The University of Miami had enough bad news against Nebraska when safeties Deon Bush and Jamal Carter were each penalized for targeting and, thus, will be forced to sit out the first half of the Thursday-night road game against Cincinnati’s offense-gone-wild.
On Sunday, UM coach Al Golden announced a sobering, if not unexpected, development — mixed with uplifting news.
Sophomore backup weak-side linebacker Marques Gayot, who was hospitalized overnight Wednesday after a helmet-to-helmet collision during practice, is out indefinitely. But the talented linebacker that Gayot played behind — weak-side starter Jermaine Grace — is “full-go” for Cincinnati after going through concussion protocol.
“We knew coming into this season this game would be a tremendous challenge for us,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Sunday of Cincinnati (2-2), which gained a school-record 752 yards of offense on Thursday in what remarkably was a 53-46 loss at Memphis. “You can see the difference with our team. There’s a lot of unity and they understand adversity is going to come and they have to all overcome it.
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“I don’t think we really blink at it. You just go back and go to work.”
Golden also announced that receiver Stacy Coley (hamstring) is out for Cincinnati, but that fellow receiver Braxton Berrios, who sustained a knee injury in the opener and called himself “blessed” Sunday, is cleared to play.
“We attacked it head on,” Berrios said of his knee sprain. “It obviously wasn’t pretty. I was blessed to have it only a three-week or two-and-a-half week thing. … I was scared. It didn’t sound good. It didn’t look good.”
Despite the way Cincinnati flung around the ball Thursday with a school-record 557 yards tossed by backup redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Moore, UM’s defense believes it will compensate for the first-half loss of Bush and Carter.
Redshirt junior Rayshawn Jenkins (seven tackles, two interceptions), fifth-year senior Dallas Crawford (11 tackles, one fumble recovery) and freshman Jaquan Johnson (eight tackles) will initially carry the load.
As for the linebackers, the most vulnerable of UM’s defensive position groups, that’s a more daunting situation. After losing Butkus Award finalist Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister to the NFL, most of the linebacking corps was already young and lacking substantial experience.
Sophomore linebacker Darrion Owens was previously announced out for the season after he injured his knee Sept. 11 at FAU. And Grace was knocked out of the game twice against Nebraska, the first time with a shoulder injury and the next after a collision.
Golden said Sunday that strong-side linebacker Tyriq McCord is taking reps at weak-side this week. He said starting middle backer Raphael Kirby can play there as well if coaches move Kirby’s backup, Juwon Young, to the middle.
Freshmen C.J. Perry (Royal Palm Beach) and James King (Booker T. Washington) also “have repped” at weak-side, Golden said. “We have answers there, but… we need Perry and King and them to grow up here — fast — and see if someone jumps out and takes it.”
Said McCord of the Bearcats: “It’s not a secret. They’re going to throw it around. People have got to be ready for their opportunities.”
Concerning Gayot, UM initially released a statement Wednesday that he had “undergone a battery of tests” and would be kept overnight in the hospital “for precaution” and “placed in a neck collar” and released Thursday.
On Thursday, UM said Gayot was “expected to make a full recovery.” Golden didn’t expound on the injury.
“I think he went home for the weekend to relax with his family,” Golden said. “What they want to do is take another week or so and he’ll see the next specialist. And then we’ll go from there.”
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