More than two years have passed since Al-Quadin Muhammad arrived on the University of Miami campus looking big and talking bigger.
But in his first career start Saturday at Florida State, the 6-3, 256-pound sophomore rush end out of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, New Jersey, played big, too.
Muhammad, a former four-star recruit, had a career-best six tackles (five solo), two tackles-for-loss and a sack.
“It felt amazing,’’ Muhammad said Wednesday. “The energy was amazing. The atmosphere was amazing. It was packed and it was loud.’’
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“I think maybe the coach saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. I just did what I was coached to do. It’s really not about me and it’s not about how I played. It’s about the team getting better and me doing whatever I have to do to help the team succeed.’’
The Hurricanes’ defense held FSU to three field goals in four trips to the red zone in UM’s 29-24 loss to FSU, but it certainly did not succeed in a game in which it allowed 539 yards – 358 of them the first half.
“I wish I had an answer but I know we’re searching hard,’’ said defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio on the lack of four consistent quarters all season. “Whatever it is, we’re working our tails off to be more consistent. …We didn’t give up a lot of explosive plays last year and that’s really what we have to fix.’’
Miami (3-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) meets Coastal Division rival Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, with the Hokies ranked 88th nationally in total offense (378.5 yards per game) and 89th in sacks allowed.
Miami is 61st in total defense (allowing 383 yards per game) and 41st in sacks, with 12.
Hokies quarterback Michael Brewer broke his left collarbone in the season opener and has been practicing and listed as “day-to-day.
“We’re fortunate right now that we’ve got two quarterbacks that can win games for us,’’ Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Wednesday, not divulging who will start Saturday.
Replacement Brenden Motley, who can use his legs to escape, has thrown for 1,019 yards yards and 10 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He has added 194 yards and three touchdowns rushing.
UM coach Al Golden continually says the Canes need to be consistent in their tackling and “finish the plays’’ when they contain the quarterback in the pocket. “We can pressure all we want,’’ Golden said, “but if we’re letting him out of the pocket it’s going to break down.’’
Sophomore defensive end Chad Thomas said Wednesday that Miami is getting pressure “on certain plays, but we need to get more. We’ve got to be relentless on our rushes. We’ve got to be violent.’’
The loss to Florida State has made him hungrier than ever.
“I was hungry in the summer,’’ Thomas said, “hungry way before that loss. It just made it worse for us.’’
Senior linebacker Raphael Kirby knows it’s crucial to keep Motley in the pocket “and really have great vision underneath so if he does escape we can break on it.’’
Kirby will continue to encourage Muhammad, who could have had two sacks Saturday but let FSU quarterback Everett Golson escape after wrapping his arms around his neck and shoulders.
“Every snap you see he plays like 100 miles an hour,’’ Kirby said of Muhammad.
Said Muhammad of the Hokies: “They’re going to come out fired up. We’re going to be ready. Virginia Tech. That’s all it’s about.’’