Miami’s first Spring Game at Sun Life stadium was one to forget – at least offensively.
With the team split in two, the Orange squad bested the Green 7-6 in a game without many bright spots but a large amount of errors.
“We made a lot of progress in the spring,” coach Al Golden said. “There are a lot of guys not out there today, including five wide receivers and two running backs. There’s going to be a lot more competition in that room coming in August, and those guys know it.”
Ryan Williams, who looks to be Stephen Morris’ main competition for the starting quarterback job this fall, completed just 56 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions in a scoreless effort.
Morris missed the game as he continues to recover from back surgery.
The two freshmen passers opposite Williams – Gray Crow and Preston Dewey – fared no better, combining for 151 yards through the air on 33 attempts.
Though senior running back Mike James managed a rushing touchdown behind a depleted offensive line, both teams’ offensive performances were nothing short of anemic. Turnovers and penalties plagued the squads all afternoon, perhaps due to simple lack of execution or their opposition’s familiarity.
“We’ve been going up against that defense all spring, we know them and they know us, so I figured it was going to be a little back and forth,” James said. “Offensively you have days like that. Some days the offense will be on, sometimes not, but I’m just proud that the guys came out and tried hard. We’ll pick up there and carry it into the summer.”
James and the rest of the Hurricanes stayed relatively positive in their immediate analysis. The Spring Game was just one more step toward the fall, the culmination of the year’s first set of practices. The current lack of playmakers may be a symptom of the exodus of departed receivers and running backs after last year.
Whether Miami’s offensive ineptitude was self-inflicted or a sign of defensive prowess is yet to be determined, but the defense for both teams certainly shined. Senior safeties Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque each came away with interceptions on the day and a bulked-up Denzel Perryman anchored the center of the defense at middle linebacker.
The players’ familiarity with the system in place and the coaches who run it are credited with the defensive transformation from liability to clear strength. While last spring was a process of transitioning between coaching staffs and methods, the expectations were common knowledge entering training camp.
“Last year we were a little lost, first year everybody didn’t know what was coming next,” said sophomore defensive lineman Olsen Pierre, who recorded four tackles in the Spring Game. “Now we all feel prepared as to what’s next. We know the summer’s going to be hard. We know what we have to do to get ready for the fall.”
Armstrong went as far as to say that a lack of trust in the system and coaching staff may have contributed to last year’s defensive faults, an issue he thinks no longer exists.
“We have more team unity right now, we’re trusting the coaches and everything they’re giving us,” he said. “Last year being the first year I don’t think everyone was on board with trusting the coaches, but now that we’ve seen that everything is going to work out for the better, we trust them.”