Canes Shine in Annual Spring Game

Canes Shine in Annual Spring Game

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It was, in ways, a different kind of spring game for the Hurricanes.

The venue was right on campus at Cobb Stadium, mere yards from the practice fields on Greentree where they’ve been working for the better part of the last six weeks. The stands lining the track were filled with family and friends, Miami students, alumni, and season-ticket holders. And new faces lined up all across the field.

But in all the ways that mattered, it was exactly how Miami wanted to end the spring.

Quarterback transfer Cam Ward, one of those new faces on the roster, showed why he was one of the top signal callers in college football last season, delivering a series of big plays and showing off his athleticism throughout the afternoon.

Veterans like Xavier Restrepo and Wesley Bissainthe made their presence felt and young newcomers like Elija Lofton and Marquise Lightfoot logged significant reps and showed why Miami’s most recent recruiting class was one of the best in the nation.

Additionally, some Hurricanes who’ve been recovering from injuries – like quarterback Emory Williams and running back TreVonte’ Citizen – once again had the chance to play in front of an appreciative crowd, a crowd that welcomed them back with hearty cheers.

And all of it played out in front of more than a few Hurricanes greats who returned to campus this weekend, including Devin Hester and Andre Johnson, who were honored before the scrimmage as two of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I mean, we have 300 alumni in town, right? Many of them have never seen all the advances campus has made, you know? I remember playing this game here and practicing here and just the energy that came with the community was something we felt we had to do for the student body, for the community, for the university, for our fans [and] for our players here to feel that,” said Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal, an alum and two-time national champion at Miami himself. “And I’ll tell you, in a short amount of time with what we had, they did a really good job setting up a really good environment and our players enjoyed it.”

There certainly was plenty for those alumni and fans to enjoy throughout the afternoon, too.

Ward, who came to Coral Gables after two seasons at Washington State, led the offense down the field on several drives and was 17 of 23 for 260 yards with a pair of touchdowns in the first half, which allowed for tackling and followed more of a traditional game format.

Understandably, the quarterback – who was fourth in the nation last season with an average of 311.3 passing yards per game – earned praise from both Cristobal and his teammates once the spring game ended.

“I thought all the quarterbacks did some good things, but Cam, it’s obvious he’s a guy,” Cristobal said.

Added receiver Isaiah Horton, who caught Ward’s first touchdown pass of the day, “His leadership, his confidence on the field, off the field, the way he sees the field and then just him as a person, he’s a great person and he’s a great friend.”

Several players on the defensive side of the ball delivered big plays as well Saturday, including Lightfoot, who notched four tackles and a sack, Bissainthe, who had four tackles, including a key fourth-down stop, and linebacker Raul Aguirre, Jr., who had three tackles and a sack.

After the game, Lightfoot – who noted he’ll be returning home to Chicago soon to attend both his high school graduation and his prom – said that enrolling early and competing in spring drills made a huge difference in his ability to compete.

“I feel like enrolling early is a real important thing … I’m fresh out of high school and I’m working with 20-year-olds, 21-year-olds, and 22-year-olds,” Lightfoot said. “It’s just a crazy experience. And I’m glad to be able to get through [this] early.”

With spring drills now behind them, the Hurricanes will start to turn their focus to the offseason ahead of their opener against Florida on Aug. 31.

There will be, Cristobal noted, likely some roster adjustments. And there will also be plenty of work to do both in the locker room and on the field. There will be film to study, too.

But there was significant progress made this spring, and that, the Hurricanes said, will make a world of difference as they continue moving toward the season that awaits.

“To me, what stands out the most is what happened throughout spring ball,” Cristobal said. “A team that for the most part, went back and forth, back and forth … Competition was increased at a lot of positions and some of the needs that are a little bit more clear, they were assessed, and we improved and then some might have to be improved no going forward. A lot of stuff goes on now, you know, after today. But overall, just a team that’s progressing, a team that’s really understanding and growing and developing.”

Added Ward “I felt good, especially knowing the work that we put into the last 14 practices. But you know, spring ball is over. Now we can start to come more together as a team, with the new guys coming in and come August 31st, we’ll be ready for that challenge.”