Barry Jackson

Thoughts, notes on UM’s opening win against Bethune Cookman

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) shouts in the second quarter as the University of Miami hosts Bethune-Cookman at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) shouts in the second quarter as the University of Miami hosts Bethune-Cookman at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Thoughts and notes on UM’s 41-13 season-opening win against Bethune Cookman at Hard Rock Stadium:

• Malik Rosier wasn’t extraordinary in his second career start but he was plenty good enough.

Rosier was off on his accuracy on four early throws, including errant passes to Mike Harley and Mark Walton near the goal line and an overthrow to Darrell Langham.

But then he suddenly became very sharp, making several terrific ones, including a perfect 46-yard deep ball to Langham and a 37-yarder to Lawrence Cager.

We told you Thursday that UM expected Rosier to be streaky at times, and that was the case Saturday.

Rosier’s final numbers were good: 17 for 28 for 217 yards, three touchdowns and most importantly no interceptions.

To get to this point, Rosier had to convince coaches that he wouldn’t make the big mistakes. UM coaches were initially skeptical, but Rosier has convinced them that he can take care of the ball.

“No picks, no fumbles; he has respect for the football,” Mark Richt said of Rosier. Other than a fumbled snap, “I thought he played very well. He didn’t throw the ball up for grabs. We’re not interested in that happening.”

UM coach Mark Richt speaks about his QB decision

• UM is going to make considerable use of short throws and bubble screens, with the hope that the backs, tight ends and receivers can turn them into long gains.

That approach generally worked Saturday. Mike Harley converted an eight-yard throw into an 18-yard gain. Braxton Berrios converted a short throw into a first down. So did Chris Hendon.

Lawrence Cager, Travis Homer and Mark Walton also had decent gains on short throws.

Only one of those short passes failed: a throw to Jeff Thomas behind the line of scrimmage, which lost two yards when Thomas was tackled by the first defender to get to him.

• UM coaches kept telling us that Langham was the team’s most improved receiver, and Saturday provided evidence. Besides hauling in the aforementioned 46-yard deep ball, he used his 6-4 height to ward off a defender and catch a touchdown in the red zone.

Kudos for Langham for doing enough to warrant playing time despite ample competition at receiver. He closed with three catches for 65 yards.

“He has stepped up and proved why he can rotate with the ones,” Cager said of Langham.

• And credit Cager for working very hard to come back from a serious knee injury.

UM people say he handled the rehab diligently and was committed to improving his game. He caught three passes for 47 yards, including a touchdown.

“I knew I had it; when Malik threw a slant I knew it was touchdown time,” Cager said on WQAM. “It felt great to come out of the smoke after almost two years. It was surreal. I appreciate every moment today.”

• UM vowed that Berrios will be more involved offensively, and he had three catches for 35 yards on Saturday after catching just 12 passes for 178 yards last season.

Berrios’ reliable hands and ability to pinball off defenders are assets that Miami realizes it must take advantage of.

• Mark Walton ran very hard and well, finishing with 16 carries for 148 yards (a 9.3 average) and two touchdowns.

That means Walton has rushed for 125, 111, 120, 60 and 148 yards in his last five regular season games.

• This was more encouraging: Homer, largely unproven, rushing for 108 yards on 11 carries, a 9.8 average. We knew Homer has speed. What we witnessed Saturday was an ability to hit the hole hard and break tackles. Homer also caught two passes for 25 yards.

• Michael Irvin Jr., who frustrated UM coaches with conditioning issues during parts of August, broke a tackle for a nine-yard gain on his only catch. Encouraging.

• The three ballyhooed freshman receivers (not counting Evidence Njoku) each had one catch - Thomas for minus two yards, Harley for 18 and DeeJay Dallas for 16.

• The defense, expected to be dominant, allowed three drives of 50 yards or more, resulting in two field goals and a touchdown, with the TD drive going 75 yards on plays and eating up 6:14.

Joe Jackson and Chad Thomas both were pushed off the ball or took bad angles on the first of those drives and Pat Bethel missed a tackle. Bethune ran 30 times for 121 yards, a 4.0 average. That’s not good enough for Miami’s defense, considering the competition.

Bethune was 8 for 17 on third down and 2 for 2 on fourth down. This defense is capable of more.

• Among the positives on defense: Malek Young’s acrobatic interception in the end zone. Young has made a pick in every scrimmage and (now one game) since April; no wonder cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph became emotional when Young signed with UM. He has special ball skills.

“Every time we scrimmage, he’s going to get a pick,” Richt said. “He’s got great hands.”

Demetrius Jackson had a sack. Jackson played very well as a freshman early last season before being injured.

And Dee Delaney (six solo tackles) showed his physicality. He has a chance to be UM’s best No. 1 cornerback in several years.

• A few other defensive positives: Robert Knowles, the No. 3 safety, made a terrific run stop on the goal line. Shaq Quarterman had eight tackles. And Amari Carter dislodged a potential catch with a crushing hit.

• Richt, on WQAM: “Not super thrilled about the penalties we made [7 for 68]. Hate when a kicker makes a tackle on the kickoff return team. We got to get that straightened out. For the most part, we did good. Had a freshman punter [Zach Feagles] boom a couple. I was hoping we wouldn’t punt today. When we did, he was superb....

“We’re blocking much better up front... I’m happy for [Langham]. He’s been practicing that way, so I’m not shocked.”

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