Everything fast-forwards now in a blur. Heck, did that even wait for the game to end? The University of Miami kicked off its 88th year of football with a perfunctory, never-in-doubt dispatch of overmatched Florida Atlantic on Friday night at Dolphins stadium, and the postgame parking lot hadn’t even thinned yet when Hurricanes fans surely were savoring what’s next — and why not.
Who’ll be chomping whom is the question to be answered in one week here on ESPN in these former traditional and bitter rivals’ first meeting since 2008 and last in who knows how long. Florida is ranked No. 10 in the polls and UM is trying to get there, so the measuring stick for this Hurricanes season of such high hopes is smack upon us.
Even Canes players’ minds might have been distracted by what’s ahead, considering Friday’s 34-6 swat of FAU hardly was the rout it might have been. Sophomore running back Duke Johnson impressed with a career-best 186 rushing yards, but UM’s overall performance was by-the-numbers, as you’d expect with a major red-circle game pulsing on deck. If the Hurricanes were looking ahead, you know Canes fans are starting their Gator Week tailgate parties over breakfast this morning.
Friday’s opener drew a credible 50,151 spectators. Next Saturday they’ll wish they had a bigger stadium.
Can we wait just a second, though? Can we hit pause on Gatormania just a moment to appreciate how The U’s past glory and its percolating dreams intersected so sweetly Friday night?
The school’s 1983 national-championship team, UM’s first of five, was honored at halftime to mark the 30th anniversary of that watershed feat, and everything about what current coach Al Golden hopes to recreate was embodied in the parade of former stars.
They are right around 50 now, give or take, most of them unrecognizable from their younger versions who made history.
“When that dream of ours came to reality, Hurricanes football was born,” as the old linebacker Jay Brophy put it Friday, three decades later. “All we want to do is be remembered.”
Consider it done.
What is that they say about having to know where you’ve been to navigate where you’re going?
The ’83ers created the template. It was Cinderella stuff, then. Maybe that’s why old coach Howard Schnellenberger, now 79, chose a very simple theme in addressing his old players in a private campus reunion Thursday night.
“We exemplified that nothing is impossible,” he told his guys.
Friday had to be most special for Schnellenberger, who of course coached those ’83 champs and later raised FAU football from nonexistence and coached the Owls 11 years, through 2011.
Schnellenberger was a part of the recent White House visit by the 1972 Perfect Season Dolphins (he was the offensive coordinator), but Friday night was more personal for him. These were his babies, meeting for the first time ever. The team he carried to the summit. And the one he made from nothing.
I asked Howard what would be the ideal result for him. The familiar push-broom mustache, now snow white, can hide his smile. But the smile is still there.
“I’m hoping for a 7-point win for Florida Atlantic … University … of Miami,” he answered.