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Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Kaaya needs teammates to step up, too

By Andrea Adelson

To give Miami true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya the best possible chance to succeed, he needed the absolute best his teammates and coaches had to give in his debut against Louisville.

Unfortunately for Kaaya, it seems everybody around him let him down.

The offensive line was overmatched and played poorly, contributing to Duke Johnson's ineffectiveness. Kaaya looked like a jittery freshman. But perhaps most troubling of all, the coaching staff put together too conservative a plan and seemed ill prepared to adjust at what Louisville was throwing at them.

Miami's Brad Kaaya
Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 17 of 29 passes for 174 with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Combine them all together, and you have an offense that looks as dysfunctional as Miami did in a 31-13 loss.

Coach Al Golden admitted Tuesday there is a fine line between throwing open the entire playbook on the road in a hostile environment and making sure to call enough plays to get a new quarterback comfortable. But he admitted that perhaps more could have been done to help Kaaya out.

"That's a fair criticism. We probably could have or should have opened it up a little more for him, just based on where he is as a player and his mind," Golden said.

Kaaya made his share of mistakes in his debut, but so did those around him. He threw two interceptions. But worse, Miami had two trips inside the Louisville 10 yard-line and came away with just a field goal. The first time, Kaaya noted an opportunity to catch Louisville offside. So he rushed a bubble screen to Stacy Coley, unintentionally throwing a lateral. Louisville recovered.

That one was on Kaaya.

The second time, Miami put together a long drive that started at its own 5 with some big plays from Johnson and Phillip Dorsett. Down to the 12-yard line, Miami advanced to the 5 and needed 3 yards to get a first down. Miami called a third straight running play and settled for the field goal.

That one is on the coaches.

"I was of the mind-set we were going to get a first down in four downs," Golden said. "I was not counting on a 2-yard loss on third down. Even if we just block it correctly and get back to the line of scrimmage, I'm probably going for it there. It didn't turn out that way because we missed an assignment."

The offensive line was an issue throughout the course of the game. One ineligible man downfield penalty negated a big play from Johnson late in the game. Lorenzo Mauldin and Deiontrez Mount seemed to set up shop in the Canes backfield. Kaaya was only sacked twice, but he was hit countless others.

"We clearly did not protect him well enough," Golden said.

Louisville followed a similar blueprint in the bowl game meeting between them last year, despite a new scheme and staff change. The Cards were physical and aggressive, and got after the quarterback. Yet Miami did not seem ready for what the Cards would do. When it became clear that this Louisville defense was playing much quicker, especially off the edge, Miami never adjusted.

Kaaya was not perfect, but he showed why he was an elite prospect out of high school. Some of his throws were perfect, especially the 31-yard pass to Clive Walford that set up his touchdown. You saw the glimmers that gave Golden the confidence to go with a true freshman over fifth-year senior Jake Heaps. Kaaya finished 17-of-29 for 174 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Not great, but not awful either.

"There's always things to get better at," Kaaya told reporters after the game. "I did some good things and I did some bad things, but I just feel like there's always a place to improve."

There is room to grow for everyone on the team. But for Kaaya to reach his true potential, he is going to need his coaches to get him there. They need to step up their game, too.