What could be more worrisome than traveling to Atlanta to face a Georgia Tech spread option offense averaging 374 yards rushing and 44 points a game?
Doing it with an already defensively challenged team missing its best linebacker — two weeks after weak-side starter Ramon Buchanan was knocked out for the season with a severe knee injury.
Miami coach Al Golden indicated Sunday that if middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, who left the game Saturday against Bethune-Cookman with a right ankle injury and returned on crutches, cannot play Saturday against the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), someone is going to have to take charge in a hurry.
“I’m going to continue to be concerned until we can build the type of depth we need at linebacker,” Golden said during a teleconference. “We don’t quite happen to have the numbers we need. If Denzel can’t play — I think Thurston [Armbrister] is going to be fine — but if Denzel can’t play, then we’re going to need guys to step up.
“Gionni Paul is going to get an opportunity, and Jimmy Gaines will get an opportunity, and Tyrone Cornileus.”
Golden did not seem optimistic about Perryman.
“We have nothing further to report at this time,” the coach said. “He’s been getting treatment all day. [He] went down for an MRI or X-ray or something.”
Georgia Tech has scored more than 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1936. Against Virginia (2-1, 0-1) on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets ran for 461 yards, passed for another 133 and held the Cavaliers to 297 total yards.
The Hurricanes (2-1, 1-0) have defeated Georgia Tech three years in a row.
“I was only here for the last one,” Golden said of UM’s 24-7 victory at home in 2011. “Getting some takeaways, making some big plays on special teams and getting a lead — those all factor in.”
He also spoke of the importance of not allowing explosive plays early in the game, as Virginia did.
Several players were treated for injuries during the Bethune-Cookman game, but the only one Golden said was definitely out was snapper Sean McNally. He was unsure about the status of receiver Allen Hurns (concussion), but said “he’s made progress,” and that “they were going to do some conditioning with him [Sunday] to see where he’s at. Defensive tackle Curtis Porter (appendectomy) is “out until I’m informed otherwise,” Golden said. Safety Vaughn Telemaque (knee) is questionable for this week.
• Golden praised A.J. Highsmith, who got his first start at safety, saying “he was very audible back there and made calls with confidence. We weren’t really in a bad coverage all day Saturday in terms of the safety.”
• Golden said Jonathan Feliciano is “probably playing our best football up front on the offensive line,” and that he was “rugged” and “tough” and “in better condition finishing blocks downfield.”
NOON KICKOFF WOES
Golden was asked after the game if he would have liked to see “a bigger crowd out there.”
The crowd was announced at 39,435, seemingly at least twice the amount of fans that that showed up for the game. The Hurricanes rarely draw large crowds, but Saturday’s attendance — for the home opener, to boot — seemed meager even by the usual standards.
Sun Life Stadium’s football capacity is 75,540, according to the Miami Dolphins media guide.
“I don’t worry about the crowd,” Golden said. “I understand. I understand the market we’re in, and there’s going to be a day when we’re delivering. There’s going to be a day when we’re delivering and they’re going to come out and see guys like Duke Johnson and Malcolm Lewis, and those guys. And we’re going to grow up together. I promise you this team is going to grow up together.
“They’re working hard and they’re staying humble and staying together.”
That said, Golden was then asked if the noon kickoff helped the team better prepare for its next opponent, Georgia Tech, because of the padding it gives in terms of extra time.
“It does, tremendously,” Golden answered. “You know we were on the road the first two weeks and got back at 10 p.m. last week and 1 a.m. the week before. That’s tough on a team.”