dropping a deep ball earlier.
• We mentioned this summer that Berrios needed to be incorporated more in the offense, and credit UM for doing that. Berrios made a terrific move on his 54-yard catch and run and his 19-yard TD catch was exceptional.
Berrios then made two key catches for substantial yards on UM’s first two offensive plays after Toledo closed within 38-30. Berrios finished the day with five catches for 105 yards. He had 12 for 178 all of last season.
• The offensive line did good work in the running game, but there were missteps. Trevor Darling allowed a sack and Kc McDermott had a costly penalty that negated a Rosier TD run and was badly beaten on a Homer run that lost five yards.
• Defensively, UM’s secondary continues to have too many lapses. Logan Woodside, Toledo’s highly skilled quarterback, closed 28 for 48 for 342 yards, three touchdowns and no picks.
UM cornerback Dee Delaney, the transfer from The Citadel who is considered an NFL prospect, was beaten at least five times in coverage and was nowhere near Devante Johnson on a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Michael Jackson, the other starter, was beaten for a 38-yard completion, which would have been a touchdown if Sheldrick Redwine hadn’t hustled to tackle the receiver.
But Redwine cost UM later with an offsides penalty on a missed Toledo field goal to close the first half. The Rockets got a second chance on the field goal and converted.
Jackson later allowed a touchdown catch. It’s surprising that Jhavonte Dean, the nation’s top junior college cornerback last season, hasn’t been able to beat out Jackson or crack the rotation.
Malek Young had some good moments, but UM worries about him against the run because of his diminutive stature and he was beaten on a Toledo two-point conversion.
Freshman Trajan Bandy had two dynamic tackles and and a nifty play in coverage.
• Linebacker play was erratic. Charles Perry played a lot and was victimized several times in coverage.
• The run defense improved in the second half, with Toledo finishing with 85 yards on 35 carries (a 2.4 average)..
Richard McIntosh Jr. had a couple of nice plays - including a stop on a failed Toledo two-point conversion attempt - but the run defense early on missed Demetrius Jackson, who was injured in practice last week, before stiffening.
Freshman defensive tackle Jon Ford got some playing time late and could become a real factor before the season ends.
• Besides McIntosh (who had a sack on a nifty swim move), several other defensive players warrant shout-outs. Anthony Moten made a key stop on the UM 47 on a 3rd and two early in the third quarter. Toledo then punted, and UM - on the ensuing drive - scored its first of four consecutive touchdowns... Trent Harris had a sack and was very active... Shaquille Quarterman was effective on blitzes and Pat Bethel got pressure on the quarterback.
But overall, the defense was blitzed for 429 yards by a potent Toledo team. The Rockets converted 13 of 23 third downs into first downs.
• UM outgained Toledo, 288-68, during its 28-0 run in the second half. The Hurricanes had 587 yards of offense.
• Herndon had a career-high eight catches for 65 yards and is emerging as a valuable safety valve for Rosier.
Here’s my Heat story from Saturday, with a team executive evaluating the team’s new young players.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz