Of at least 14 Miami true freshmen who played their first college game Friday, only one started on offense or defense.
Francis Mauigoa, UM’s 6-6, 342-pound 18-year-old from Ili’ili in American Samoa, took the field on the first offensive snap of 2023 and participated in 61 plays at right tackle in UM’s 38-3 victory over Miami of Ohio. He will be back at Hard Rock Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ABC) to face No. 23 Texas A&M (1-0) of the Southeastern Conference.
Mauigoa’s older brother Francisco, a third-year junior who transferred in the offseason from Washington State, started at middle linebacker, led the team with five tackles and was named by UM as the defensive player of the game. What did he tell “little” brother Francis, who did well as a run blocker (64.2 grade by Pro Football Focus) but not so well at pass blocking (44.1), after the game?
“I just asked him how he felt,’’ Francisco said Tuesday of Francis, who was penalized for holding, negating a 24-yard completion to Jacolby George in the final drive of the first half.. “He’s been very mature. I think he grew up really fast. He said, ‘It’s just another game.’ I’m proud he’s handling it like a mature man. He’s good.
“Yeah, we just keep getting ourselves better. I told him a few mistakes he had that I kind of picked out to get better at. That was basically our conversation after the game.”
The UM starting line did not give up a sack. Mauigoa, according to PFF, allowed two pressures. But the line paved the way for the Hurricanes’ 250 yards of rushing and three rushing touchdowns.
“We did talk before we went out there,’’ Francisco said. “I told him, ‘It’s just another game. Keep your composure and just take it all in and play your game. Don’t worry about anyone else but yourself.’ He was ready.”
Francisco said that every time he came off the bench last Friday he looked at the stadium videoboard to watch Francis in action. “I think he did good.’’
Lee on Mauigoa
“I thought it was great,’’ Lee said. “He’s 18 years old. He’s a true freshman. That was his first collegiate football game. Went out and played 61 snaps. Played a good game, graded out well. Obviously you’re going to have bumps here and there, especially his first game. He just got to college.
“But immediately after the game and in the meeting room, I don’t want to say he was beating himself up, but he is very much holding himself accountable for every little error that he’ll make, which is a great quality that he has — very self-aware. Doesn’t think of himself as super high. He’s super humble, which is going to help him develop to have a season in his career. I’m always impressed with CiCi. The guy mentally and physically is a beast and he’s going to keep getting better all year.”
The only other freshman that started Friday was punter Dylan Joyce. He punted twice for 83 total yards, averaging 41.5 a kick, with a 47-yard long punt and one inside the 20-yard line.
Coach Mario Cristobal commented this week on the difference that newcomers Lee, left guard Javion Cohen (Alabama transfer) and Mauigo have made to the line.
“It’s something we need to do every single year,’’ the coach said. “It’s a great billboard. It’s a great commercial for other guys that are seeking opportunities to grow at that position. We’re such a trench-driven organization and we need more and certainly we need some playmakers.
“It’s only been one game, but if you sat them down and asked them their experience, how they’re developing, how they’re treated, how they’re growing and maturing, you’ll be very happy with their responses. To see them come out and perform as if they’ve been playing together for a long time, that was neat to see.
“And it was better to see them [Monday] talking about how to get better. Those guys have a lot of pride. They are not in any way, shape or form looking for pats on the back or any kind of satisfaction. They just want to improve, get better and they want to win.”