Miami freshmen lead charge in rout over Central Connecticut State

UM freshman quarterback Jake Garcia (13) escapes the pocket and runs down the field during Miami's game against Central Connecticut State on Sept. 25, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium.
UM freshman quarterback Jake Garcia (13) escapes the pocket and runs down the field during Miami's game against Central Connecticut State on Sept. 25, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium. Photo credit: Josh Halper

UM football walked into Hard Rock Stadium Saturday morning determined to fix their mistakes following a 38-17 loss to Michigan State last week.

Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia, Miami’s backup quarterbacks, wasted no time initiating the fast start that lacked in the first three weeks of the season. Miami (2-2) dominated Central Connecticut State (1-3) en route to a 69-0 win, but the score was only part of the story, as underclassmen dictated Saturday’s offense.

“These games matter because they help you with your developmental guys,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. “Our young guys are coming along and are going to continue to contribute to our football team.”

Van Dyke and Garcia, both freshmen, dazzled in replacing injured graduate quarterback D’Eriq King, who missed the first start of his UM career Saturday with a left shoulder injury. The two played steadily through the first three-and-a-half quarters, combining for 417 passing yards and five touchdowns.

Garcia exhibited poise, specifically on Miami’s third drive of the second quarter, where he kept a read-option for a 45-yard breakaway.

“I am obviously really proud of both quarterbacks in a situation where they both made their debut,” Diaz said. “I thought both guys handled the offense really well. They were both poised. You can tell during conversations during pre-game and between series. They handled themselves very well and knew what was going on.”

Van Dyke earned the starting nod and opened his 2021 campaign passing 10-for-10 with 270 yards and guided the Hurricanes to three consecutive scoring drives in the first quarter for a 21-0 start.

“It was good to get out there and get some reps against another team,” Van Dyke said. “It’s a lot faster out there than it is in practice. I’m prepared, so I’m ready.”

As Miami averaged 10.6 yards per play for 739 total yards, Van Dyke and Garcia sustained their sharp approach in a balanced Miami passing and rushing attack for a 49-0 halftime lead.

Freshman safety James Williams intercepts a pass during the third quarter of Miami’s game versus Central Connecticut State at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 25, 2021.
Freshman safety James Williams intercepts a pass during the third quarter of Miami’s game versus Central Connecticut State at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 25, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Despite a three-and-out to open the third quarter, Garcia directed a 17-yard pass into the back-left corner of the end zone to freshman wide receiver Romello Brinson. A 44-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Jacolby George followed, extending the lead to 62-0.

“[Romello Brinson] made a great catch for me,” Garcia said. “That’s probably going to be the top play of the year. And that’s going to be all over TV when we get back home.”

Three freshman wide receivers had touchdowns, including Brashard Smith, who had five catches for 91 yards and one touchdown.

The Hurricanes defense allowed only 169 yards of offense and forced one turnover – an interception by freshman safety James Williams. Williams made his first career start in place of suspended junior safety Gurvan Hall, Jr.

In last week’s loss, Miami missed 30 tackles yet exhibited few tackling shortages versus Central Connecticut State defense with a more physical, energetic and disciplined approach. Three penalties did not impact Miami’s momentum after 84 penalty yards contributed to shortfallen opportunities versus Michigan State.

“There’s a good feeling in that locker room,” Diaz said. “It’s because of all the things we emphasized this week in practice, the things that we asked them to do, our energy on the sideline, our enthusiasm for their teammates and each other. We were excited to play today, and that means we’re on the right path.”

Up next, the Hurricanes will begin ACC play this Thursday against Virginia at Hard Rock Stadium. Who will start under center remains to be seen with the status of King still up in the air.

“It’s a hypothetical right now. Based off the evidence of what you saw today, it feels like both guys are guys we feel good about,” Diaz said on King. “Neither guy would not deserve to play and that is something we have to watch film on and reevaluate and see where we are at and see where D’Eriq is at.”

A re-energized Miami team looks to translate momentum at Hard Rock Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.