With five sacks — more than a third of its total production in 2012 — the University of Miami defense showed some moxie in its season debut last Friday against Florida Atlantic.
But off the field this week, the Hurricanes refused to bite for those who wanted to spark some smack before the No.12 Gators came to town.
“I’m not going to talk any trash,” said senior safety Kacy Rodgers II, whose sack forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end David Gilbert, and led to a touchdown in UM’s 34-6 victory. “I’m going to play my game and play level-headed.”
Do you hate Florida as much as you do Florida State?
Rodgers smiled. “They’re a good team and they’re the next team on the schedule.”
Sophomore cornerback Tracy Howard, a former five-star recruit who intended to go to Florida (1-0) until he announced that the Hurricanes were his team, was asked how much the Florida game means to him.
“It ain’t no personal thing,” Howard said. “I know a lot of guys from the FAU team — it’s no different from Florida. Of course, once upon a time I was going there, but it’s all business. It’s football. I’m at the University of Miami and my plan is all about the U.”
And this, from Gilbert: “I don’t really have any comment about Florida players. We’re going to be professional. We’re going to represent the Hurricane family in a first-class manner.”
No trash talking?
“No, not for me. We’re a class act and hopefully those guys are.”
The Canes, by now well chronicled as one of the worst defenses in the nation in 2012, appeared to take a substantial leap forward Friday. After one week, Miami was tied for 20th in the nation in total defense with their 250 yards allowed. It’s apparent coach Al Golden has them focused on their significantly upgraded challenge Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.
Golden has repeatedly targeted the Gators run game.
“They control the clock,” he said. “That’s who they are. That’s their trademark.
“They have a veteran offensive line — great size. They’ll bring an extra lineman in and play with multiple tight ends. Big fullback, two big backs. If they can run the ball on us, it’s going to be a long day.”
Earlier this week, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose dink-and-dunk passing game against Toledo encompassed 17 completions of 22 attempts for 153 yards and a touchdown, agreed that the Gators “want to run the ball ... That really doesn’t change.”
Still, Driskel, whose longest pass went for 26 yards, said he “would have liked to have taken advantage” of his few shots downfield. He also fumbled twice after sacks.
“People want to criticize because that’s the way Coach [Will Muschamp] chooses to conduct the game, and he’s done it successfully,” Golden said. “Our guys better be ready to cover them deep because they’re talented.”
Golden said the Gators, who defeated Toledo 24-6, get opponents to focus on the run and then take their shot.
“I think their quarterback is big-league.”
Rodgers just hopes the Canes’ defensive line can give enough push to frazzle Driskel. He likes what he has seen so far.
“They’ve gotten so much better,” Rodgers said. “It’s a joy to play with them in front of me. I see them hustle a lot more. When the offense runs screens and you see the big boys running sideline to sideline it gives you a lot more energy.”