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Second Half Surge Pushes Canes Past Toledo, 52-30

Second Half Surge Pushes Canes Past Toledo, 52-30

By David Villavicencio

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes exploded for 42 second half points to defeat Toledo, 52-30, in their first game in 21 days.

The No. 14 Canes (2-0), who had one game cancelled, another postponed and spent the past week practicing in Orlando due to Hurricane Irma, returned to action before 49,361 fans at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday. Miami entered the game looking to slow the Rockets’ offense and did so early, taking a 10-0 lead before Toledo (3-1) ripped off 16 straight points in the second quarter to head into the intermission up, 16-10.

“That was enough drama for three weeks of football,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “I’m very impressed with what Toledo did tonight as a football team. We all know the score doesn’t indicate what really happened in that game or how close it was for them to tie this thing and possibly even take it into overtime. Mostly I’m thankful for the victory. I’m usually that way anyway, but this one in particular, just little more than normal. We’ve been through a lot. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for a lot of us. There are so many things you have to be thinking through and planning and making decisions on and just figuring out a way. Our administration was awesome helping us do everything we felt we needed to do to keep our players safe and keep our staff safe, and then to try and regroup and start thinking about football again in Orlando, that was big.” 

Miami got back on track in the third quarter, retaking the lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by sophomore Travis Homer. The Canes entered the red zone one play earlier, when quarterback Malik Rosier fired a 19-yard pass to Mike Harley to put the Canes on the Toledo 12 yard line before Homer sprinted to the end zone for his first career score that put Miami up, 17-16, with 5:36 to go in the quarter.

Braxton Berrios hauled in a Rosier pass and sprinted 55 yards to the Toledo 10-yard line for a career-long reception. One play later, Miami’s quarterback found Dayall Harris for his first career touchdown that extended the Hurricanes’ lead, 24-16. Rosier, who completed a career-high 27 of 36 passes for a career-best 333 yards and tied his career-high with three passing touchdowns and an interception, has thrown multiple touchdowns in each of his three career starts. The redshirt junior also ran for a touchdown, contributing on four of Miami’s seven touchdowns on the afternoon.

“I would say that composure was the biggest thing,” Rosier said of the emotions surrounding the game. “We took the lead at first and they ended up taking it back. I was telling the receivers, ‘the big thing is you guys have to win outside.’ The first half, Toledo really had us and we came in at halftime and I said, ‘listen, they’re playing ‘mano e mano’, man on man’ and I said, ‘If you guys have that mentality that you’re going to win, I promise that we’ll walk away with a victory.’ Those guys did a great job the second half. The offense started clicking and the guys did a great job creating separation making the balls easier to throw. For me it was just being humble, being patient, and just waiting for the opportunity to make plays.”

The Hurricanes defense had one of its biggest plays of the day late in the third quarter, when junior defensive back Sheldrick Redwine recovered a fumble by Rockets quarterback Logan Woodside and returned it seven yards to the Toledo 21-yard line. 

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Miami pushed the Hurricanes back to the Toledo 36, but Miami responded with a 17-yard rush by Walton and a 19-yard touchdown reception by Berrios to put the Canes up, 31-16. Berrios finished the game with five catches for a career-best 105 yards and a score, recording the first 100-yard receiving game of his career.

“It felt good, to say the least,” Berrios said of his second touchdown of the season. “Again, Malik gave me a chance on a ball and I went up and made a play. It always feels good, especially with this game. We were down at half time and we fought, and they almost had a great run in the fourth quarter that we let them have. 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. Once you get momentum, football is a psychological game half the time, and as you saw, they started dropping balls and everything started going our way a little bit more, so I was happy for the team.”

Christopher Herndon IV hauled in his first touchdown of the season, a two-yard score on a swing pass to the left that put Miami up, 38-16. The senior tight end set a career-high with a team-leading eight catches for a career-best 65 yards and a touchdown.

Toledo scored its first points of the second half when Woodside connected with receiver Diontae Johnson for a six-yard touchdown, but the Rockets’ attempt at a two-point conversion was thwarted when Miami stopped running back Art Thompkins just short of the goal line.

Safety Jordan Williams picked off Rosier at the Miami 43 and returned the ball to the Miami eight yard line, putting the Rockets in prime position to score again and they did just that. Woodside connected with Johnson in the end zone for the second time. Woodside also found Johnson on the two-point conversion attempt to cut Miami’s lead to eight, 38-30, with 7:37 remaining in the game.

