If he hasn’t made it already, Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt has a defining decision to ponder in the next couple of days.
Start fifth-year senior Malik Rosier at quarterback for Thursday night’s nationally televised home game against North Carolina?
Or give redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry his first career start?
Judging by Perry’s play and how Richt gushed about it after UM’s 31-17 victory over FIU on Saturday, the answer might be easier than he had imagined.
“He threw some really fine passes,’’ Richt said. “He was on the money a good deal of the day. Most of his decisions were good. He did scramble at times and got us some first downs with his legs. I think he was comfortable. Was he perfect? No. But he did a lot of good things.
“He threw some balls that were what I would call bull’s-eyes that might have been a little bit of a tight window here and there. Not to say a bad window, but just the types of throws that have to be made. Like I know the slant to [Lawrence] Cager for a touchdown —that was a BB. It was right on his heart. .... And then he hit him on the dead run where he could score.
“That’s what we’re talking about— the difference between a completion and a bull’s-eye. A bull’s-eye gets the yards after the catch.”
Perry, who replaced starter Rosier after two series, completed his first 10 passes: 6 yards, then 10 yards, then 34 yards to tight end Brevin Jordan; 8 yards to slot receiver Mike Harley; a 26-yard “BB’’ to Cager for a touchdown; 3 yards, then 8 yards, then 3 yards to Harley; 4 yards to tailback DeeJay Dallas; and 14 yards to Harley before an incompletion midway through the second quarter.
After one quarter: 4 of 4 for 48 yards. At halftime: 12 of 13 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. After three quarters: 16 of 21 for 198 yards and three touchdowns, with an underthrown deep ball that was intercepted but kept FIU at its own 25-yard line to begin the ultimately unsuccessful drive.
“Not to be funny, but that might have been the best punt of the day,’’ Richt said of the interception, alluding to his own punter Zach Feagles’ continued problems at the position. “That was probably the best change of field position we had all day when it comes to that. We’re still working our way through a few things.’’
Richt might have made the quarterback answer clearer for No. 16 UM (3-1) by leaving Perry in most of the game Saturday, then reinserting him— not Rosier — for the last minute and a half after third-string quarterback Cade Weldon fumbled away the ball during his only drive, leading to a Panthers touchdown.
Then again, you could say it was Perry who likely made the decision easier.
“I’m definitely proud of myself,’’ said the 6-4, 195-pound Perry, a former Ocala Vanguard four-star prospect who threw for 1,778 yards, 24 touchdowns and four interceptions his senior season, with another 97 yards and four touchdowns rushing. “I’m proud of my team. But who knows what Coach Richt has in mind? We’re just going to practice like we’ve been doing before. We don’t know who the starter is.”
Perry said Richt told him and Rosier last week that he “might get in’’ for the third series.
But during the week’s practices, Perry didn’t quite believe it.
“I figured it was going to be the same,’’ Perry said. “I’ve been getting first-team reps and I felt like nothing would change.”
What did it feel like to finally get a real shot, as opposed to some time here and there in the two previous games?
“It felt good,’’ he said. “That’s pretty much it. It felt like what I’m used to doing. I was very comfortable.”
Perry said Richt never told the quarterbacks Saturday that Perry would play most of the game.
“He was just like, ‘Kosi, you’re still in.’ After every drive, like, ‘You’re still in.’
“Well, probably like the first two drives he said it. But after a while he just let it go.’’
Perry said waiting this long to get his opportunity “took some getting used to, but I understood why he had me waiting this long, just so I could really be ready for the moment.’’
The team seemed completely energized with Perry. The fans, who have maligned Rosier on social media since last season, are beyond thrilled. Now it’s just up to Richt to make his decision.
UNC (1-2) will be Miami’s first Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
“We’ll decide this week,’’ Richt said when asked whether Perry had won the job with his performance Saturday. “Like I said, when the time comes, whoever I think is the best guy to give us a chance to win will be the guy.’’
▪ The Canes moved up five spots in the AP Top 25 Poll on Sunday to their new No. 16 ranking. They moved up four spots to No. 16 in the Amway Coaches Poll.