In the midst of an on-and-off drizzle in the third quarter, Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya threw a rainbow toward wide receiver Phillip Dorsett going long. The pass just flew outside his diving grasp, but by that point it didn’t matter.
Kaaya proved that the third time’s a charm in a 41-20 win at Sun Life Stadium. He went 16/23 and threw for a grand total of 342 yards – the most by a true freshman in UM history – but more importantly, no interceptions.
Coach Al Golden said that this week’s practice is what made the difference for Kaaya.
“I thought his timing was better, his rhythm was better,” he said. “I thought our precision on the routes was better. Obviously we gave him enough time to throw.”
Dorsett finished the afternoon with 201 yards and two touchdowns – far-and-away Kaaya’s favorite target against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Dorsett didn’t just have himself a game going into the endzone, he had himself a game with the long ball; when he made plays, he made BIG plays. On his first four catches, he racked up 201 yards. No FBS receiver has caught for so many yards on a maximum of four catches since 1997.
“When my number’s called, I just execute,” Dorsett said. “I know what plays are coming to me and I work on those plays a lot in practice.”
Miami got off to a roaring start on the second play of their first drive when Dorsett actually caught a rainbow arc from Kaaya and cruised into the east endzone. After the Red Wolves tied it, Miami finished the quarter with two more touchdowns; a flip pass to Duke Johnson and a Kaaya to Clive Walford connection for a 20-7 lead. Michael Badgley missed one of three PAT kicks in the quarter.
With five minutes and three seconds left in the first half and Arkansas State driving to make it a one-score game, the Red Wolves tried a fake punt on fourth and fifth, only for Luke Ferguson to be picked off by Raphael Kirby at Miami’s 31-yard line. Kaaya then led a 69-yard touchdown drive capped by Gus Edwards’s 27-yard rush to his left and into the endzone.
Although the Red Wolves got a quick seven at the end of the first half and got a hold of whatever momentum they had left by kicking and recovering an onside kick to start the second half, the Canes stuffed them and finished the game with two more touchdowns – a 64-yarder to Dorsett flying down Arkansas State’s sideline and a sweet pass to freshman Braxton Berrios between two defenders. Dorsett said that he always knew the connection from Kaaya would work out.
“I feel like we always had this timing down. We hadn’t really opened up the playbook up like we did today,” Dorsett said. “I wasn’t really worried about the timing because I knew that was going to be there.”
“I think he’s one of the fastest players in college football.,” said Kaaya about Dorsett. “With his speed, I don’t see how anyone could cover him on a post-run or a go route. I could throw it as hard as I possibly can and I probably couldn’t overthrow him.”
Defensively, it was a bit of a coming-out party for the Canes, especially for Deon Bush. The junior cornerback finished with six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Bush said the defense has improved every game.
“We’re trusting the staff and they’re doing a great job by putting us in the right position to make plays,” Bush said. “We’re just executing good. We just got to keep preparing for the next week.”
Golden said that Dorsett’s responded to an injury-filled junior season with a spectacular senior campaign.
“He comes out this summer and had an unbelievable summer,” Golden said. “He’s practicing really well right now, he has great stamina, we’re happy for him. He’s catching the ball really well.”
Golden also put huge emphasis on the personal growth of his squad with a mix of freshmen and veterans.
“We’re not a finished product, not where we want to be yet, but I thought we got better,” Golden said. “If we were looking ahead and weren’t focused, we wouldn’t have thrown it around the way we did… the second and third efforts we got from the running backs were excellent, in addition to what we saw on defense.”