Early in the second quarter of the No. 22 Miami Hurricanes’ 77-0 rout of Savannah State on Saturday night, wide receiver Jeff Thomas looked to have made an early highlight. He hauled in a contested Malik Rosier pass down the right sideline over a Savannah State defender and seemingly got a foot inbounds before falling out of bounds.
The referees thought otherwise, ruling it incomplete.
“I thought it was a catch,” UM coach Mark Richt said.
No worries. Thomas replaced one spectacular play with another.
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Now facing third-and-6, Rosier found Thomas in stride on a crossing route almost 30 yards downfield on a play-action pass from the shotgun. The speedy sophomore ran past a pair of Savannah State defenders as he turned up the left sideline and reached the ball just past the pylon as he was being tackled from behind for a 67-yard touchdown.
“Maybe it was poetic justice,” Richt said.
Whatever you call it, the play gave Thomas another opportunity to showcase just how good he can be when he has open field in front of him.
Fans received a glimpse of that during his freshman season, when he caught 17 passes for 374 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But two weeks into 2018, Thomas has put his talents on full display.
Through two games, Thomas has 199 receiving yards on six catches after the long touchdown against Savannah State and a five-catch 132-yard outing in UM’s season-opening loss to LSU that included second-half receptions of 32, 50 and 22 yards. And while it’s a small sample size, Thomas’ 33.2 yards per catch ranks second in the country behind Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin (five catches, 172 yards, 34.4 yards per catch).
In addition to the 67-yard touchdown catch on Saturday, Thomas also fielded two punts in the second half that went for returns of 48 and 42 yards. Both allowed the UM offense to start the ensuing drive in Savannah State territory.
“I’m just trying to help out my team in the best way I can so that we can gets these W’s and not have to face the adversity that we had last week,” Thomas said. “It was a good start for me.”
“He’s a dynamic guy,” Richt said. “Super fast, great leaping ability. He times his jumps well. He can catch with one hand. He can catch with two hands. He really did a good job.”