Greg Cote

Soft stretch in Canes’ schedule is about QB Rosier improving -- or finding someone better

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) looks to pass in the second quarter as the University of Miami hosts Savannah State at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, September 8, 2018.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) looks to pass in the second quarter as the University of Miami hosts Savannah State at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, September 8, 2018. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said before the ill-fated season opener vs. LSU how tough it was to really know what to expect of your team because, unlike the NFL, “we don’t have warmup games here.”

Oh but they do! College football has warmup games, too. It’s just that they come during the season, not before it.

UM had one of those Saturday night in a 77-0 home-opening rout of lower-tier, overmanned Savannah State, the largest margin of victory in program history. Going from LSU to Savannah State is competitively like going from a fight in a UFC octagon to the challenge of out-maneuvering an infant in a crib. The NCAA needs to rethink allowing such gross mismatches. This wasn’t a lot different than the Miami Heat playing basketball against a junior-college team.

Two more softies follow for UM, at Toledo and then vs. crosstown lil’ brother FIU -- appreciably tougher tests than Saturday’s, yes, but still nothing to concern Canes fans or keep Richt up at night.

That’s three escalating, glorified warmups in a row to fix what was wrong last week, before the schedule toughens and the Atlantic Coast Conference games commence Sept. 27.

Plainly put, in this case, Richt has three three games (two more now) to find a better quarterback.

Miami Hurricanes Coach Mark Richt speaks to the media after the University of Miami defeats Savannah State 77-0 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, September 8, 2018.

That might be a better, improved Malik Rosier, and likely will be. A Rosier pushed by competition, and by the knowledge what he’s been giving lately ain’t good enough.

Or that might be a young QB who emerges and demonstrates he is capable of being better, right now, than the fifth-year senior trying to hold onto his job.

“If there’s ever a time for a change, I’ll tell you,” noted Richt.

Rosier has become an issue for the coach. A problem. He was a problem in the three straight losses that sucked all the air out the end of last season. He was last week in Arlington, Tex. He did OK Saturday night, but this game was a ball set on a tee for an easy home run for Rosier. He better have looked good.

Many in the UM crowd of 60,307 booed Rosier when he began the game with consecutive incomplete passes. That tells you that QB play has become a “thing” that needs dealing with, rightly or wrongly.. A thing that did not disappear with Saturday’s easy performance.

Entering Saturday night, Rosier had completed only 55 of 124 pass attempts (44 percent) in the four-game losing streak against real competition, under actual pressure. He had converted only 15 of 57 third-down tries, an abysmal 26 percent.

Nothing he would do Saturday vs. a glorified junior-varsity opponent would be salve for any of that. The next two weeks, by degrees, should tell more. Rosier completed 8 of 12 passes Saturday for 131 yards and two TDs, with another scoring rushing. But big stats accumulated vs. Savannah State are suspect, so expected are they. Do that the next two games, too, Malik.

In the wings, pushing, are redshirt freshmen Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry and true freshman Jarren Williams.

Perry replaced Rosier with 11 minutes left in the first half, and quickly threw an 8-yard TD pass, his first of three --verifying nothing done against woeful Savannah State matters for much. (I threw a touchdown pass against the Tigers Saturday. From the pressbox). Perry played into the second half, which I took to be a little valentine from Richt that said, “Please don’t transfer, N’Kosi. We still love ya!.”

Weldon entered with 1:04 left in the third quarter and UM up 42-0 and immediately ran for a 16-yard TD because ... Savannah State.

UM’s fourth QB, Williams, entered with 10:43 left in the game.

This soft spot in the UM schedule, and the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, gives Richt no excuse to not use this Savannah State/Toledo/FIU stretch to either find a better Rosier or find a young guy who’s better, and ready.

Much was hidden about UM’s quarterbacking deficiency last year when Miami was 10-0 and ranked No. 2. The Turnover Chain became a national sensation because UM had 30 defensive takeaways in those 10 games. It had one, total, in the four straight losses.

Miami Hurricanes Coach Mark Richt speaks to the media about the turnover chain after the University of Miami defeats Savannah State 77-0 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

If your defense is dominating, what your QB is or isn’t doing is easier to hide, or to overcome.

If your defense isn’t winning games for you, and you need your quarterback to, the flaws of the young man taking the snaps can be laid bare. Rosier just hasn’t proven himself accurate enough. At least not when it matters most,.

There will be nothing more important in this three-game lull in the schedule than for Mark Richt to feel good about who his starting quarterback is coming out of it.

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