The University of Miami had its final fall scrimmage on Wednesday at Miami Southridge High School, a closed practice game of sorts that spotted “LSU’’— the team made up of pretty much everyone but the first-team UM players — a 17-0 lead going into the (mythical) third quarter, said Canes coach Mark Richt, who wanted the starters to have a sense of urgency.
Before you get too excited, be aware that this scrimmage, which used to have “pure tackling’’ in the past, Richt said, was done Wednesday with the players in “just shorts and helmets.’’
When LSU was down 21-17, Richt created a make-believe fumble-turned-touchdown which made it 24-21 LSU.
LSU scored again after quarterback Malik Rosier threw a pick, which led to walk-on kicker Turner Davidson hitting a “long field goal” to make it 27-21.
With less than two minutes left, the offense got the ball on its own 25-yard line “and had to go 75 yards with no timeouts,’’ Richt said.
And they did.
Ahmmon Richards caught a touchdown from Rosier to make it 27-27, and scholarship kicker Bubba Baxa put the Canes ahead 28-27 with the extra point.
Note that anyone who thinks an extra point isn’t a big deal, just ask former kicker Mike Badgley, who missed the extra point that would have tied the score late in the game two years ago.
“That was a big deal,’’ the coach said of the final drive Wednesday. “Kind of how it went last year, wait till the last drive. That’s just football.”
The UM defense ended the scrimmage by getting “one more stop’’ after UM went on top.
More quick hits from Richt on the scrimmage, and some impressions:
▪ Starting safety Sheldrick Redwine had a pick.
This is one of the most solidified starting positions on the team, with Redwine and Jaquan Johnson leading the way.
▪ Walk-on freshman kicker Camden Price “is kicking the ball well,’’ though scholarship freshman kicker “Bubba [Baxa] would be the guy right now. I’ve seen Price kick it well, [so] I feel good about that.’’
▪ Turner Davidson kicked a field goal to make it 27-21 LSU.
Kicking is certainly a concern this season, as Baxa has not yet kicked in college. Baxa is said to have a very strong leg, but his consistency— and nerves — will be tested in a scary LSU opener on the road Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
▪ Richt gave backup quarterback Cade Weldon “a few” opportunities to play with the first team on Wednesday. “He actually did a good job,’’ Richt said, adding that “it was [usual No. 2] N’Kosi [Perry’s] turn to be with the twos and threes.’’
The Hurricanes better hope that Malik takes care of the ball this season, as coaches, including Thomas Brown on Tuesday, have said more than once that the backups are struggling with consistency.
▪ Starting cornerback Trajan Bandy, who sat out the past two practices, practiced Wednesday, according to Richt.
▪ Starting defensive end Joe Jackson (left elbow brace) did not. “But he’s going to be fine,’’ Richt said.
Regarding the defensive tackles, however, Richt said the Canes “will definitely have to play by committee,’’ with freshmen Jade Silvera and Jordan Miller still learning the playbook and getting accustomed to college ball. Starter Gerald Willis, a fifth-year senior, has been dominating, according to coaches, with fellow junior starter Pat Bethel, Richt said Wednesday, “solid.’’
Bethel’s play will be vital for the D-line to continue its success from last season.
▪ “Linebacker De’Andre Wilder hasn’t been working,’’ Richt said. “We’re evaluating him.”
Richt said Rosier “was mostly accurate. He’s doing well. We’re protecting real well. Our No. 1 line is doing a real good job.
“Even [with] our runs, they’re really doing a great job.”
▪ Freshman DJ Scaife “got a few reps,’’ as well as Venzell Boulware, with the first-team O-line.
One of the two will be the sixth offensive lineman in games, Richt said.
▪ Freshmen tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory continue to do well, but “half the battle for them is knowing what to do.... First you need to know where to line up, how to line up, then all of the assignments, then the technical part of blocking as a receiver downfield,’’ the coach said of Jordan, adding that Mallory “is kind of the same way.
“We were teaching [Mallory] to play kind of where [former UM star tight end David] Njoku was, more of a flexed-out guy. But he also has to learn all the things that Brevin knows, because with [the injured] Michael [Irvin II] out, if Brevin got hurt, we’d probably have to make Mallory that guy.’’
The key here is to keep those guys healthy, because like so many other UM tight ends the past several years, these freshmen could gradually go from really good to great.
“I like what happened in camp,’’ Richt said. “I like how hard everyone is practicing. I like how we’re coaching... [But] until you play somebody, you really don’t know.
“There are no warmup games here. We will be physically and mentally tested’’ in the opener. “It will be a gut check at the very least. When you play LSU Game 1... in this setting we’re going to be in, you can’t help but think, ‘I better get ready.’
“That’s what everyone is thinking — we better get ready.’’
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