A few quick thoughts (or second thoughts) after 14th-ranked UM’s 52-30 win against Toledo on Saturday, and most of them are positive:
***Quarterback Malik Rosier stays poised after trouble, keeps improving and is the right man for the job.
Rosier finished the first half with 50 yards as the Canes went 0-4 on third-down conversions, with the quarterback throwing one incompletion and the other two completions ultimately not deep enough to convert on those third downs. But his resolve is obviously strong and his demeanor impressive, as he appears to rebound and stay calm after bad situations. He passed for 189 yards in the third quarter, ending the game with 75 percent of his passes completed (27 of 36 for 333 yards and three touchdowns, with one pick). And after a fourth-quarter interception that was so overthrown that it basically landed in the opponent’s arms and subsequently resulted in a Toledo touchdown, Rosier came right back with a beautiful series in which he completed three passes and finally took off for a 23-yard touchdown. He can wing the ball when he needs to, and can definitely use his legs, but appears a lot more disciplined than coaches reflected last year. And he’s just plain likable, not making excuses and appearing to be a strong leader in the making.
***Mark Walton is lights-out dominant.
The man has an amazing attitude, is the quintessential team player and can run. He appeared to badly hurt his ankle midway through the second quarter, then comes back and ends with 204 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, an astounding 18.5 yards a carry. As I tweeted Saturday night: Mr. Walton, take a bow. And stay healthy for your team’s sake.
***This team, offense and defense, doesn’t quit.
After covering this program for many years, I’ve seen squads (and so have you) that absolutely fell apart when the going got rough. I didn’t see that last year in Richt’s first as head coach, and I haven’t seen it yet. It’s heartening to see the Hurricanes, despite struggling, keep pushing. The challenges will become far greater now that UM’s Atlantic Coast Conference schedule begins next week on the road against an impressive Duke team, 4-0 and first in the Coastal Division after defeating North Carolina 27-17 yesterday in Chapel Hill.
***The defensive backfield needs sharpening.
Graduate transfer cornerback Dee Delaney struggled, as did corner Michael Jackson on a key play in the opening quarter, when a play at first-and-10 from Miami’s 40-yard line turned into a 38-yard completion to Cody Thompson and led to a 24-yard field goal. Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside is an NFL prospect, and the way things turned out, it can only help the Canes to have gone against such a potent, fast-paced offense. Assistants Manny Diaz, Mike Rumph and Ephraim Banda will surely work on those inadequacies this week.
*** The home crowd showed up with fervor
UM reported 49,361 in attendance Saturday, and except when Walton got hurt and in a couple other scary moments, the crowd came through for the Canes. It cheered heartily and multiple times, including in Toledo’s second offensive series, contributed to the Rockets messing up and being penalized. On third-and-2 from the Toledo 40, with the UM crowd at a crescendo, the Rockets were flagged with a false start. On the next play, with the crowd still roaring, they were flagged for delay of game.