Hurricanes football squad shake off rust in spring game tune-up exhibition

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya was picked off three times in the spring game but showed signs of promise.

Brett Davis/Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya patrolled the sideline at Lockhart Stadium with no shortage of vehemence on Saturday afternoon as the defense defeated the offense 54-47 in Miami’s annual spring game.

"The defense was blowing us out in the first half," said Kaaya, who was seen attempting to light a fire under his teammates while trailing 44-22 at halftime.

"In the second half, I told everyone to turn it up. Everyone’s gotta get better — me, receivers and the o-line, too. I just demanded everyone to wake up."

Kaaya, who threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns as a true freshman last season, was picked off three times — twice by junior defensive back Jamal Carter — during the game, but didn’t dwell on any of his mistakes following his first spring game with the Hurricanes.

"You’ve just gotta keep playing," said Kaaya, who arrived on campus from his native California in June. "Whether it starts out rough or starts out smooth, there’s always ups and downs in every game and throughout the season. You’ve just gotta keep playing and demand your guys do the same thing."

Overall, the afternoon was chock-full of just about everything you’d expect from an exhibition game in March. From blown assignments to dropped passes, players looked unpolished despite possessing a sizable amount of collective talent buried underneath layers of rust.

"I think they competed, it was physical," Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said of the game. "We’ll clean up the mistakes and the interceptions and things like that. I thought we were breaking on the ball well. I thought we made some good plays. For everything we do wrong, we’re on the other side doing something right."

With the 15th and final session of spring ball now in the books, Golden and his coaching staff will have roughly five months to figure out how to highlight the positives from Saturday’s game while weaning out the negatives.

In many respects, the spring game served as a final exam of sorts for the players involved and now it’s time for Golden and his staff to grab their red markers and begin the grading process.

"I think there’s a lot we’re going to learn," said Golden. "I look at the totality of the spring and what we learned about our team and each individual player. I look at the big picture and take away what we need to take away and kind of plot a course for the next five months."

"I think we learned a lot about our team. We’ll just take a deep breath and evaluate everything on Monday and go from there."

As for Kaaya, the soon-to-be sophomore doesn’t expect to have much, if any, free time in the coming months. While most 19-year-olds are on the beach this summer, he’ll be hitting the weight room every week, Monday through Friday, among his various other offseason workouts.

"For us, it’s getting better on our own," Kaaya said of the road ahead. "The coaches can’t always be with us."

"The season pretty much starts today. It’s preparation for the 2015 season."

Heading into next season, Kaaya believes that he can "take more command of the team" and Saturday’s sideline sermon was just a taste of the vocal leadership he plans to exhibit in the future.

In fact, when asked if the Hurricanes were now his team, Kaaya didn’t hesitate with his answer.

"Yeah. It’s me and Dallas (Crawford) it feels like right now," he said.

YEARBY SUSPENDED

Notably absent on Saturday was Hurricanes running back Joseph Yearby, who was suspended for Miami’s spring game for a violation of team rules.

Yearby, who is expected to help fill the void left by Duke Johnson’s departure to the NFL, was Miami’s second-leading rusher as a freshman last year with 509 yards and one touchdown on 86 carries. He also caught eight passes for 118 yards and one touchdown.

Golden did not offer comment on the suspension after the game.

You can follow Jameson Olive on Twitter @JamesonCoop or email him at JamesonOlive@gmail.com.