ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Jarren Williams remained composed in the face of a relentless pass rush, took care of the football, and also did a nice job of providing some of Miami’s other young playmakers opportunities to shine.
The red-shirt freshman quarterback may not have been good enough to beat a Top 10 opponent in his first college start, but he gave the Hurricanes reason for optimism moving forward in a rebuilding season.
“Jarren never really blinked. … I think you can see why we picked him to be our guy,” first-year coach Manny Diaz said following a mistake-filled 24-20 loss to No. 8 Florida in the Camping World Kickoff.
Despite yielding 10 sacks, missing a 27-yard field goal and being penalized 14 times for 125 yards, Miami still had a shot at winning in the closing seconds on Saturday night.
Williams completed 19 of 29 passes for 214 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Miami’s defense did its part to give the Hurricanes a chance by forcing four turnovers and limiting Florida to 52 yards rushing.
“I felt like it was a lot of good,” said Williams, the first freshman to start a season opener for Miami since Brad Kaaya against Louisville in 2014. “There’s a lot of things I can learn from, too. ”
Diaz, who stressed there are no moral victories at Miami, is eager to get back on the practice field and correct mistakes as the team prepares for Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“If anything, now we’ve got to keep going and be more motivated to improve because we could say: ‘Well, we played pretty good,’ and then all of a sudden we relax and we’ll end up in this exact same position in two weeks’ time,” the coach said.
“We’re not satisfied with losing,” Williams said, echoing Diaz’s sentiment. “The goal is to win.”
The Hurricanes next play at North Carolina on Sept. 7.
One priority before then will be addressing the play of the offensive line, which struggled to protect Williams in the pocket.
The quarterback said he can help, too, by doing a better job of getting rid of the ball when he’s under duress.
“My offensive line did a really good job in my opinion,” Williams said, adding he held the ball too long on at least two of Florida’s sacks.
Diaz was hesitant to blame the offensive line, too, adding Florida’s experienced defensive front was part of the problem, too.
And, the coach stressed, the entire offense has to be the solution.
“Protecting the quarterback,” Diaz said, “is an 11-man job.”
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