For the second straight year under head coach Randy Shannon, Miami defense stole the show at the annual spring football game. But it took a 12-point comeback in the final quarter for the defense to beat the offense, 32-29, in front of an estimated 11,000 onlookers at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale Saturday.
The three-man quarterback rotation continued as redshirt freshman Robert Marve and freshmen Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith split the 17 offensive series, leading eight, five and four drives, respectively. Marve completed 10 of 22 passes for 93 yards and two interceptions; Harris completed nine of 17 for 64 yards; and Smith completed one of five for 66 yards and an interception.
“Three turnovers is unacceptable but they managed the game pretty well,” Shannon said. “They moved it around and moved the chains. The more we can move the chains and win field position this season, we feel like we can do a lot of great things.”
Running backs Graig Cooper, Shawnbrey McNeal and Javarris James each had gains of at least 20 yards on the ground or short passes. Cooper scored both offensive touchdowns on runs of 27 and 44 yards.
The offense led 28-16 early in the fourth quarter when the defense held the offense to three consecutive three-and-outs. Arthur Brown then intercepted a tipped Smith pass to put the defense ahead for good. Brown led the defense with eight tackles and fellow freshman linebacker Sean Spence had two interceptions.
“All the linebackers did a nice job,” Shannon said. “Daryl Sharpton flew around, Arthur flew around, Sean Spence flew around.”
Shannon said he didn’t think the wide receivers played very well, with James, Khalil Jones and Aldarius Johnson dropping passes before making a couple plays.
“The consistency for those guys – got to pick it up compared to what we had this spring,” Shannon said. “We didn’t have the problem [of dropped passes] all spring.”
Marve said he felt comfortable in the scrimmage but that he and the offense had some jitters playing in front of the crowd.
“Today was just one of them days, you have one or two drops and it kind of just keeps going down,” he said. “The same thing with the quarterbacks, there were one or two throws you were amazed by and one or two you weren’t.”
Defensive coordinator Bill Young said both the offense and defense have looked pretty even throughout the spring practices.
“It’s been a great competition,” he said. “One day they get after us, one day we get after them. Today was kind of a tie.”
The game was played at Lockhart Stadium after years of being held at the Orange Bowl. The crowd of 11,000 at yesterday’s game was significantly larger than last year’s 7,000 in downtown Miami.
Although both sides made big plays, Marve said he looks forward to adding the rest of the playbooks.
“There’s a long way to go, I think we have a long summer of hard work,” he said. “I have to do a lot. I think all of us have to do a lot to feel more comfortable.”
Corey Erb may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.