University of Miami

Why did UM quarterback guru Mark Richt call for runs the last 24 plays vs Irish?

Miami Hurricanes running back Travis Homer runs against Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Canes take on LSU in the season opener at AT&T stadium on Sept. 2, 2018.
Miami Hurricanes running back Travis Homer runs against Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Canes take on LSU in the season opener at AT&T stadium on Sept. 2, 2018. adiaz@miamiherald.com

University of Miami coach Mark Richt, a quarterbacks guru who calls the plays, never shies away from tossing the ball.

But against Notre Dame, Richt revealed that he called 24 run plays in a row “to knock out the game and eat up the clock.’’

UM’s offensive line, which had one player, freshman guard Navaughn Donaldson, earned Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week on Monday (and safety Jaquan Johnson and linebacker Zach McCloud earned respective honors for their position groups), were among the stars of the day last Saturday — not the Irish’s offensive line (which the U’s D-line dominated), touted as the best in the nation.

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt talks to the media after defeating Notre Dame, 41-8, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium.

Here’s what Richt had to say about his run-calling, and some of the other things he said Monday during his weekly stint on 560 WQAM:

▪ “The offensive line I don’t think showed how well they played until the second half or even as the game went on. Early on we were trying to throw the ball around a little bit and maybe try to fatigue their D-line before we tried to run it. But second half you’re up by 27 points and it’s time to use up clocks and time to see if we could run the football. Gosh we had a 90-yard drive built in the second half primarily running the football and even at the very end, being able to get first downs, get another touchdown at the end, was good. The last 24 calls of the game were all runs. There were a couple of bubble screens that got thrown from a run-pass option. But we called 24 run plays in a row to knock out the game and eat up the clock. When you have a lead like that there’s no point in trying to be heroic and sling the ball around the yard.”

▪ On the turnover chain , four takeaways and five sacks:

“Amazing. Well, I’ve never seen guys so excited to sprint off to the sideline to go get the chain and get their reward. And just to see the fans respond to it has been amazing. I think it’s been nothing but good clean fun. Some people get offended by it. I don’t know how they could. It’s just a bunch of guys enjoying life and enjoying a great play. And that’s what you should do.”

▪ They brought up the “Catholic vs Convicts,” trying to bring up the history of this rivalry. Does that stuff bother you at all, or any of the players?

“I guess some of the players will get all caught up in it. We didn’t talk about it. I never once mentioned it at all. All I mentioned was lining up and getting after people. A couple of the guys made some references to it and I know some of the fan base did. But I think that’s dying away. As far as some type of motivating factor. People want to live in the past a lot but we’re just trying to live in the future and do the best we can do.”

▪ Any one play where you went, ‘Wow!?’

“I think the biggest play of the game was the pick-six [by freshman Trajan Bandy]. We got a big lead already, a first-half lead. You know they’re trying to make something happen, they’re trying to move the ball down the field and get some points on the board right at the end [of the half]. If they get seven at the end, now it’s 20-7 and it’s a whole different ballgame — two scores. But then it goes ‘bang!’ Now it’s 27-0 going into halftime, and a tremendous momentum play for us.

“There are a lot of things that happened early on that were great, play by play by play, but the one defining moment of the game that made it really tough for them to come back and made it easy for us to call run after run after run and forget the high-tempo speed in between plays and eat up as much clock in between the plays, and that was the pick-six.”

▪ It seems as if all the young guys are making impact plays.

“We saw that too. We were watching the defensive coaching tape and sure enough there are three true freshmen in one of the biggest moments of the game celebrating a great thing. I don’t know, man. You know what? That’s a tribute to them as players and their ability to be coachable and teachable but it’s also a philosophy we have to have in South Florida, and that is play a bunch of guys, because you just can’t play your first team in that type of climate. You’ve got to let people play. The more you let them play, the more morale you have, the more depth you create.”

▪ On one penalty against Notre Dame for 5 yards:

“That was amazing and that was actually a delay of game when we were in the wildcat thing. We just didn’t give him [information] as quickly as we should have. If we had a quarterback back there I think we would have gotten the ball snapped to DeeJay [Dallas] … but we’ve got to help him out a little bit and coach him up a little better. Yeah, it was good, no doubt about it. I can’t remember a game I’ve ever coached that we only had one penalty for five yards.”

▪ Notre Dame has all those first-round picks on the offensive line. Everyone said they’re going to run for 300 yards and your guys are going to get knocked off the ball. Did you do anything differently to neutralize strength?

“Not really. We were able to play mostly a cover-two type defense — maybe not a true cover-two, but a two-safety defense most of the game. That’s when Miami’s defenses have been the greatest, when the front seven can control the running game and put pressure on a quarterback without having to blitz. We were hoping we could do that and we were able to do that because we really weren’t getting moved up front. There was a lot of times where it was just a scrum in there and there was no place to go.”

▪ Last two weeks you’ve been underdogs at home and your guys play with a major chip. Now they know the Atlantic Coast Conference is wrapped up and they’re looking ahead to the Clemson game [for the ACC championship]. How hard is your job this week to make sure your guys are ready for Virginia at home?

“It’s a home. We’re excited about being home again. Our fans have been so great. It is going to be Senior Day, too, and I hope we get a chance to really send these guys off in the best way possible. As a coach you turn on the tape and you’re like, ‘Oh, geez. Here we go again. We’ve got to figure out how to move the ball, how to get a first down, how to score.’ Same things defensively. Special teams. There’s such a grind of a new scheme. ‘How are we going to play this thing? What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses?’

“You just can’t rest. And I think our players, I hope they understand, they’re kind of in a space they haven’t been before. I think they understand how important every single game is and how important every day of practice is and every rep of practice is. We’ll just be banging away at the process of doing things right.”

▪ Do you ever get a normal night of sleep?

“Nah, I don’t sleep. I don’t sleep after a game. I got home about 1 o’clock just wired from adrenalin and all the good stuff that comes with those kind of games. Then I watched TV copy of it all night. Then you try to go to bed, you try to sleep, and you can forget about that. You’re back up around 5. I might have gotten an hour maybe. Last night was my night to try to get knocked out for six, seven hours, so I hope I think I did a pretty good job of that.”

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