Ten takeaways from UM’s 49-24 thrashing of Toledo on Saturday:
▪ UM smartly shared carries between Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas, and Dallas has very much earned this larger role.
Homer was a wonderful story last year, exceeding all expectations for a player that many thought would merely be a third down, change of pace back. He’s more than that.
He earned the starting role this offseason and has emerged as a potential second or early third day draft pick if he excels this year, says ESPN’s Todd McShay.
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But Dallas needs to play, too. He has great vision, displays above-average instincts and has a good mix of speed and power. At the very least, carries should be allocated about evenly unless one of these backs proves clearly better over an extended time.
“What I’ll say about DeeJay is the first [defender] never brings him down,” receiver Lawrence Cager told WQAM’s Don Bailey Jr. “His idol is Le’Veon Bell and he plays just like him.”
If Dallas continues to outplay Homer, then Dallas should get at least a bit more work than Homer.
“I’m 215 and I feel I can go toe to toe with any [defensive player],” Dallas said.
On Saturday, Dallas had 110 yards on 17 carries (a 6.5 average), including a 19-yard touchdown. Homer had a much lower per carry average, with 16 carries for 62 yards (3.9 per carry), but gained three yards on a 4th and 1.
For the season, Homer has 36 carries for 165 yards (a 4.5 average), Dallas 30 for 197 (a 6.5 average).
Five-star freshman Lorenzo Lingard had only one carry in the first two quarters, losing two yards on that attempt because of poor blocking by Jahair Jones. He finished with three carries for four yards.
▪ Malik Rosier put a finger over his lips as he ran into the end zone on a 37-yard scamper to give UM a 42-24 lead. He was silencing the Toledo crowd but nobody would have blamed him if he was also silencing his critics.
Canes fans must accept that they’re not going to get any perfection with Rosier. You’re going to get errant throws and plays left on the field. But Canes fans should not fret about that on a day when Rosier made a bunch of big plays and converted several key third downs with pinpoint throws.
He became the first UM quarterback since 2004 to throw for two touchdowns and run for three. His final numbers were very good: 13 for 23 for 205 yards in the air and 8 for 80 on the ground. Most importantly, no interceptions.
“He was smart with the football,” Dallas told WQAM’s Bailey afterward. “What more do you want? Everybody is always doubting Malik.. and our o-line. We’re good.”
N’Kosi Perry got some late-game snaps and it’s clear he’s the backup quarterback, even though Mark Richt refuses to acknowledge it.
▪ Jeff Thomas (five catches, 105 yards, including a 38-yard TD reception) now has 10 plays of 20 or more yards this season and has become not only UM’s most explosive weapon but perhaps the most dynamic player in South Florida sports. One reception on a key third quarter drive was particularly impressive.
“The longball catch he made was nothing short of spectacular,” Richt told WQAM.
He also had a 19 yard run, to boot.
And Thomas is doing all of this even without Ahmmon Richards attracting attention on the other side. Richards remains out with a knee injury.
Lawrence Cager was very good Saturday, with three catches for 67 yards, including a touchdown and a huge third down conversion.
Neither of UM’s freshmen tight ends caught a pass and Brian Hightower (1 for 8) was the only freshman receiver with a reception.
▪ Richt noted to WQAM’s Bailey that UM has had a lot of success with two backs and two tight ends this season, mentioning what an asset Trayone Gray has been.
And “Realus George is going to become a real good fullback,” Richt said. “We need to have that in our system.”
▪ Though UM had some defensive lapses in the second and third quarters, the defense couldn’t have been any more dominant in the first and fourth quarters.
One fourth quarter defensive series was particularly a masterpiece, with Toledo losing 19 yards in three plays, culminating in a sack by Mike Pinckney.
▪ Though UM likely wouldn’t have beaten LSU even if Trajan Bandy hadn’t been ejected because of the foolish targeting rule, the game likely would have been closer had Bandy been available for more than three defensive snaps.
Bandy had an interception Saturday and was around the ball throughout. He’s really good against the run, including a stop for a three yard loss to end Toledo’s first drive.
At the moment, he’s UM’s best cornerback – even better than Michael Jackson, who allowed 31- and 34-yard completions Saturday.
▪ Gerald Willis could end up being UM’s best defensive tackle in five years if he keeps this up. He had six tackles for loss in 2 ½ games before leaving with an injury. Romeo Finley also played well before his injury, including a pass breakup.
▪ And speaking of injuries… Shame on ESPN’s Andre Ware for accusing Jaquan Johnson of faking an injury late in the first half. Johnson missed the second half with that hamstring injury.
Ware owes Johnson an apology before he and play-by-play man Kevin Brown call their second consecutive UM game – against FIU next week.
Brown raised eyebrows before the game when he called UM against Toledo a clash of “cultures.” Say what?
▪ UM got its entire second-team offensive line in the game, and keep an eye on D.J. Scaife, who’s able to play either tackle position and looks like next man up if there’s an injury to Tyree St. Louis or Navaughn Donaldson.
“The line did a really good job,” Richt said.
▪ Random stuff: Per AP’s Tim Reynolds, this was UM’s first game without a penalty in at least 20 years… Also per Reynolds, UM 112-0 scoring run over three games – which ended with Toledo’s first touchdown – was its longest since 2001…
After UM watched opposing field goal kickers make 25 in a row against them, Savannah State and Toledo missed two in a row, though Toledo converted a 47-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.... Willis, Pinckney, Sheldrick Redwine and Scott Patchan accounted for UM’s four sacks.
Amari Carter missed the game because of a death in the family.
▪ Don’t dismiss this win, not in an era where Samford leads FSU deep into the fourth and Troy beats Nebraska.
“We held down a prolific offense to three scores,” Richt told WQAM. “We beat a very good team at their home. Toledo has a lot of talent.”
UM should be favored by a significant margin its next three games, all at home – FIU, North Carolina and reeling FSU. UM then has road games at Virginia and Boston College.
Here’s my Dolphins column from Saturday, including a look at what led to several prudent decisions on deployment of personnel.