Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier talks to the media after UM defeated Notre Dame
The C student has become the valedictorian.
The understudy has become the Broadway lead.
The quarterback — Malik Rosier — in whom Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt admits he had little faith in this past spring has become such a master of the offense that he fooled even his own staff on one particular play in Saturday night’s 41-8 win over Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium.
It was fourth-and-two, and the Canes had called a quarterback draw. Notre Dame “went zero,” stacking the box and looking for a run play.
Rosier yelled: “Kill, kill,” knowing Notre Dame would then switch to a softer run coverage, anticipating a pass.
“Coach Jon was panicking,” Rosier said, referring to Jon Richt, Miami’s quarterback coach and Mark’s son.
But that’s when Rosier became the master tactician. He audibled from a running play … to another running play, and Deejay Dallas got the first down.
“Coach Jon said, ‘Malik, if you would’ve thrown it, I probably would’ve put my foot in your butt,’” Rosier said with a smile.
“We didn’t practice that (type of audible). We didn’t coach that. But I told (my teammates) that if they go zero and they bring an extra guy, I’m just going to go from a run to another run because we knew if we checked they would check to a softer coverage.”
It’s that kind of leadership and decision-making that has made Rosier a star.
Some fans might bristle at that designation, but Rosier is 10-0 in his career as a starter, including 9-0 this season, leading the seventh-ranked Canes to their first-ever Coastal Division title — which was clinched on Saturday night — and also into position to battle for a national championship.
It’s probably about time he gets more credit.
In fact, one could make a strong case for Rosier as Miami’s MVP.
One could also make a strong case that Miami would not be undefeated had UM’s previous starting quarterback, Brad Kaaya, not left one year early to turn pro.
And while that hypothetical can never be proven one way or another, it is fascinating to ponder considering the fact that there was widespread panic among Miami supporters once Kaaya declared for the NFL Draft.
Kaaya, Miami’s career leader in passing yards, seemingly left the Hurricanes in a ditch, stuck without a clean way out. Miami fans — mostly sight unseen — clamored for true freshman quarterback N’kosi Perry.
Mark Richt took it one step further, telling Rosier he couldn’t play for him — at least not from what the coach had seen of him last spring.
On Saturday night, moments after Miami had dominated third-ranked Notre Dame, Richt insisted that was no motivational ploy.
“I really believed that,” Richt said. “The way he was going, he wasn’t going to play for me. But he did what he had to do, and I’m proud of him.”
What Rosier had to do on Saturday night was a bit of everything, completing 15-of-24 passes for 137 yards. He completed passes to four different wide receivers, one running back and one tight end.
He also ran for 44 yards on nine carries, keeping Notre Dame off balance.
“There were a couple of times where they had an extra guy in the box,” Rosier said of the Irish, “and I wanted to make them miss.”
Rosier has made critics miss on him all season. Many in the media have underestimated his ability for the simple fact that he started the year with zero hype. Richt didn’t even choose him as the starting quarterback until just a few days before the season opener.
If the coach doesn’t have overwhelming confidence in you, the thought process went, how good can you be?
Now we know the answer is: “very good.”
Here’s a quick glimpse of some of Rosier’s highlights this season:
▪ He rallied the Canes from a halftime deficit against Toledo, passing for 333 yards and three touchdowns and running for one score.
▪ He passed for 254 yards and three touchdowns against Florida State, throwing the winning TD pass to Darrell Langham with just six seconds left in the game.
▪ The next week, Rosier led Miami to a last-minute, 25-24 win over Georgia Tech, completing a fourth-and-10 pass to Langham on that final, winning drive.
▪ Next up was Syracuse, fresh off an upset of No. 2 Clemson, and Rosier passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He led another drive in the final three minutes that resulted in the game’s last touchdown in a 27-19 Miami win.
▪ He passed for 356 yards and three touchdowns in a sloppy win over North Carolina, perhaps Miami’s worst performance of the season.
That’s when the doubters grew louder, and the Canes players certainly heard the disenchantment.
“There was so much disrespect in the media,” Rosier said.
However, in the past two weeks, against a pair of teams that were ranked in the top 20 at the time — Virginia Tech and Notre Dame — Miami has dominated, winning by a combined 51 points.
At 9-0, Miami is, essentially, five straight wins away from a national title.
So if the Canes aren’t respected, that’s OK.
And if Rosier isn’t respected, perhaps that’s OK, too.