Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe entered the Edgerrin James Room this week for the Hurricanes’ weekly news conference, a stream of reporters and cameramen following in his intense wake.
Finally, Kehoe took his preferred seat to address his preferred game, the one that gets him “jacked up” even more than the others – if that’s possible.
Miami vs. Florida State.
“It’s a loathing hatred,” said Kehoe, who has been part of all five national championship seasons with the Hurricanes. “And a great respect.”
That ABC has chosen to televise the game in prime time on Saturday, despite the No. 12 Seminoles (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) being favored by three touchdowns over the struggling Hurricanes (4-3, 3-1), speaks to the fierceness of this rivalry, which dates to 1951.
Add intrigue to this year’s edition, which will be played during Miami’s homecoming weekend.
The Hurricanes’ usual starting quarterback, junior Stephen Morris, was listed by UM as “doubtful” with a sprained left ankle sustained last week against North Carolina.
Usual backup Ryan Williams, the tall, mellow Miramar High graduate who led the Patriots to a state title his senior season, might make his first start for the Canes after sitting out last year following his transfer from Memphis.
“He’s absolutely calm, but I’ll have a hard time watching the game,” said Ryan’s mom, Jayne Williams, who lives in Pembroke Pines and will attend the game with Ryan’s dad, Rich, Ryan’s older brother Greg and the quarterback’s wife, Deanna.
“I’m a nervous wreck,” Jayne Williams said. “I’ll probably be looking down the whole time and asking Deanna what’s going on.”
MORRIS OR WILLIAMS?
Jayne Williams said she, like everyone else, wondered who would start Saturday.
“I don’t think anyone will know until game time,” she said. “I just want everybody to be safe – on both teams. That’s what we pray for every Saturday.”
Williams, a 6-6, 223-pound lifelong Hurricanes fan, has thrown only 15 passes at Miami, for 87 yards and a touchdown. But he knows all about this rivalry.
“Just a lot of excitement, a lot of people, very loud,” Williams said. “It’s going to be great.”
More than 70,000 are expected at Sun Life Stadium for the 8 p.m. kickoff, which pretty much is guaranteed to be the Hurricanes’ largest crowd of the season, even if a substantial percentage of it will be rooting for FSU.
“It’s one of the great games that you’re able to play at Florida State,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It’s a great opportunity for our team on national television. It is a very important game because it does bring justification for a young man to leave Miami [as a recruit] and come to Tallahassee. A lot of implications in the state.”
UM running back Eduardo Clements grew up in Miami and, like several of his teammates, competed with or against FSU players on the youth and high school level.
“You really don’t understand what this game means until you get in the building and go through history, look at all the wide rights and wide lefts and stuff like that,” Clements said. “It’s why we came here, for this game. It’s bragging rights.
“It doesn’t matter how bad your season is going, this game right here could turn the season around.”
The task will be daunting.
FSU STRONG ALL AROUND
The Seminoles are dominant in every part of the game: offense, defense and special teams. They rank in the top five nationally in rushing defense, scoring defense, total defense, kickoff returns and passing efficiency, and are averaging 46 points a game – sixth-best.
FSU quarterback EJ Manuel, the Seminoles’ all-time career leader in completion percentage, is fourth nationally in passing efficiency.
UM coach Al Golden isn’t trying to convince anyone that it will be an even playing field Saturday. But FSU’s climb back to prominence is something Golden hopes he can emulate in Coral Gables – sooner than later.
“Forget about where the two teams are right now,” Golden said. “Clearly, they’re a top-10 team. We’re building. We want to get back to where we’re considered in the same breath as them right now. I don’t look at it as necessarily a bad thing that Florida State is where they are. We need to see where they are. That competition is what makes it fun, makes it great.
“We’ve got to respond. The other team just doesn’t sit there on their hands when one team is having success. You get mad.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us Saturday night.”