Quarterback play in college football. Hard to find ultimate success if it’s not up to par; something Miami found out the hard way last Friday at Pittsburgh when first-year starter Malik Rosier saw his game catch up with him.

Despite the 15-of-34 afternoon, where Rosier threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns—it was a handful of those 19 misses that proved to be the ultimate difference-maker in the loss.

A few overthrows for would-be scores, or passes behind receivers on crucial third downs—weeks of living dangerously caught up with Rosier and the Hurricanes; to the point where head coach Mark Richt temporarily benched his starting quarterback in the fourth quarter, in effort to send a message—and the message appears to have been received proper.

There was no miracle finish for the Hurricanes at Heinz Field—much like Rosier and Miami saw against Florida State or Georgia Tech—but the ripple-effect from the sit-down, coupled with the humility that comes from losing; it seems to have lit a spark under the junior quarterback.

“I feel like he has more of an edge,” wideout Ahmmon Richards said of Rosier earlier this week. “I feel like he’s moving around a lot more. He’s more vocal. I just feel like he has an edge to him this week. I like it.”

Rosier owned last week’s mistakes. Taking blame for the offense’s slow start; blaming himself, his body language, energy and things of that nature. Coaches have since hammered home pushing the offense and the tempo; constant reminders that the ship follows the leader—a title that might’ve been hard for Rosier to accept up until this point.

Be it a swarming defense, the Turnover Chain or Miami’s overall team mentality this season—wearing the label of “the guy” can make for a strange transition, depending on personality type. Injured running back Mark Walton is the type who relishes the role, while his replacement Travis Homer is more the speak soft, carry a big stick-type. Same to be said for a handful of guys on defense; some leading verbally, others by example.

Quarterback is a much different beast as the team’s focal point, engine and architect. Setbacks are inevitable—but the response to adversity remains the ultimate measuring stick.

Richt talked this week about the late-game sit-down and how Rosier responded. The quarterback took his medicine—realizing the err in his ways. Instead of sulking, Rosier waited a drive and boldly asked to be reinserted so he could lead his team. The response, a two play drive with back-to-back passed to Braxton Berrios; the second, a 39-yard touchdown strike.

From there, a man-up style post-game presser where Rosier seemed to authentically accept responsibility, while displaying an understanding of what had taken place—and why. No athlete-speak or fluff; it played as a genuine moment that has since carried over to practice this week—as explained by Richards discussing the newfound “edge”, as well as positive accolades from the coaching staff.

“I think he’s responded well,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown told the Miami Herald. “He’s always been a very confident guy. This is his best week of preparation so far. Sunday night was his best night. It was our best night as an offense. Today was a great practice, one of the best Tuesdays all year. It starts with the quarterback and when he has the right mindset, taking charge, pushing the tempo. Everyone is fine.”

Richt echoed the sentiment.

“Malik has responded great. I wanted to observe his demeanor, his body language, his voice. He knew when the game was over—he knew he was our guy. He knew there was no controversy. It could shake up a guy. He knows we believe in him and I do believe in him.”

Next question; how will that belief roll over into a showdown against new-No. 1 Clemson?

Also lost in the wake of Miami’s first loss of the season; five spots in the latest College Football Playoffs poll—dropping from No. 2 to No. 7—not to mention some general belief.

For whatever reason, a one-loss Hurricanes squad took a much bigger hit appearance-wise and seems to have more to apologize for than other programs with blemishes on their record. Clemson lost to Syracuse. Oklahoma lost to Iowa State. Auburn lost early to Clemson and later to LSU. Georgia and Alabama both lost to Auburn. Ohio State lost to Oklahoma and Iowa.

Seems all the big dogs have taken hits this year—yet none have been hammered for it, or knocked down the way Miami has. The one slip-up at Pittsburgh, seemingly lumped on top of all the “close calls” this year and negativity which came from “not winning by enough”.

Those nail-biting victories arguably gave the Hurricanes a false sense of invincibility, while the pain and response from a loss—that’s not something that could be manufactured. Still, that should be Miami’s cross to bear; not an excuse for outsiders to pile on or discredit what’s taken place this special season.

Biggest upside for Miami in all this—Rosier included—another backs-to-the-wall moment, where Richt and staff can play the “disrespect” card, leaving the Canes to play at their best, with a collective chip on the team’s shoulder.

Good, bad or indifferent—Miami responds best in moments of chaos, not comfort. Struggling at Florida State early, it effectively took two game-winning drives to close out. At home a week later against Georgia Tech, a slow start and botched onside kick put the Canes in a deep hole—but they scrapped their way out, earning a one-point victory.

Underdogs at home, both to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame; Miami rolled both by a combined score of 69-18, forcing eight turnovers.

Conversely, put the Canes up against one-win North Carolina or upset-minded Syracuse and both games turned out to be dogfight. Virginia was no picnic either; trailing 14-0 and 28-14 at home on Senior Day, before rising up, taking over and rattling off 30 points unanswered.

Sometimes the “us against the world” mentality gets overplayed by fans, but in the wake of the season’s first loss and doubt seemingly creeping in regarding the media and outsiders—even more reason for Rosier and these Hurricanes to turn inwards, believe in each other and play with purpose Saturday night in Charlotte.

“We don’t respond well when we have success, when nobody is talking bad about us,” Brown said, of this squad—explains that these Canes struggle to respond outside the spotlight.

Good news on that front as there’s no bigger stage than the next two—or three—games for Miami. Win and you’re in. There is no in-between or gray area.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties and launched allCanesBlog.com soon thereafter. After being poached away by BleacherReport as a featured columnist, Bello launched ItsAUThing.com to scratch that orange and green itch. In his day-to-day Bello works with icon Bill Murray and humor website theCHIVE on the William Murray golf apparel line—but all free time is spent reminding the masses that it’s a Canes thing and they wouldn’t understand.

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