After getting steamrolled on defense for two consecutive weeks to open the season, Hurricanes coaches and players insisted last week that there was no way they could afford to look past Bethune-Cookman and start game-planning for Georgia Tech’s spread-option offense.
Now, it appears UM might have to get ready for the Yellow Jackets — who ran for 461 yards in a 56-20 victory over Virginia on Saturday — without starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman. The sophomore from Coral Gables sustained a high right ankle sprain in the second quarter Saturday and was wearing a black boot to protect it while standing on crutches on the UM sideline in the second half.
If Perryman misses that game it would be a huge blow for Miami, which already came in ranked 89th in run defense and gave up 233 yards on 53 attempts (4.4 yards per carry) to the Football Championship Subdivision-level Wildcats in a 38-10 victory Saturday.
Junior Jimmy Gaines, who is returning from an ankle injury himself, replaced Perryman at middle linebacker for most of the second half.
UM had a handful of other players go down with injuries. Backup safety Andrew Swasey, who was also seen on crutches, and long snapper Sean McNally were injured in the first quarter and never returned. Backup linebacker Thurston Ambrister injured his right shoulder late in the game.
Despite the injuries and the yardage the Wildcats put up, UM coach Al Golden thought progress was made on defense.
“Is it perfect yet? No. It’s not perfect. But kids were fighting, flying around,” Golden said. “We didn’t get the takeaways we wanted to get. Again, that’s hard to do. We improved. Clearly, we have to go back to work [Sunday].”
UM had three sacks, two by freshman defensive end Tyriq McCord. But Golden was disappointed with how many other sacks the Canes let slip through their fingers Saturday.
“I just didn’t wrap up,” said defensive end Shayon Green, who had eight tackles to lead UM again. “They just slipped through my hands, I don’t even know. It happens. I’ll look at the film. That’s easy to fix.”
Quarterback Stephen Morris, who came in having completed 66.2 percent of his passes in his first two games, struggled with his accuracy Saturday.
He finished 20 of 35 for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he overthrew open receivers at least a handful of times in a performance Golden referred to as “spotty.”
“We’ll go back in the film room [Sunday] and [Saturday night] and get things taken care of,” Morris said. “A couple times I felt like the ball slipped out a little too much. I need to work on my sprints [roll outs].”
Three Canes made their first collegiate starts: safeties Deon Bush and A.J. Highsmith, and receiver Malcolm Lewis.
Lewis had two catches for 9 yards. Bush had three tackles and a pass breakup. Highsmith had one tackle.
“A.J. and Deon ran it really well, didn’t have many mental errors,” Golden said. “We brought Deon in on pressures a couple times. I think anybody can see his athleticism and acceleration. He’s got to keep the ball inside when he does come in. He let it outside a couple times. It was a good experience for those guys.”