Few, if any, doubted the vaunted University of Miami offense.
Pretty much everyone questioned the defense.
But by the end of the first half Friday in Miamis first meeting with Florida Atlantic University, it was the defense keeping Canes fans from hyperventilating as the offense failed to find weapons besides Duke Johnson.
The Hurricanes defeated FAU 34-6 in the season opener at Sun Life Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 50,151.
Next up: the 10th-ranked Florida Gators, who should give the Hurricanes a considerably tougher time on Sept. 7 at Sun Life.
Give FAU credit, UM coach Al Golden said. They played hard. They made us earn it. We played overzealous sometimes... We dropped some passes we hadnt been dropping.
At least on this night, UM did not play the part of an offensive juggernaut despite Johnsons usual mastery and the Hurricanes final tally of 503 yards, 303 of them rushing and 200 passing.
Defensively, the Hurricanes had five sacks and held FAU to 250 yards 133 rushing and 117 passing.
The Canes defense twice held the Owls to field goals after FAU marched within 10 yards of scoring.
We didnt play smart all the time, werent as good as we needed to be on third down on offense, but our defense played really, really hard, played physical and ran to the ball well, Golden said.
Sophomore tailback Johnson, the Atlantic Coast Conferences 2012 Rookie of the Year, rushed for a career-high 186 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 19 carries. But Johnson walked off the field with an apparent injury on teammate Herb Waters 63-yard score off a reverse with 4:43 left in the third quarter and Miami leading 27-6.
Johnson told reporters after the game that he was tested for a concussion, but was fine. I took a test on the sideline and everything came back good.
Before their final score, the Hurricanes had registered two field goals by new kicker Matt Goudis, a 53-yard run by Johnson, a 16-yard catch by tight end Clive Walford and the Waters reverse.
But what could have been a much more comfortable first-quarter lead was stymied by two would-be-touchdowns-turned-drops one in the end zone and another in stride by true freshman Stacy Coley. All through fall camp, players and coaches raved about Coley, though Golden tried to soften the praise in explaining that the teenager from Northeast High hadnt even played a snap in a real game.
I was nervous, Coley admitted, saying he will be ready to go for the Gators. It was my first college game. Coming straight out of high school, there are more fans. It is moving fast. I have to put this behind me.
As for UM quarterback Stephen Morris, he left the game with 13:47 remaining, replaced by backup Ryan Williams.
Morris, tabbed by college football analysts as one of the nations elite quarterbacks this season, struggled at times connecting with his receivers. He finished the night completing 15 of 27 passes for 160 yards and the 16-yard touchdown to Walford. His interception came after 156 consecutive passes without a pick.
He also ran once for 16 yards.
Obviously I know theres a big game next week, Morris said, but our main focus right now is to get healed up, to get ready for next weekend and focus on improving. We left a lot of touchdowns and opportunities on the field.