Shaquille Quarterman sat at a podium deep in the bowels of Doak Campbell Stadium to break down everything from the Miami Hurricanes’ most impressive win at the season. Their 27-10 beatdown of the Florida State Seminoles started with Miami’s defense, which held Cam Akers to only 66 yards and sacked Florida State’s quarterbacks nine times.
It was impossible for the conversation not to drift at some point to Gregory Rousseau, the defensive lineman who is now putting up near inexplicable stat lines on a weekly basis. After four more sacks for Rousseau on Saturday, Quarterman had to try to explain what has changed for the defensive lineman.
“I don’t know,” Quarterman said. “You might have to ask Greg about that one.”
Rousseau, with his permanent smile across his face, just shrugged from across the room.
“I don’t feel like I’m a different player. I feel like I’m doing the same thing,” he said. “Things are going my way, like I have the sacks and stuff, but I never during the season said, ‘Let me work harder,’ or, ‘Let me turn it up.’”
Something clearly has change. Such a massive jolt in production can’t just be chalked up to chance. Last Saturday in Pittsburgh, Rousseau set a new career mark with three sacks in a win against the Pittsburgh Panthers. On Saturday in Tallahassee, Rousseau somehow topped the mark he set a week earlier by sacking Florida State’s quarterbacks four times to go along with eight total tackles and five tackles for loss.
The four sacks are the most by a Hurricane in a single game since at least 2000 — which is as far back as the Sports Reference archive goes. He’s only the second player since 2006 to total seven or more sacks in a two-game span and only the fourth since at least 2000.
He’s now up to 12 sacks on the season, putting him into the top five of Miami’s all-time, single-season sacks list. On Saturday alone, he vaulted up into the top 10, past a list of names including Warren Sapp and Calais Campbell, and into a four-way tie for fourth. He now sits alongside former defensive ends Daniel Stubbs, Kenard Lang and Derrick Ham, and is on pace to finish the regular season with 16 sacks, which would place him in sole possession of second on the Hurricanes’ all-time list. Include a bowl game and Rousseau is on pace for 17.3 sacks this year despite coming off the bench for Miami’s first four games.
Former defensive end Daniel Stubbs holds the single-season record at Miami with his 17 sacks in 1986.
“He delivers. Bro, he delivers every game. That’s what, three games, four games in a row? He’s been balling,” running back DeeJay Dallas said. “That man is an athlete. You put him at safety, he could probably play that, too.”
Dallas’ assessment makes sense because Rousseau was primarily a safety before he arrived in Coral Gables. He was an all-state wide receiver as a junior at Champagnat Catholic, then primarily played receiver and safety as a senior, helping Champagnat win a second straight state title.
Fellow defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera has known Rousseau since he was mostly focused on being a wideout. They both orally committed to the Hurricanes’ Class of 2018 before their senior years of high school and Rousseau didn’t exactly look like a defensive end.
“He was a skinny little receiver-safety in high school,” Silvera said, “but he said he was going to be a D-end, so I believed him.”
One of the comparisons Miami could make for Rousseau in the recruiting process was Campbell, who’s now a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Campbell, 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, never even had a season like the one Rousseau is having. Rousseau, 6-6 and 251 pounds, now has 1 1/2 sacks more than Campbell ever did while in South Florida.
The two occasional message each other on Instagram. Rousseau said he won’t brag to one of his idols about passing him, though.
“It’s a blessing. I never really put a number on it or anything, or thought about it,” Rousseau said. “I just thought about just winning every single practice and every single game that we play, and whatever happens just happens.”
When the game was all but over Saturday, Rousseau tracked down Quarterman on the sideline. He still remembered a play the senior made to drop Akers in the open field.
“Greg comes up to me and says, ‘Dog, that play you had when you tackled Cam in the open field, that was lit,’” Quarterman said. And I said, ‘Boy, you’ve got four sacks. Every one of those is lit.’
“I’m surprised every time.”