University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes QB Brad Kaaya to face huge test at Nebraska

Gaining confidence: In three games, Brad Kaaya has completed 60 percent of his passes for almost 700 yards, and ranks 13th with a 15.4-yards-per-completion average.
Gaining confidence: In three games, Brad Kaaya has completed 60 percent of his passes for almost 700 yards, and ranks 13th with a 15.4-yards-per-completion average. AP

Quarterback Kevin Olsen is gone.

Quarterback Ryan Williams is nearing his comeback.

And quarterback Brad Kaaya will make the biggest start of his young career for the Hurricanes in front of 90,000-plus fans Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, against the No. 24 Cornhuskers.

Miami announced Tuesday just minutes before UM coach Al Golden’s weekly news conference that redshirt freshman Olsen is no longer a student at UM after his arrest Monday for possessing a stolen/fictitious driver’s license and driving under the influence.

“We wish him the very best in the future,’’ the university released as the second part of a two-sentence statement announcing Olsen’s departure.

Golden, who said Monday night that he had spoken at length with Olsen and his father earlier Monday, said the news “was tough for all of us,’’ stressing more than once that Olsen would eventually emerge victorious.

“Right now this is about Kevin and his family and we need to respect that,’’ the coach said. “He needs this time to look at himself and move forward, and I have no doubt that with the support of his family, his brothers, his mom and dad, and obviously those of us that know him really well, there’s no question that he’s going to have the right ending. … He’s going to win in the end.’’

Meanwhile, during the same news conference, Golden reaffirmed his faith in Kaaya, as the true freshman prepares to make his second road trip after struggling — along with his teammates — in his career-debut loss at Louisville. Two games later against Arkansas State, Kaaya had a record-breaking performance by throwing for 342 yards and four touchdowns in the best passing game in history by a UM true freshman.

Kaaya is now 13th nationally in passing yards per completion with a 15.4-yard average. He ranks 20th with seven passing touchdowns, and his 233.0 passer rating, according to UM, was the best by any Miami quarterback in at least 20 years.

In three games, he has completed 45 of 75 passes (60 percent) for 698 yards and the seven TDs, with five interceptions. Of the five picks, one was the final play of the game at Louisville and the other was his final pass against Arkansas State.

“We’re not really concerned about that,’’ Golden said, noting that of the two interceptions on final Kaaya passes, one was during a two-minute drill at Louisville and the other was when a receiver ran the wrong route. “We know five interceptions is not ideal, but as coaches we look at how it transpired. There’s nothing about him right now that’s gun-shy, nor should there be. He’s a guy who wants to execute and wants to let it rip.”

The low-keyed, even-keeled Kaaya said of his true freshman record: “It’s a good stat to have.’’

Kaaya became intrigued and entranced with the Hurricanes as a 6-year-old Southern Californian watching on television as Miami defeated Nebraska 37-14 on Jan. 3, 2002, in the Rose Bowl for the Hurricanes’ fifth national title. He said he recalls the Miami and Nebraska fans “flooded LA’’ and added before the season began that ever since that game he has loved the Canes (2-1).

“It was pretty cool to see that when I was little,’’ Kaaya said. “That was the first Miami game I ever watched, and to be playing Nebraska (3-0) now as a Miami quarterback, it’s a pretty cool feeling.’’

He said the opener at Louisville helped him understand the significance of controlling the offense in a loud, hostile environment.

“A lot more silent count,’’ he said of what he expects in Lincoln. “I can’t really say my cadence in shotgun. It’s all going to be hand motions or foot motions. I’ve already got a taste for it. I know what to expect now.’’

In addition to the confidence Kaaya gained from two consecutive victories, he said the game has slowed down “a whole lot just going from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3.’’

Kaaya will be challenged by a Nebraska defense that ranks 19th in passing yards allowed (165.3 per game) and 18th in total defense (294.7).

“It’s a lot easier to analyze coverages and diagnose defensive fronts,’’ he said. “For us, the offense as a whole is clicking a lot more, a whole lot of synergy is going on — guys making plays, guys laying out. I feel like there’s a lot more trust between all of us.”

With Olsen gone, UM is still at five scholarship quarterbacks, because Golden moved fullback Gray Crow back to quarterback Tuesday evening, two sources said. The other quarterbacks are graduate transfer backup Jake Heaps, true freshman Malik Rosier and fifth-year senior Williams. The plan is still for Rosier to redshirt, while Williams could make his comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament at Nebraska.

“Ryan looked good [Tuesday],’’ Golden said.

Kaaya agreed that Williams is “moving well’’ and has helped in the freshman’s growth since he arrived in late May.

“He’s looking like he’s getting fluid again,’’ Kaaya said. “And along the way, he has helped me out on the sidelines, helped me out with certain reads, certain plays. I’ll come off and he’ll say, ‘Oh, that wasn’t Cover 2, the safety rolled down. You should have checked to this play.’ “He’s almost like another coach on the sideline, a big brother I guess you can say.’’

Phillip Dorsett, whose four-catch, 201-yard performance Saturday marked just the third time in history a UM receiver surpassed 200 yards, said he expects Kaaya to only get better.

“He’s going to be a good one down the road,’’ Dorsett said. “Not that he isn’t now.’’

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