The Mark Richt era began Saturday with an expected dominant performance Saturday night, as the Miami Hurricanes defeated Florida A&M University 70-3 in the home opener at the newly renovated Hard Rock Stadium.
A crowd of 60,703 cheered as junior quarterback Brad Kaaya threw four touchdowns passes; Joe Yearby, Mark Walton and Gus Edwards each set career longs for touchdown runs and the UM defense and special teams forced two turnovers and blocked a punt respectively.
Also, junior receiver Braxton Berrios returned a punt 41 yards for a touchdown and backup quarterback Malik Rosier scampered for a 19-yard score within two minutes of each other in the third quarter as Miami recorded its highest point total since 2004 (a 55-34 win over Cincinnati).
Miami’s 70 points were just short of the school record – 77 points recorded in a 77-0 win over Savannah State in 2013. But the Canes did set a record for points in a quarter when they pushed their 28-3 halftime lead to the final margin of 70-3 by scoring a school record 42 points in the third quarter – the last being a 74-yard rumble by Edwards.
Still, Coach Richt was grounded in his reaction to his first official game leading his alma mater.
“I’m very thankful for the victory. The guys showed up with the right frame of mind and played very well early on,” Richt said. “Towards the mid second quarter there were a couple lapses on offense that weren’t really clean – jumping offsides on a quarterback sneak on third and one, dropping a deep ball that probably should’ve been caught, had a couple of deep balls could’ve been better.”
Richt continued to point out the few negative plays that the Canes had before summing up Saturday’s performance in a few words.
“But we ran the ball well, obviously. Other than that, I thought we played pretty good,” Richt said.
Opponent considered, Miami chewed up an impressive 373 total rushing yards. Saturday marked the first time since 1987 that UM had three different ball carriers each finish with at least 100 rushing yards.
Walton led all rushers with 116 yards on a team-leading 14 carries; Yearby was right behind him with 106 yards and Edwards finished with 105 yards on seven second-half carries.
True freshman Travis Homer even added 35 yards on five carries, but missed his opportunity to score his first career touchdown during the fourth quarter when he lost a fumble on the FAMU 3-yard line.
On the whole, Miami (1-0) put on a performance that fans expected since it was going up against an FCS opponent that won just one game during the 2015 season. The Hurricanes will get a slightly better sense of who they are next week when they host Florida Atlantic next Saturday at 6 p.m.
FAMU finished with 197 total yards despite possessing the ball for nearly 37 minutes. The lone bright spot came late in the second quarter when the Rattlers (0-1) completed passes of 14, 19 and 31 yards and got down inside the Miami 15-yard line. Ultimately the drive stalled and FAMU settled for a 31-yard field goal – their only points on the night.
Rattlers senior quarterback Kenneth Coleman finished 9 of 16 for 135 yards while redshirt freshman and Pembroke Pines Flanagan High School alum Ryan Stanley went 6 of 11 for 40 yards.
Senior cornerbacks Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert each nabbed interceptions and – most impressively – Miami only committed six penalties for 54 yards. The Canes were a heavily penalized team in 2015, but played nearly the entire first half penalty-free.
Kaaya was efficient and effective Saturday. The preseason Manning Award watch list candidate exited the game late in the third quarter after completing 12 of 18 passes for 135 yards. He completed passes to seven different receivers – including a first quarter rollout touchdown throw to senior transfer fullback Marquez Williams.
Kaaya, who celebrated his 21st birthday Saturday, wasn’t going to let the inflated numbers of the dominant win against a lesser opponent blow his up with false pretense.
“We’re still hungry and we’re still gonna keep going,” Kaaya said. “This is a good win; a good team win; Coach Richt’s first win – but we in the grand scheme of things we have bigger fish to fry. You guys know that. We have to win the big games.”
The Hurricanes’ “youth movement” was on full display Saturday.
UM started three freshmen linebackers – Zach McCloud, Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney – and saw a handful of others get significant snaps against the Rattlers.
Quarterman was the team’s second-leading tackler Saturday and played the majority of the defensive snaps planted in the middle of the team’s base defense.
“I wasn’t nervous before the game…I didn’t have jitters,” Quarterman said. “I was more excited than anything. I know that sounds a little strange for a freshman. But I was just excited to play, excited to run out there and excited to finally hit someone else.”
“Once I ran through the smoke, I was locked in,” Quarterman said.
Freshman defensive end Joe Jackson saw early action as a part of the line rotation as did redshirt freshman defensive tackle Ryan Fines.
Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said that the young players are going to continue to get significant playing time this season because – there’s no one available to play.
“We got what we got,” Diaz said. “We don’t have a lot of options. But those guys are good football players. And I thought they all played well – the line and the linebackers – on regular downs and on passing downs.”
Bruce & Willis Suspended; Beirne Arrested
Miami announced Saturday that freshman wide receiver Sam Bruce has been suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season and that Gerald Willis received a one-game ban.
Bruce’s suspension stems from an incident that occurred while he was still a student at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas – where Bruce allegedly shared a photograph of himself with a weapon as an intimidation tactic during a dispute with an older, already-graduated St. Thomas Aquinas student over Bruce’s now ex-girlfriend.
There’s still a hope that the four-star recruit can contribute to the Canes this season – given Miami’s lack of quality depth at the receiver position.
Bruce will be available to return for Miami’s October 1st ACC opener at Georgia Tech.
Willis’ was suspended for a violation of team rules and should return to the lineup for next week’s game against FAU.
Another South Florida high school alum got bad news Saturday.
Reports surfaced early Saturday that walk-on quarterback and Miami Christopher Columbus alum Tucker Beirne was arrested on DUI and drug charges near Key Largo.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office records show that Beirne, who spent a season at Bryant University before transferring to Miami, was arrested during a traffic stop. The report also said that Beirne’s blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit and that he was also charged with one felony count of cocaine possession.
Beirne’s arrest is an unfortunate turn of events, given he was seen Thursday night at Miami Tropical Park Stadium watching his former high school play – as was Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and head coach Mark Richt.
The University of Miami has not released a statement regarding Beirne or his status with the team.