“When I walked to the sideline I was kind of upset because if you watch the film, Jeff Thomas was wide open, I just completely missed him,” Rosier said of his interception. “But when I got to the sideline, the coaches said, “don’t worry about it, we’re not even going to talk about it, just play the next drive.” Most coaches would probably yell and scream but these coaches have confidence in me. For me the biggest thing was that we came in the next drive and just kept playing and ended up scoring.”

Rosier would redeem himself for the interception, completing three passes for 40 yards before scampering 23 yards for a touchdown on the next drive that gave Miami a 45-30 lead with 6:01 left in the game.

Homer sealed Miami’s victory with a 15-yard touchdown run, his second of the day, with 2:30 left in the game. The sophomore finished the day with 32 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. 

“So far this season the third quarter has been our ally,” Toledo head coach Jason Candle said. “Today it was our enemy. We didn’t tackle great in the second half and were just a hair off all day on offense. Uncharacteristically, we dropped a couple of passes by guys who have made big-time plays for us in the past. We were close, but you have to give Miami a lot of credit here.”

While it was Miami’s offense that got hot in the second half, Toledo’s attack threatened early. The Rockets’ high-powered offense was on display on their opening drive, picking up a pair of first downs and moving into Miami territory. But the Hurricane defense stepped up, as RJ McIntosh’s sack on 3rd and 8 from the Miami 46 pushed the Rockets back eight yards and forced a Toledo punt.

Miami carried the momentum from the defensive stop into its opening drive, as the Hurricanes get on the scoreboard quickly when junior Mark Walton rushed for a 44-yard touchdown to cap an 85-yard, five play scoring drive. The touchdown was Walton’s 28th career score in as many games at Miami.

The second drive was just as explosive for Miami, as Mark Walton ripped off a career-long 82 yard run to spark a six-play scoring drive that was capped by a 19-yard Michael Badgley field goal that put the Canes up, 10-0. The 82-yard run also put Walton over 100 yards for the eighth time in his career, moving him into a tie with Frank Gore for the eighth-most 100-yard rushing games in school history. 

Walton had 137 yards and a touchdown on six carries before leaving the game with an injury in the middle of the second quarter, but the junior returned with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter and finished the game with a career-high 204 rushing yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.

“I was always in pain,” Walton said of when he returned to the game. “First time feeling that type of pain. 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. We tried different types of taping styles . . . I knew I had to get back out there, I didn’t want to let me team down. It was [16] to 10 coming into halftime and being in the locker room, looking at that as one of the leaders of the offense and I’m out. I knew if I can try to go I’m going to go out there and do what I can do for my team and that’s what I did tonight.”

Walton recorded the seventh 200-yard rushing game in Miami history and first since Duke Johnson ran for 249 yards at Virginia Tech in 2014. His 204 yards tie him for sixth in a single game in Miami history with Willis McGahee, who ran for 204 yards at Florida in 2002.

“It was a great performance by me,” Walton said. “More so, the o-linemen did a great job and Chris Herndon did a great job when he was at fullback. And Coach Richt and coach [Thomas] Brown believed in me when I got back to also put the ball back in my hands and believing I could make plays and do something with it.”

But Toledo bounced back, putting up 16 unanswered points to close out the second quarter. Jameson Vest hit a pair of field goals and Woodside found Jon’Vea Johnson for a 37-yard touchdown that gave the Rockets a three-point lead, 13-10. Vest converted a 32-yard attempt in an untimed down to send Toledo into the locker room leading, 16-10.

“We knew we weren’t in quite the football shape that we should be this time of year,” Richt said. “We were going to try and make sure we substituted the best we could, but the thing got out of hand in the first half. We couldn’t really get a stop on defense. Offensively, we had a couple explosive plays and that was about it. They had a lot more plays than us, they had much more time of possession than us. The heat and humidity were working more against us, I thought, than them with how they played. The second half, I think really when the weather cooled down, it probably helped us more than it helped them. I think they’re in better football condition than we were, and the weather I think helped us, but I also think making a couple of plays helped us too.”

Defensively, Miami had a pair of sophomores lead the team with seven tackles. Defenisve lineman Joe Jackson had a career-best seven solo stops, while five of defensive back Malek Young’s career-best seven tackles were solo. Young also had 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. 

Senior defensive lineman Trent Harris had his second career game with two sacks, matching his career-high from Miami’s 35-21 victory at Georgia Tech a year ago. McIntosh and Chad Thomas also had sacks for the Hurricanes, while Miami combined for 9.0 tackles for loss against Toledo.

Miami is back in action next Friday, traveling to Duke for its first road trip of the 2017 season. The matchup between the Hurricanes and Blue Devils will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m., ET.