Ten takeaways from UM’s 31-17 win against FIU on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium:
▪ Credit Mark Richt for making the bold move and not only inserting N’Kosi Perry for Miami’s third offensive series, as planned, but for sticking with him when he flourished.
With Malik Rosier coming off a pretty good game against Toledo, it would have been understandable for Richt to stick with Rosier until he again struggled badly in a loss.
But Richt consistently has said he would play whoever gives UM the best chance to win, without regard to experience or outside factors. And he finally arrived at a point where Perry had caught up to Rosier, and now, surpassed him.
Perry was exceptional (17 for 25, 224 yards, three TDs), aside from an underthrown pass to Brian Hightower that resulted in his one interception.
And though Richt said he hasn’t decided which quarterback will start Thursday against North Carolina, the choice is obvious. Perry has earned it, but more importantly, he has the higher ceiling than Rosier, he’s more accurate and he clearly is ready for the challenge.
Remember: Rosier was a marginal college prospect, without a single other offer from a Power 5 school besides UM, according to Rivals.com. Perry had a bunch of major offers, including Georgia and Auburn.
I don’t buy the argument that you cannot go back to Rosier if Perry struggles badly. The two quarterbacks are mature enough to handle that if Richt should go back to Rosier during a game at some point this season.
But this should be Perry’s job against North Carolina and there needs to be a significant margin of error if he makes a freshman mistake or two.
Perry’s 12 for 13 first half (for 170 yards) was accomplished primarily through short and intermediate passes. But there were three longer, more impressive throws that were absolute darts – Mike Harley Jr.’s sixth catch and the touchdown passes to Lawrence Cager and Brevin Jordan.
Then there was the splendid throw to Cager in the corner of the end zone for his third touchdown throw and Cager’s second of the day.
Those passes, delivered with force and precision, showed Perry’s intoxicating skill set, as did his ability to elude defenders when flushed from the pocket, including a 12-yard run on a 3rd and 9, when he easily maneuvered by an FIU lineman.
Perry closed with 32 yards on nine rushing attempts.
Richt told WQAM’s Don Bailey Jr. that Perry “did a really nice job. Overall, really good. He was comfortable. He knew what he was looking at. He was making a lot of good decisions. Early on, he was really spot on with his accuracy and different kind of throws, too. The first touchdown to Cager was a beebee.
“We will figure out [quarterback]. We always want to play who we think gives us the best chance of winning. I knew I would put N’Kosi in in the third series and see how it went. I thought it went pretty well so I [kept] him in there.”
Perry told WQAM’s Bailey that he was prepared because he had been receiving snaps with the starters.
“By the second or third drive, I felt pretty confident,” Perry said, adding he told UM’s offensive line “we would get some points.” He said “the game slowed down a lot today” for him.
Perry said Richt told him after the interception “don’t turn a bad play into a catastrophe.”
Our Susan Miller Degnan has more on the QB situation here.
▪ Apparently a defensive back can improve his hands. As recently as a year ago, UM people talked about safety Sheldrick Redwine having the worst hands among the Canes’ corners and safeties.
That’s no longer the case. Redwine snared a bunch of interceptions in offseason practices and scrimmages and his pick on Saturday wasn’t an easy catch.
Amari Carter also played well, compensating for the injury absence of Jaquan Johnson, arguably UM’s best defensive player.
▪ With Jeff Thomas sidelined most of the game by dehydration, Harley had his best game as a Cane, making seven catches (for 76 yards) and two exceptional ones – one where he outfought an FIU defender for the ball and another terrific one in double coverage.
Harley always has been a favorite of the coaches because of his work ethic and blocking acumen. But this was as dynamic as he has looked in his 11 career games at Miami.
“Jeff went out but I knew Mike Harley could hold his own,” Perry told WQAM. “He’s just as good.”
▪ DeeJay Dallas entered averaging two yards more per carry than Travis Homer, so it was encouraging to see Homer break tackles, as he so often did last season, and put together his best game of the season (13 carries for 114 yards, 8.8 average ).
Dallas, meantime, closed with 28 yards on seven carries and had two catches for 30 yards.
▪ Among freshmen, Brevin Jordan had by the far the biggest day (five catches, 67 yards) and Nesta Silvera had the biggest mistake, with a holding penalty that negated Thomas’ 80-yard punt return. But Silvera had a terrific stop on a third down FIU run.
Running back Cam’Ron Davis started the second half, as did receiver Marquez Ezzard, who had one catch for seven yards. Richt told ESPN that Davis could be an every-down pack because he’s skilled as a receiver, and he flashed Saturday (five carries, 24 yards). Lorenzo Lingard had 10 carries for 50 yards.
Freshman receiver Mark Pope ran for four yards on a reverse near the FIU goal-line. But UM’s freshmen defensive backs were either out of position or missed assignments on several plays during FIU’s late rally. Gilbert Frierson was beaten on FIU’s last touchdown.
▪ Left tackle Tyree St. Louis was beaten for a sack of Perry, but UM recovered. With Navaughn Donaldson uneven in his first year at right tackle – and St. Louis hardly perfect – the Canes likely will continue giving freshman D.J. Scaife significant work at tackle. UM believes Scaife – who was called for a chop block late - has the potential to become a high-end lineman.
▪ How dominant has Gerald Willis been? He already has 10 tackles for loss in four games – including three Saturday – and that’s just 2.5 fewer than the team-leading 12.5 by Chad Thomas and RJ McIntosh Jr for all of last season.
▪ The best thing UM has done all season (beyond anything involving Jeff Thomas)? Third down defense.
The Canes entered having allowed third-down conversions a nation-leading 16.3 percent of the time (7 for 43). On Saturday, FIU was 3 for 14 on third downs.
▪ Quick stuff: The yardage margin at halftime (324 to 15) was more lopsided than UM’s yardage advantage against Savannah State. The final margin was 488-187, including 248-17 on rushing yards. Butch Davis’ vision of making FIU a Top 25 program is still far off… Trajan Bandy had a nifty pass breakup and remains UM’s best cornerback this season….
Brian Hightower got the starting nod at injured Ahmmon Richards’ receiving spot ahead of Darrell Langham… Venzell Boulware has moved ahead of Jahair Jones and started at left guard.... Cade Weldon fumbled on his fifth snap in relief of Rosier and Perry.... Rosier closed two for three for 16 yards, overthrowing Jordan on his incomplete pass.
▪ ESPN2 analyst Andre Ware not only didn’t apologize to Johnson on the air for saying he faked an injury last week, but he misidentified Sheldrick Redwine as Cedric Redwine and incorrectly said this was his first season at safety.
Then he admonished UM fans who booed punter Zach Feagles, telling them to “get a life,” and scolded UM for running the reverse late to Pope, claiming it was “rubbing it in.” And for good measure, he said FIU’s first touchdown was “karma” because it followed UM running that reverse.
UM HOOPS NOTE
▪ UM’s basketball team lost a likely rotation player when it dismissed skilled three-point shooter and Mt. Saint Mary’s transfer guard Miles Wilson from the team on Friday “for not meeting team expectations.”
Wilson averaged 11.8 points at Mt. Saint Mary’s two years ago before sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
Here’s my post with Stan Van Gundy analyzing the Heat’s personnel.
Here’s my Dolphins post with nuggets on Cam Wake and Robert Quinn.
Here’s my Dolphins post with a look at what Albert Wilson has done better than any receiver in the league.