After being embarrassed last week by LSU on national TV, No. 22 University of Miami returned home Saturday night seeking redemption — and major improvement, even against lower-level “cupcake’’ Savannah State.
The Hurricanes not only made that improvement during a 77-0 romp in front of 60,307 joyous fans at Hard Rock Stadium, they got a glimpse of their future at quarterback — and several glimpses of the new-look turnover chain.
It was UM’s largest margin of victory in program history, and tied the record for most points scored.
“Winning is a lot more fun than losing,’’ coach Mark Richt said. “We had lost four in a row [dating to last season], as everybody knows, and sometimes people want to help remind us of that. I don’t blame them, but it was good to get a victory, good to play a lot of people. Our fans got a chance to see some young guys.’’
UM’s last shutout came in 2015 against Bethune-Cookman, and in this one, nearly the entire team, including walk-ons, played.
After fifth-year senior Malik Rosier led the Canes to a 21-0 lead, coach Mark Richt rolled out all three of his scholarship backups: redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, followed by redshirt freshman Cade Weldon and true freshman Jarren Williams.
“They all had their moments,’’ Richt said. “It’s good to let those guys play. You always want your second team and even third team to be game ready... Just to play for the first time, it’s a big deal. Cade and Kosi, especially, having to wait a year before they got to get on the field, that’s a long wait, man.
“I said this recently about N’Kosi and Cade: They’re to the point where they’ve got to play in a game to really get better. They know what to do in practice. They can function. We trust that they’re fine, and now they just need to get game experience. Hopefully we’ll be able to work that out.’’
Accompanied by cheers, Perry entered with 11:09 left in the first half and proceeded to lead a six-play, 20-yard touchdown drive that culminated in an 8-yard pass to Lawrence Cager to make it 28-0.
Perry continued playing through the first half and returned to start the second, leading the Canes to their next touchdown, a 3-yard pass to Brevin Jordan for a 35-0 lead with 11:34 left in the third quarter.
Perry led the Canes on six series, three ending in touchdowns. The third score was a 7-yard pass to Jordan.
His numbers: 9 of 14 for 93 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Weldon entered the game with 1:04 left in the third quarter and led two touchdown drives, the first ending with a 16-yard rush by the quarterback and the next with an 8-yard rush by true freshman Lorenzo Lingard for his first college score.
Weldon’s numbers: 1 for 2 for 14 yards.
Williams entered with 10:43 left in the game and led three drives, two of which ended with touchdowns — a 1-yard rush by the quarterback and a 64-yard rush by Lingard to close out the scoring.
Defensively, 11 Hurricanes combined for 14 tackles for loss, and UM forced four turnovers: interceptions by Sheldrick Redwine and Jhavonte Dean and fumble recoveries by Trajan Bandy and Waynmon Steed.
“It felt great, especially to have it here at Hard Rock in front of our fans,’’ said linebacker Shaq Quarterman, who had five tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack on the first play of the game. Because last week was grueling for everybody. We know that we’re not the only ones that felt it, and I hope the fans know they weren’t the only ones that felt it. Having a big win here, it really means a lot for us.”
On Special teams, Jaquan Johnson blocked a field goal, ending a streak of 57 consecutive converted kicks by Miami opponents.
In the fourth quarter, true freshman Nesta Silvera blocked a punt that lineman Scott Patchan recovered and returned for a touchdown to make it 63-0. Though Patchan’s play wasn’t technically a turnover, he still received the turnover chain, this year marked by a bejeweled Sebastian the Ibis instead of The U.
For Rosier, the target of fans’ wrath all week, the game didn’t start as happily. The boos began with about 10 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter, when on third-and-5 from UM’s own 25, Rosier threw his second incomplete pass of the drive (and game).
At least Zach Feagles, who shanked his first three punts against LSU, punted a 55-yarder to pin Savannah State at its 20.
That was about it for Rosier’s early struggles. After Savannah State was forced to punt, Rosier — despite more boos— responded with eight completions in his next nine passes and led UM to three touchdowns, two through the air and the other a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
“Did it bother me? Not really,’’ Rosier said of the boos. “It kind of made me laugh. There’s nothing I can do about it. Coach Richt always says, ‘They don’t boo nobodies.’ But whether they boo me or cheer for me, I’m going to be out there next Saturday. So whether they watch or not, I don’t think it’s going to change our offense.
“If they’re disappointed, then it’s my job to keep winning. We’ve got a long season. We’ve got some really good teams coming up. If I start winning, I doubt they keep booing me.’’
Rosier’s final pass before being replaced by Perry was a 67-yard line-drive strike that sophomore slot receiver Jeff Thomas caught in stride en route to the end zone for the 21-0 Canes lead.
At the end of the half, Rosier had completed eight of 12 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
The Canes next travel to Toledo, Ohio, to face the Toledo Rockets at noon Saturday. The Rockets, in the West division of the Mid-American Conference, are 1-0 after dominating VMI 66-3 in their Sept. 1 opener. This weekend is open for them, as they rest up and get an extra week to prepare for the Hurricanes.
UM defeated Toledo 52-30 on Sept. 23 of last season.