A few University of Miami seniors who haven’t been allowed to go to a bowl game the past two years and haven’t celebrated a win over Florida State in the past three years were asked this week to put their finger on the biggest win they have been a part of.
“I don’t know — that’s a good question,” quarterback Stephen Morris said earlier this week. “I think with everything we’ve been through, I’d have to say [last year’s] Georgia Tech game when we came back to win in overtime.”
“That or the Ohio State game,” fullback Maurice Hagens said, referring to one of two Hurricanes wins in the 10 games they have played again ranked opponents since knocking off No. 8 Oklahoma in the middle of the 2009 season. That was the program’s last win over a top-10 opponent.
Beating the 12th-ranked Florida Gators (1-0) on Saturday in front of nearly 77,000 rabid fans — the biggest home crowd for UM since moving from the Orange Bowl in 2008 — might make its way up the big-win list for Al Golden’s players.
Respect, bragging rights and recruiting inroads are all at stake in the final scheduled regular-season meeting between the old rivals. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has made it clear he’s not interested in renewing unless the game is played on a neutral site — code for it isn’t happening.
For the fans, who will arrive wearing orange and green and orange and blue well before the noon kickoff, that will be the topic of conversation amid brews and burgers when they begin tailgating before sunrise at Sun Life Stadium. Tickets have been sold out for a long time and are going on the secondary market for an average of $187, according to Connor Gregoire, an analyst for SeatGeek.com.
For Golden’s team, the rivalry and revelry of Canes-Gators doesn’t quite matter as much as proving they can beat a good team and continue an upward climb. Sure, Hurricanes players such as Hagens have said this week they hate the Gators just as much as they do the Seminoles.
This game, though, reaches deeper than pure hatred for that team from Gainesville. Beat Florida and Golden’s team can finally pound its chest for real, and more importantly keep itself in the national spotlight for something other than being the NCAA’s target.
“It’s obviously a big game, but the biggest thing for us is to focus on what we can control,” Golden said earlier this week. “Everything else that surrounds it, we have no impact on.”
MOVING ON UP
Before the Canes crept into a tie for 24th place in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll on Tuesday, UM (1-0) hadn’t been ranked in a Top 25 poll since the week before Randy Shannon’s last game as coach in 2010 — before anyone outside of South Florida had ever really heard of jailed former booster Nevin Shapiro.
That’s why Golden shook his head earlier this week when he was asked if he saw any parallels between he and Gators coach Will Muschamp, who arrived in Gainesville a day before Golden moved his family to Coral Gables.
“[Florida was] coming off national championships in  and  and didn’t have an NCAA thing,” Golden said. “I don’t think there are parallels at all.”