Barry Jackson

Thoughts, notes from UM’s scintillating win against Georgia Tech

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) passes in the first half as the University of Miami hosts Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) passes in the first half as the University of Miami hosts Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Thoughts and notes from UM’s dramatic 25-24 comeback victory against Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium, pushing the Canes to 5-0:

• Yes, Malik Rosier can make some errant throws that can exasperate any Canes fan.

But say this about the young man: He’s a winner.

Mark Richt, who had a shaky game up to that point, gave Rosier a lot of help by brilliantly calling seven screens on UM’s game-winning drive - four to Braxton Berrios and three to Chris Herndon.

And Darrell Langham gave Rosier some help by somehow holding onto a ball that was briefly dislodged from his grasp on a fourth and 10 to keep alive that final drive.

But Rosier also gets a large chunk of credit for his composure in bringing his team back a second consecutive week, this time taking the Canes from their own 8 yard line to deep into Tech territory, setting up Michael Badgley’s game-winning 24 yard field goal with five seconds left.

Rosier completed 8 of 10 passes for 88 yards on that final drive.

Rosier’s final numbers were very good: 23 for 37 for 297 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

And he continues to do an excellent job running the read option, including a 13-yard run.

UM's quarterback Malik Rosier speaks to the media after the University of Miami defeats Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

• This had to be satisyfing for Richt, who made some head-scratching decisions earlier: the inexplicable, are-you-kidding-me onside kick that was returned by Georgia Tech for a touchdown to open the second half; the reluctance to use Langham on red zone plays throughout the game; and the curious decision to throw multiple fade routes in the end zone to short receivers (Mike Harley primarily) when the play clearly wasn’t working.

But Richt made amends for questionable calls with the smart use of bubble screens on Miami’s winning drive.

(Canes fans, let’s never again bash the bubble screen, which already has self-image issues from the Al Golden era. The play can work, and Richt knows when to call them.)

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt speaks to the media after University of Miami defeats Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

• Langham, incidentally, closed with five catches for 100 yards. He entered the game with four catches in his UM career.

Rarely have I seen a player go from afterthought, buried on the depth chart, to a true impact player. Langham has done that with game-saving plays two consecutive weeks.

• Travis Homer proved he’s very much up to the task of replacing Mark Walton, finishing with 170 yards on 20 carries and showing his underrated strength and power by dragging Tech defenders with him for a first down before Michael Badgley’s game-winning field goal.

The young man also has speed and good instincts and has a real chance to be a lead back for multiple years.

Homer averaged 8.5 per carry, on par with his average entering the game.

• What must Joe Yearby be thinking? Yearby inexplicably declared for the draft and is out of football. A friend of Yearby said Gus Edwards should have told him he was leaving. Edwards has 72 carries for 302 yards for Rutgers this season.

FYI: Trayone Gray got two carries and rushed for six yards.

• UM has been waiting all season to complete a deep throw to electrifying freshman Jeff Thomas, and he did a good job hauling in a 70-yard catch.

• Berrios had six catches for 44 yards, with three coming on the final drive.

A cut block (ESPN said it was committed by Dionte Mullins) negated a Berrios first down on the final drive, and UM went nowhere for three plays before the Rosier-to-Langham combo saved them again, on that 4th and 10 completion.

• Georgia Tech entered allowing 260 yards per game, sixth-best in the nation. UM blitzed them for 481 yards of total offense.

• Incidentally, Richt said Berrios was supposed to catch that disastrous onside kick on the run. Instead, Tech scooped it and scored while Berrios was waiting to see if it would go the necessary 10 yards before a UM player could legally touch it.

• Enormous credit goes to a Miami defense that stiffened considerably in the second half, allowing only three points.

After rushing 29 times for 172 yards in the first half, Tech mustered only 54 yards rushing on 24 carries in the second half.

Quarterback TaQuan Marshall, who ran for 249 yards against Tennessee, managed only 18 yards on 19 carries and completed 3 of 8 passes for 55 yards.

UM got good pressure on him on the few times he did throw, with Trent Harris recording a sack (he has 4.5 in five games) and getting heat on at least another.

Miami’s defensive tackles, Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, have really improved as pass-rushers.

• Tech finished averaging 4.8 yards per play, well under its 6.4 entering the game.

• Cornerback Michael Jackson, playing more in the absence of Dee Delaney, wasn’t perfect (he missed Marshall on a third down run) but made a couple of huge plays - a tackle that prevented an early 48-yard run from becoming a touchdown and a critical play in coverage to dislodge a reception from Brad Stewart on Tech’s final offensive possession, on a 3rd and 8.

That breakup was the defensive play of the game, because it forced Tech to punt.

• UM’s linebackers struggled early, with Zach McCloud and Shaq Quarterman and Charles Perry out of position on multiple occasions and Mike Pinckney somehow missing a sack on a Tech touchdown pass.

But UM’s linebackers played much better in the second half. And UM did it despite losing Pinckney late with a chest injury.

• Safety Robert Knowles struggled filling in for injured Sheldrick Redwine, committing a pass interference and then allowing Tech’s longest completion of the day (a 48-yarder to Ricky Jeune), with Malek Young also in the neighborhood.

• So how high can UM go in the polls?

Miami entered the day 11th in the AP poll and three teams ahead of them lost - Clemson and Washington State on Friday and Auburn on Saturday.

Four others, Alabama, Georgia and Washington and Ohio State, were scheduled for Saturday night games.

• Some will criticize UM for style points, but remember the Hurricanes played without their most gifted player (Ahmmon Richards) and their two two best prospects among draft eligible players entering the season (Walton and Delaney), plus Redwine and right guard Navaughn Donaldson.

• UM has now won 10 in row and outscored teams 208-69 in second half of those games and 345-138 in the second half of Richt’s 18 games as Miami’s coach.

UM outscored opponents by just 236-234 in the second half of Golden’s final 20 games as UM coach.

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