Entering Friday, Malik Rosier had completed 184 passes, while Evan Shirreffs had completed two, as the Hurricanes had won their first 10 games and risen to No. 2 in the nation. So although Rosier is certainly no superstar, coach Mark Richt’s decision to bench him in the fourth quarter of a Miami loss to Pittsburgh raised more than a few eyebrows.
The Hurricanes were down 17-7 with about 10 minutes to play when Shirreffs jogged in from the sideline, threw two incompletions and took a sack, before his team feebly punted the ball away. Pittsburgh responded with a game-sealing touchdown and wound up winning 24-14.
We can see what Richt was thinking in benching his quarterback. Rosier, who had completed only 56 percent of his passes on the season entering Friday, was 12-for-30 for 129 yards at the time of the change, and the coach probably figured Shirreffs couldn’t be any worse. But given that Rosier had started all season for an undefeated team, he might have deserved a slightly longer leash, especially given that Shirreffs was almost entirely inexperienced. Richt took a whole lot of criticism for pulling Rosier, especially after he re-entered the game and led a touchdown drive.
What is Mark Richt doing? You can't pull your 10-0 QB in the 4th quarter. You've got to roll with him.
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) November 24, 2017
If Rosier isn't hurt, what Mark Richt just did is one of the worst coaching decisions I've seen
— Shandel Richardson (@ShandelRich) November 24, 2017
— Wes Thankenship (@Wes_nship) November 24, 2017
I'm assuming Rosier is hurt.
Richt gonna have some splaining to do. Because that was just dumb as hell.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) November 24, 2017
I get that Malik Rosier has struggled today. But man, I don't know about this…
— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) November 24, 2017
Total panic move by Mark Richt. This is worse than that time he started Faton Bauta vs. Florida.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) November 24, 2017
Mark Richt teams every time they get close to the big stage pic.twitter.com/ZQ8y2G0ePT
— Mikey B (@bobosdad) November 24, 2017
How in the world do you bench Malik Rosier?
— Bonta Hill (@BontaHill) November 24, 2017
This is a terrible and frustrating loss. Malik Rosier played awful. But I've never been this upset about a coaching decision before. Pulling Rosier was absurd. I hope he stays resilient like he's been all season and steps up against Clemson. Let's go win next week @TheStateOfTheU
— John Pickens (@Jpickens15) November 24, 2017
Regardless of whether Richt’s decision to bench Rosier was right or wrong, Miami’s defeat is pretty shocking. The Hurricanes had not lost all season and were two weeks removed from blowing out Notre Dame. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was 4-7 overall and 2-5 in ACC play.
The big question now is how Miami’s first loss affects the team’s College Football Playoff hopes. And although the Hurricanes will obviously drop in the rankings next week, their hopes are far from shot. Rosier and company get a chance to redeem themselves next week against current No. 3 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. If Miami wins that game, they’ll be one-loss ACC champs with one of the most impressive wins of the year. That will likely be good enough for the CFP committee.
After the fiasco against Pittsburgh, it seems likely that Richt will leave Rosier alone next week. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be too sure.