Barry Jackson

Super sophomores shine and notes, thoughts from UM’s win at Duke

Notes and thoughts on UM’s 31-6 win at Duke on Friday night, a victory that pushes Miami to 3-0 heading into the Oct. 7 game at FSU:

• Canes fans have every reason to be excited about this freshman class. But Friday was all about UM’s class of 2016, a group that has produced several super sophomores.

On Friday, we were reminded of the greatness of sophomore receiver Ahmmon Richards, who was spectacular after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury. He caught three passes for 106 yards – two splendid ones down the sideline and a 49-yard touchdown in which he caught a two-yard pass from Malik Rosier and sprinted 47 yards to put UM ahead 24-6.

Richards was called for a questionable offensive pass interference penalty, negating another TD.

Meanwhile, we saw the immense competitiveness and ball-hawking skills of sophomore cornerback Malek Young, who got his first start (ahead of Michael Jackson) and made a bunch of terrific plays in coverage.

Duke tried to pick on the 5-9 Young, who entered with the ACC’s best passer rating against, according to Pro Football Focus. Young was beaten on a 23-yard pass but broke up several others with tight coverage.

We saw the diverse skills of sophomore linebacker Mike Pinckney, who had huge stop for an 11 yard loss on a 4th and 1 deep in UM territory on Duke’s first possession, and then later, produced an interception and a couple of nifty plays against the run. Pinckney, who had a career-high 10 tackles, was the best of UM’s trio of sophomore linebackers on this night, with Shaq Quarterman also making his presence felt.

And we saw a sack from sophomore defensive end Joe Jackson on a key third down in the second half.

And sophomore defensive tackle Pat Bethel, who has thrived since moving from defensive end in the spring, stripped Duke’s quarterback on a fourth quarter sack. UM recovered the fumble.

Not all of the 2016 additions have worked out; Jack Allison and Jeff James are among those who have already bolted.

But we saw Friday why the core of this 2016 class is going to contribute to a lot of winning.

• Rosier lived up to his reputation of being streaky. He opened 9 for 9, and 10 for his first 13, before completing just 4 of his next 11, including an ugly pick on a overthrow to Richards.

But Rosier snapped that 4 for 11 streak with the long catch and run to Richards to basically seal the game.

And he was spectacular early, with pinpoint touch on throws to Richards and Braxton Berrios.

Rosier closed 15 for 26 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception.

• It helps to have a mobile quarterback with the way college football is played today, and Rosier certainly is that.

Playing against a defense that entered second in run defense (allowing just 65 yards per game), Rosier used the read option effectively and ran for 45 yards on 15 carries.

• Mark Walton struggled on the ground against Duke’s stout run defense, carrying 17 times for 51 yards (a 3.0 average).

But UM smartly maximized Walton’s receiving skills; he caught four passes for 79 yards. Walton sat out part of the fourth quarter after being thrown to the ground on a particularly violent tackle late in the game.

Walton told WQAM’s Don Bailey Jr. that he “retweaked my ankle” but “I’m doing pretty well.”

• And credit UM for also utilizing Berrios more in the passing game, something that should have happened last year.

Berrios had two catches for 56 yards, including a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for 27 yards.

Berrios has 196 receiving yards (on 10 catches) after producing just 178 yards last season (on 12 catches).

He became the first UM player to catch touchdowns in the first three games of a season since Andre Johnson in 2002.

• Travis Homer displayed terrific acceleration and instincts on the 40-yard TD run that made it 31-6. Homer has proven to be a very worthy No. 2 running back.

• This was a very, very good defensive effort, holding Duke to six points – impressive considering the Blue Devils scored 41 points against Northwestern, 34 against Baylor and 27 against North Carolina.

Duke was held to its lowest point total since 2009 and was held without a touchdown for only the second time in the past five years.

The Hurricanes had five sacks, and Manny Diaz did a good job with blitzes, including some disguised ones, on third downs.

• And this was impressive: After giving up first downs on 52 percent of third downs entering the game, Miami held Duke to four conversions on 17 Duke third down plays.

UM had too many lapses against the run, allowing 183 yards on 4.0 per carry.

• UM offensive line coach Stacy Searels was upset with guard Navaughn Donaldson and benched him for a couple series, according to WQAM. Donaldson struggled with Duke’s stunting, and fellow freshman Corey Gaynor replaced him.

• A few other offensive notes: Before the game, Dayall Harris was suspended for three games for violating team rules… UM’s freshmen receivers weren’t a big factor. Rosier couldn’t connect with Mike Harley on one throw and Harley gained only two yards on his only catch. Jeff Thomas had one catch for no yards and DeeJay Dallas didn’t have a catch… Lawrence Cager caught three passes for 27 yards... Dionte Mullins got some playing time but didn’t make a catch… Tight ends weren’t involved much in the passing game. Chris Herndon had one catch for four yards.... UM couldn’t score on three plays after moving the ball to the Duke 1. Miami’s goal-line offense needs work.

• A few other defensive notes: Demetrius Jackson, who missed the Toledo game, was an asset but dropped an interception… Jhavonte Dean, who had been running fifth among UM’s cornerbacks, got some fourth quarter work and nearly had an interception… Starting cornerback Dee Delaney, who struggled the first two weeks, made a very nice play in coverage in the fourth quarter and held up well on the night…

Sheldrick Redwine, in his third start at safety since his offseason switch from cornerback, was helpful against the run but victimized too often in coverage…. Defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr., who had a sack, clearly has improved his pass-rushing skills.

• And there was this tweet from ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit in the second half:

Ol Mark Richt has @CanesFootball lookin GOOOOOD!!!! That defense is scary fast-@Coach_MannyDiaz I see ya big boy!!! And QB is steady hand.

Please click here for my three other posts on Friday: some Dolphins nuggets, a Panthers story and my scoop on more Derek Jeter firings. And check back this weekend for Heat columns.

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