Cam Ward stars in Miami’s 2024 Spring Game

Senior quarterback Cam Ward rushes with the ball at Cobb Stadium Photo credit: Brooke Hearst

The University of Miami concluded its spring football training on April 13, 2024, with the annual Spring Game. The classic offense versus defense game was the first time Miami fans could see the newest 2024 recruits and transfers play with the team. The match highlighted areas of success, improvements and focus.

Tackling the offensive squad first, who took home a win for the “white” team with a final score of 30-14, sparked much attention amongst the crowd. Quarterback Cam Ward completed 19 of 24 passes, adding up to 324 yards, and connected for three touchdowns, bringing Miami fans to their feet.

“I feel very comfortable, especially behind the offensive line. Those five guys up front, you know, they got the hardest job on the field each and every day,” Ward said. “They got to come with the right mindset. And they’re going to be the reason we win a lot of football games.”

Ward is gaining confidence in the line protecting him and has grown increasingly more comfortable throwing to Xavier Restrepo and Isaiah Horton, two of the team’s returning wide receivers. He connected with Restrepo in the second quarter, throwing a long pass down the right side, and Restrepo finished the pass and took it into the end zone.

“A guy like that with you out there, a receiver who knows how to win vs. man, who can find soft spots in zone, is good for our offense,” Ward said.

A third-year sophomore, Horton entered the game with a bang, scoring a touchdown on his first drive, and the connection between him and Ward grew stronger as the game progressed. Head coach Mario Cristobal praised Ward for his talent and leadership both on and off the field; his contributions to the team have greatly enhanced the community between players.

“Isaiah Horton had a great spring. I thought all the quarterbacks did some good things, but Cam certainly,” Cristobal said.

Every quarterback demonstrated their arm strength, throwing deep passes but occasionally coming up with an incomplete pass by the receiver. Jacurri Brown, Reese Poffenbarger, Emory Williams and Judd Anderson took the field with determination, proving dedication to the team.

They each stood out for their own respective reasons: Brown with a touchdown pass to tight end Jackson Carver, Williams with a touchdown to end the first half and Poffenbarger with a long completion as well.

The ‘Canes defense played fast and intense even though there were some gaps in consistency. A few missed tackles allowed for a touchdown and many first downs.

Defensive end Marquise Lightfoot, a 2024 recruit who has yet to attend senior prom or graduation, picked up a fumble recovery and recorded a sack.

“I just need to be that dominant force on the outside, especially with this aerated offense. We have deep balls down the field, you know third down single field receiver, they’re going to single me out. I have to go make those plays. Not just me, but the team for the community, for everybody. It’s bigger than just me. That’s how I think about it. And that’s what I think about when I play,” Lightfoot said.

Akheem Mesidor was on the sidelines during the game, recovering from his double-foot surgeries. Alongside this defensive end at the game were University of Miami Football Hall of Famers Andre Johnson and Michael Irvin, representing the program’s alumni that attended the game. The day before, the two attended a UM football alumni event.

“Andre Johnson spoke very powerfully, and then Michael Irvin took the stage and it really impacted our players. We needed to see that,” Cristobal said. These historical guys showed the team what it means to play for Miami, and how they are ready to see this squad produce future hall of famers also.”

“I came out today and saw a lot. Some plays that were positive and some obviously that were not as positive, but guys did compete, and we got a lot of plays in. A lot to work and look off of film and to go from there and get ready for the off-season.” Cristobal added.

Though the offense was referred to as “vanilla,” both sides of the ball showed fans, alumni, students and future recruits just a taste of what to expect for next season. However, there is no rest for this Miami team. The opening game at rival Florida on August 31 is already on their radar. Until then, they will take it day by day, with leaders like Ward stepping up to advance the program.