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UM vs. Toledo: Matchups to Watch

UM vs. Toledo: Matchups to Watch

By David Villavicencio
HurricaneSports.com

 
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes are back in action Saturday against Toledo in their first game in 21 days.
 
The No. 14 Canes had a game cancelled and another postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Their first opponent after the storm passed is an explosive Rockets team that has opened the season 3-0 and is coming off a thrilling 54-51 victory over Tulsa.
 
The Hurricanes won the only other meeting in series history, 24-14, at the Miami Orange Bowl in 1987. Saturday’s game will be the first of two meetings between the Canes and Rockets, as Miami will travel to Toledo in 2018.
 
Here are three matchups to watch in Saturday’s game.
 
Miami’s defense vs. Toledo QB Logan Woodside
 
The Hurricanes defense entered 2017 with a lot of expectations after a 2016 season that saw them become one of the top defenses in the ACC. Miami, who features one of the best front sevens in the NCAA, had seven tackles for loss in its season-opening 41-13 victory over Bethune-Cookman. But after three weeks without a game, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is preaching the fundamentals of tackling and preparing his unit like if it was heading into the season opener.
 
“You almost look at it as an opener again,” Diaz said. “There are some of the same issues that you have with opening games. You’re playing an opponent who is scoring points for fun and has now played a lot of ball, so they’re into their season routine. They’ve improved every week and we kind of have to be in midseason form Saturday at 3:30, no excuses.”
 
Woodside is a prolific passer leading an explosive Toledo offense. The NCAA leader in passing touchdowns in 2016 is off to a strong start to his 2017 season, throwing for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception over three games. Miami head coach Mark Richt had this to say about the senior signalcaller, “He’s outstanding. His fundamentals are great. He knows the system so well. He knows when and where to go with the ball. He’s the kind of guy who when you pressure him in the ball’s going to come out quick, into the right guy. The ball placement is great. He’s not unbelievable as far as a runner, but he’s a very good athlete. He’s one of the best in the country for a reason.”

Miami RB Mark Walton vs. Toledo LB JaWuan Woodley
 
One of the best running backs in the ACC, Walton opened the season with an outstanding showing against Bethune-Cookman. The junior rushed for a game-high 148 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, recording his seventh-career 100-yard rushing game. Walton is tied for ninth in school history in 100-yard rushing performances and has 27 touchdowns in 27 career games entering Saturday’s contest, including 25 rushing scores.
 
Miami head coach Mark Richt has always liked to establish his running game, so the Canes may look to use Walton and sophomore running back Travis Homer early and often against a Toledo defense that allowed three 100-yard rushers against Tulsa.
 
Woodley is one of Toledo’s top defenders and he will likely be around the ball often on Saturday afternoon. The senior linebacker was a third-team All-MAC selection in 2016 and entered the season on the Preseason All-MAC team. A candidate for the Butkus Award and the Lombardi Award, Woodley has 13 tackles (10 solo), a pair of sacks and an interception through three games this season.

Miami’s defensive backs vs. Toledo WR Cody Thompson

The Hurricanes have a talented but largely unproven secondary and that group will be tested Saturday by Toledo’s high-octane offense. Miami entered the season with just 14 combined starts in the defensive backfield, with safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine tied for the lead at five apiece and cornerback Malek Young adding four starts to the group. The addition of graduate transfer Dee Delaney brings some maturity to the Canes’ DBs and Delaney is slated to start next to Young or junior Michael Jackson at corner. Freshmen Trajan Bandy and Amari Carter, as well as sophomores Romeo Finley and Robert Knowles, will also see time in the secondary against Toledo.

“We have to be ready for the tempo of the game,” Young said. “They move pretty quick. They have good receivers, we just have to match up with them and their scheme. It’s more than athleticism. It’s the scheme and the routes that they run and motions that they do to throw off the plays. We just have to come prepared and mentally focused.”

Thompson is Toledo’s most dangerous receiver, leading the team with 22 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns on the season. The senior wideout enters Saturday’s game fresh off an outstanding performance against Tulsa, hauling in nine catches for 178 yards and three scores. A Biletnikoff Award watch list selection entering the season Thompson ranks seventh in Toledo history in receiving yards and is eighth in receiving touchdowns.

Kickoff against the Rockets is set for 3:30 p.m., from Hard Rock Stadium. Click here for ticket information.