Football, Sports

No. 14 Canes shake off rust to defeat Toledo Rockets 52-30

Malik Rosier runs past defender

Redshirt junior quarterback Malik Rosier rushes past a defender in the third quarter. Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

In the first half, the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes looked like a team that was feeling the effects of a three-week break in the season.

But in the second half, the Canes shook off the rust with authority to score 28 unanswered points, leading to a 52-30 win over the Toledo Rockets on Saturday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.

Led again by junior running back Mark Walton and redshirt junior quarterback Malik Rosier, it was the day of career-highs for Miami.

Walton had himself a monster day, rushing for a career-high 204 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. To make his stats even more impressive, he did not play for the majority of the second and third quarters because of an ankle injury he sustained in the second quarter. He got the ankle taped up, and in the fourth period, returned and continued to dominate with multiple double-digit runs.

“First time feeling that type of pain,” Walton said talking about his injury. “I didn’t think I was going to come back in the game. I just got frustrated on the sidelines, I started crying a little bit and trusting Vinny Scavo and his staff to get me back. I knew I had to get back out there, I didn’t want to let me team down.”

Rosier completed 27 of his 36 passes for a career-high 333 yards and three touchdowns to just one interception. He also rushed for 11 yards and the key touchdown in the fourth quarter that halted a late Toledo run and stretched the lead to double digits. The score all but sealed the win for Miami.

“I wouldn’t say I was rusty, but from the beginning we didn’t really know what they were going to give us because every week when we watched this team play, they gave a different coverage,” Rosier said after the game. “It took us the whole first half to figure out what they were going to do, and the second half we came and game-planned and the guys did a great job of executing.”

UM (2-0) overcame a high-powered Toledo (3-1) offense that racked up 296 yards in the first half alone.

Talented Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside and the Rockets’ offense found holes in the Hurricanes’ defense early and often, and led 16-10 at halftime. But something clearly clicked for the Canes at start of the third quarter.

We had no doubt we were going to come right back,” sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “Going into halftime, I thought they thought they were going to shock the world, and by halftime I guess they thought they did. Little did they know, we don’t ever give up. We don’t stop until it hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter.”

Miami scored on back-to-back drives, one on a 12-yard touchdown rush by sophomore running back Travis Homer and the other on a 10-yard touchdown catch by redshirt junior receiver Dayall Harris.

UM took a lead as large as 22 points when it was up 38-16 in the fourth quarter but allowed Toledo to get back into the game with 14 unanswered points of its own – one that came after a turnover by Rosier.

The Canes remained composed and scored twice more on their way to victory.

“We think of it like boxing,” said Quarterman, who had four tackles on the day. “You can take a couple jabs, and that’s what it is. They ended up scoring on the next play, and it was just the right hook to us. We came back, got another stop and the game was ours. So we just take it on the chin and we don’t give up ever.”

Despite participating in warmups, All-ACC wide receiver Ahmmon Richards did not play in his second-straight game of the season. But for the second consecutive game, Miami showed the talent and depth it has at the receiver position.

Senior wideout Braxton Berrios led the bunch, pulling in five receptions for a career-high 105 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps his most impactful play, besides the score, came on a 55-yard reception early in the third quarter.

The Canes were leading by just one, and Rosier had gotten sacked the previous play. On the very next snap, Berrios caught a short pass, pulled a spin move and outran the Rocket defenders all the way to the 10-yard line where he was finally tackled. He bounced right back up and celebrated. The play ignited the crowd, and Miami would score a touchdown on the following snap.

“This is my first 100-yard game here, and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it felt incredible,” Berrios said. “Anytime you can get momentum for the team, it’s huge. It’s way bigger than me, it’s way bigger than the pass and honestly, it’s almost bigger than the six points.”

Senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV added 65 yards and a touchdown on eight catches.

Miami’s defense struggled for the majority of the contest, giving up 342 yards passing and three touchdowns to Woodside. It also allowed the Toledo offense to go 13-23 on third downs, a stat that no defensive coordinator would be happy with.

“To have our first game and then sit out for three weeks, kind of messed with our heads a little bit, but the coaches did a great job of getting us ready for the game this past week,” senior defensive end Trent Harris said.

However, UM did collect four sacks ­– two of which came from Harris – and got enough pressure on Woodside at just the right time to protect its lead.

At halftime, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz gave a speech to motivate his players after they found themselves down six points.

“I said we’re gonna win this game,” Diaz said. “It was important that we believed it. It was important that we felt like with as much adversity as we faced in the first half and to only be down six – we realized we’re only one stop and one score away from being in the lead, which in essence is what happened.”

Diaz applauded his defense for continuing to push through some shaky play throughout the game despite the clear lack of conditioning – assumed to be caused by the long break the team had because of Hurricane Irma.

“We were having a hard time in the second quarter putting 11 functioning defensive football players on the field because of getting back to the conditioning level of being able to play in a game,” Diaz said. “We couldn’t think straight. We couldn’t play a base coverage. We couldn’t do anything there for the second quarter.”

Diaz then referenced the lack of practice even more.

“There’s no nine days lay off – that’s never happened in a season,” he said. “Where someone doesn’t practice or run or do anything or lift weights. And it’s hard to play football when you haven’t played in three straight weeks. And for those guys to go out and completely take over in the third quarter is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen from the sideline.”

Woodside was impressed by the hardest competition he has seen all year, but he was not making any excuses.

“They played a lot of coverages and they are very athletic,” Woodside said. “Going back, I think we made some good plays, but we shot ourselves in the foot too. Toledo beat Toledo.”

Miami will next travel to Durham, North Carolina, to face off against the Duke Blue Devils at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Notes:

– 49,361 fans were in attendance at Hard Rock Stadium.

– With his first-half scoring run, Walton now has 26 rushing touchdowns total for his career at Miami, tying him for fifth on the all-time list with Duke Johnson, Melvin Bratton and Tyrone Moss. He now has 28 total touchdowns in 28 games played.

– Walton becomes just the fifth running back in Miami history to eclipse 200 yards rushing in a game.

– When Mark Walton hit 199 rushing yards, head coach Mark Richt said that the running back begged for one more carry to break 200. Richt responded with, “I’ll let you back in…if you promise not to get hurt.”

– Walton had his eighth career 100-plus yard rushing game, tying him with Frank Gore for eighth all-time in Miami history.

– Walton’s 82-yard rush in the first quarter was a career-high.

– Rosier has now thrown for multiple touchdowns in all three of his starts at Miami.

– UM’s defense got a key stop early in the second quarter. The Toledo offense had marched down to the Miami one-yard line, but the Canes showed grit, stuffing the Rockets on three-straight possessions to force a fourth down and a field goal.

– The turnover chain is back, and this time junior safety Sheldrick Redwine was the player to rock the gaudy piece of gold jewelry after he recovered a fumble.

September 23, 2017

Reporters

Isaiah Kim-Martinez

Isaiah Kim-Martinez can be reached on Twitter at @isaiah_km.


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