There won’t be any hurricane puns detailing how Miami got the last 2 weekends off to deal with the fallout from Hurricane Irma. There will be no excuses made about how the team was displaced from their home and practiced in Orlando during the layoff. This was a tale of 2 halves, plain and simple, and the Miami Hurricanes started slow and but finished strong to topple the Toledo Rockets 52-30.
Miami’s offense looked god-awful in the first half, aside from 2 long Mark Walton runs. Mark Richt showed a simple pass attack, featuring basic reads and predictable play-calling. Malik Rosier had time, but made checkdown after checkdown, while straight up flubbing some throws.
The defense wasn’t much better; they spent the day missing tackles and letting receivers run free, with Dee Delaney a culprit on multiple occasions. There was pressure from the Canes front 7 with three sacks, but Toledo QB Logan Woodside was able to make some timely scrambles to help put the Rockets offense in good spots.
Toledo racked up nearly 300 yards in the first half alone, taking a 16-10 lead into half and negating a stellar start from Miami star RB Mark Walton, who left the game with a left ankle injury in the second quarter. With Walton out and both the offense and defense struggling, the outcome looked bleak for Miami.
The narrative would completely change in the second half, though, with the Hurricane offense exploding for 4 unanswered touchdowns, and 6 touchdowns overall in the frame. Mark Richt finally opened up the offense and Rosier would throw for 289 yards in the second half, with all 3 of his touchdowns coming in that span. WR Braxton Berrios and Walton, returing late in the third quarter, both had career days. Berrios had 105 yards on 5 catches in his first 100 yard day and Walton topped his career high in rushing with 204 yards on just 11 carries.
Toledo received the ball to start, but, on one of the few 3rd downs attempts the Miami defense successfully stopped, RJ McIntosh had a big sack to kill the Rockets’ promising opening drive, forcing a punt.
Miami then took the ball and had an impressive first drive of 5 plays and 85 yards, with a Toledo defensive holding penalty aiding them on the way. Then, from the shotgun, Walton took a draw from Rosier to the left, cutback to the right, and burst down the seam for a 44 yard TD scamper.
After the Canes defense held strong, Walton, running again behind the right side of Navaughn Donaldson and Tyree St. Louis, took a hand-off down the sideline for 82 yards, just running out of gas before the endzone and getting pushed out at the 3 yard line. However, Miami’s redzone offense issues would again rear their ugly head, and the Canes would get stuffed on three straight runs, settling for a Michael Badgley field goal to make the score 10-0.
The next drive saw Toledo get on the board. Safety Sheldrick Redwine was late getting over on a 38 yard bomb from Woodside and he was able to connect with WR Cody Thompson down to the 2 yard line. But the Rockets would have redzone problems of their own, similarly gaining no ground on 3 straight runs before Rockets kicker Jameson Vest put 3 points on the board. Vest would add another field goal on Toledo’s next drive to push the score to 10-6.
After Jeff Thomas brought the kickoff back to near the 30, the next play saw Walton leave the game with an ankle injury when he was rolled up and stepped on. A subsequent Miami 3 and out led to a Toledo touchdown drive. In what looked to be a coverage bust, Canes DB Dee Delaney looked to be expecting safety help and let Jon’Vea Johnson run behind him uncovered. That safety never came and Woodside found Johnson wide open in the endzone to make the score 13-10.
And to make matters worse:— J.T. Wilcox (@JTWilcoxSports) September 23, 2017
TD pass to Jon'Vea Johnson, beat Dee Delaney pretty bad there.@CanesFootball trails 13-10
Just before halftime, Vest tacked on his 3rd field goal of the day, and the Rockets took a 16-10 lead into the locker room.
After trading punts to open up the second half, Richt finally opened up the offense and the Canes drove 91 yards for a touchdown, while Travis Homer showed off his versatility in leading the Canes down the field through the air and on the ground. A questionable holding call on KC McDermott took away a touchdown scramble by Rosier, but no matter; Rosier made a money throw on 3rd and 18 to Mike Harley for a first down, setting up Travis Homer’s first career touchdown on a 12 yard run and the Canes took the lead, 17-16.
Touchdown Miami!!!!!!— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 23, 2017
Travis Homer TD RUN pic.twitter.com/OqN1h4MZOX
A few Rockets’ penalties led to a punt, leaving Miami with their first good field position of the day. With Walton returning to the backfield, Braxton Berrios took a short curl, reversed field, and raced 55 yards to the Toledo 10 yard line. The very next play, Rosier threw a jump ball for WR Dayall Harris, who was making his first career start. Harris went up over a Toledo defender to come down with the touchdown and Miami’s lead was now 24-16.
Miami would then turn the first turnover of the day into points. Woodside scrambled to the left and had the ball knocked loose by Chad Thomas, which was recovered by Redwine. Soon after, Rosier lofted a pretty ball to the back corner of the left endzone, and Berrios was there to come down with it for a 19 yard touchdown. All of a sudden it was 31-16 Miami, with the Hurricanes in complete control.
Another Hurricanes stop of the Rockets’ offense put Rosier in position to toss a 2 yard TD to Chris Herndon on play action, pushing the score to 38-16. The Rockets would not go away quitely though. Woodside found Dionte Johnson on back-to-back touchdowns (one coming after a Rosier interception), and just like that it was 38-30.
The upset would not be in the cards for Toledo, though. Miami expertly drove down the field on their next possession, going 75 yards mostly behind the arm of Rosier, before the junior QB salted the game away with a 23 yard touchdown run on a read-option pull. Homer added in his second touchdown of the day to finish the scoring late in the 4th quarter. Final: Miami 52 Toledo 30.
Malik Rosier hits 'em with the read option. Miami's lead is back up to two touchdowns. pic.twitter.com/FmN2khGKhf— Miami DieHards (@MiamiDieHards) September 23, 2017
**Mark Walton....WOW. Just wow. He looks even more explosive than last season and might be one of the best running backs in the country this year. Walton going out in the second quarter made me think about life without him, and it was not a pretty picture. Hopefully the offensive line keeps opening holes for him as the schedule gets tougher because Miami has a special talent here.
**Through 2 games, I am still a Rosier fan. Even though he played it safe in the first half and threw too many short passes, Richt seemed to allow him to play free in the second half and it showed. Rosier made a number of tough throws into tight windows and let his receivers just go make plays. Miami’s drive in the 4th quarter to put the game away was masterful and it was all Rosier. He even showed off the wheels a bit to seal the Rockets fate.
**Special shoutout to Travis Homer, who helped spark Miami’s sluggish offense in the third quarter when Walton was out. The drive where he scored his first career touchdown was all Homer, taking 2 catches out of the backfield about 40 yards before his 12 yard touchdown run.
**Getting off the field on third downs was a problem for the Miami defense, something that must get cleaned up in the coming weeks. The Rockets were dynamite on football’s “money” down, going 13-21, while the Canes offense struggled to 3-10.
**We knew the secondary would be tested by Toledo’s high-flying passing attack, but there were some serious breakdowns in the Canes’ back end. And if not for a few dropped passes by Toledo wide receivers, the day could have been much worse for Miami’s DB’s. Officially calling out Dee Delaney to step it up.
Short week for Miami, as the Canes head on the road on a Friday night to Durham to take on the Duke Blue Devils, a possible trap game before their annual showdown with FSU.
Well, that’s a wrap. The Hurricanes are never short on entertainment, but here they are, 2-0. And that is something to celebrate.