UM's Ahmmon Richards discusses his return and his spectacular leap
Either the Miami Hurricanes get a collective adrenaline rush from heart-palpitating fourth quarters, or they just can’t help themselves.
Syracuse, which defeated defending national champion Clemson last week, would not quit Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, scoring 16 points in the second half to come within one point and get Miami fans hyperventilating for the third week in a row.
But once again, No. 8 Miami wouldn’t quit either.
Quarterback Malik Rosier led UM on a game-saving drive late in the fourth quarter, and running back Travis Homer sealed a 27-19 victory on his 33-yard touchdown run with 2:48 left.
“Well, we found another way to make it really exciting,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said. “Part of the reason was Syracuse is a really good football team. You’ve seen what they can do.”
Rosier had a career-high 344 passing yards and two touchdowns to help carry UM, one of eight undefeated teams entering the weekend, to a 6-0 overall record and 4-0 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We, for some reason, can’t find a way to play really good on both sides at the same time – we kind of take turns,’’ Richt said. “It’d be nice to be more consistent. You become consistent offensively when you throw and catch like you should. You become consistent when you can convert third downs a little bit better than we have been. We just have not been very good at all.
“We’ve just got to continue to work.”
With the victory, Miami extended the nation’s second longest winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision to 11 games dating to 2016. USF, which led the nation before Saturday with 11 consecutive wins, was scheduled to play Tulane at 7 p.m.
The last time UM won at least 11 straight was during its 34-game winning streak that began on Sept. 23, 2000 and ended in the double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the Jan. 3, 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
Syracuse fell to 4-4 and 2-2.
UM’s game-saving drive began after Syracuse’s Cole Murphy kicked a 53-yard field goal – his fourth of the game – to make it 20-19 Miami with 5:23 left.
That’s when Rosier, who led UM to late game-winning drives the past two weeks against Florida State and Georgia Tech, went into Rosier mode.
The Canes’ final drive included passes to Jeff Thomas for 13 yards, Darrell Langham for 19 yards, three consecutive Homer rushes for 17 total yards and that pretty Homer rush down the left side for the touchdown.
“I couldn’t do anything without my line,’’ said Homer, who finished with 95 yards rushing and the back-breaking touchdown on 20 carries . “All props go to them. They gave me a nice hole and I did was run fast.
“It’s always a good feeling to win, but just seeing your team stay strong and pull through, it’s the best. We’re 6-0, but like I said last week, that’s not our final goal.’’
The Canes defense once again came up huge. Despite enduring 93 Syracuse offensive plays, it had four interceptions in the first half, and stopped Syracuse on a fourth-and-seven in its last-gasp drive that started on its own 21-yard line with 2:48 left.
UM dominated the first half, but could only manage one touchdown on Rosier’s 10-yard pass to tight end Chris Herndon (career-high 96 yards on 10 catches) early in the second quarter.
Syracuse held UM to field goals of 18 and 39 yards on two other first-half drives in which Miami just couldn’t punch it in, despite having four chances from within the 6-yard line (including third-and-goal from the 1) early in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Canes had a first down at the Syracuse 29, but Ahmmon Richards – all alone and seemingly ready to rip into the end zone – had one of what he described as four drops (one came on a play that later was nullified because of a penalty) and UM couldn’t convert. Badgley belted his 39-yarder three plays later to give UM a 13-0 lead.
Despite Richards’ drops, the gifted sophomore led all players with 99 receiving yards on six catches.
Freshman Thomas scored a 48-yard touchdown, a career first, from Rosier with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
The Canes, who travel to North Carolina for a noon kickoff next Saturday, had nine tackles for loss and four sacks – two-and-half of those sacks by linebacker Michael Pinckney, who left last week’s game early with a chest injury. Pinckney had nine tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Two of the interceptions were made by cornerback Michael Jackson, and one apiece by safety Jaquan Johnson and defensive end Demetrius Jackson.
“We just had a chip on our shoulder,’’ Pinckney said. “We wanted to come out and prove we’re one of the best in America.’’
Said Richt with a smile before walking away from the post-game podium: “I’m thankful we won. Our fans were awesome, the band was great, the students were off the chain.
“I love it here in Paradise.’’