With 23 days left to kick off the season, the Miami Hurricanes had their first preseason scrimmage Thursday night on campus at Cobb Stadium.
The burning question: Who won?
“The defense won,” quarterback Brad Kaaya said, before immediately adding, “The offense won.
“It went back and forth. Both sides of the ball looked pretty good.”
Wearing their new Adidas practice uniforms — black for the defense and orange for the offense — the Canes, no matter how young, continued to make their push for substantial roles when Bethune-Cookman comes to Sun Life Stadium on Sept. 5.
Miami closed the scrimmage to the public and media, but coach Al Golden, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio and several players were made available afterward.
Golden said no one was injured, and praised the players for being prepared enough to allow for a scrimmage this early in camp. Because of the Canes’ added depth as scholarship numbers improve, Golden said it was the first time he could play three units.
The coach said Kaaya was challenged by a defense that “came after him” and “gave him a lot of looks, a lot of different fronts, multiple coverages.
“I’m excited about Brad. We’ve got a long way to go though. We’ve got to clean up a lot of the bad balls,” he said.
There were at least two interceptions – one picked off by safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who has returned after missing 2014 because of back surgery; and the other by walk-on defensive back Josh Johnson.
Freshman nose tackle Kendrick Norton, the most talked about newcomer of early camp, forced a fumble Thursday.
“It was a really smart play,” said Golden. “He just tracked the ball from behind and ripped it out. Obviously he’s well coached to do that as young as he is, and the wherewithal to do that in your first scrimmage is a good sign.”
D’Onofrio said that Norton, listed as 6-3 and 310 pounds, has lost 15 pounds since he arrived at UM.
“He’s done an excellent job,” D’Onofrio said. “I’m very excited about Kendrick Norton.”
Offensively, Kaaya, who threw three touchdowns, said he hit receiver Rashawn Scott with a 60-yard post-route completion on fourth-and-1, tight end David Njoku with a fade pass, Braxton Berrios with multiple completions over the middle and Herb Waters with a touchdown.
Backup quarterback Malik Rosier and freshman Evan Shirreffs also threw touchdowns.
The defensive pressure was substantial according to multiple players, throwing off the offense at first.
“I don’t feel like we were in game mode in the beginning, but as the scrimmage went on we picked it up,” tight end Stan Dobard said. “We had a couple of holding calls but that’s something we can fix.”
Did Golden feel separation anywhere?
“No, it’s too early, because we mixed it up so much. We wanted to get a lot of looks.”
▪ All four runners — Gus Edwards, Joe Yearby, Trayone Gray and Mark Walton — rotated carries with the first and second teams. Golden said they each had good runs.