Some might say the first half of last year’s Miami at FAU football game was electric.
Too electric, if you ask the No. 25 Hurricanes, who meet the Owls again at 6 p.m. Saturday — this time at UM’s home of Hard Rock Stadium.
With just over six minutes left in the first quarter and the Hurricanes leading 7-3 in front of a sellout crowd in Boca Raton, both teams exited the field for a 67-minute lightning delay. FAU eventually tied the game at 17, and then 20, before UM scored 24 unanswered points for the victory.
“I was in the stands and had to leave at halftime because I couldn’t watch that anymore,’’ said starting UM receiver Braxton Berrios, who was out injured for that game. “We played terrible … came out flat. In the second half we revved it up.”
The Hurricanes (1-0), 25-point favorites and ranked this week for the first time since November 2013, intend to “rev it up’’ a lot sooner Saturday, they say. With a woefully depleted defense — despite its inspired, dominant play in the 70-3 opening-game win against FAMU — the Canes know they need a flurry of points to relieve the pressure on the other side of the ball.
“It’s very encouraging for us and for the whole team if the offense can put together good, long, well-executed drives,” said Canes quarterback Brad Kaaya, whose unit put up 523 yards on FAMU (373 rushing) but whose longest drive was only 2 minutes 34 seconds. “It makes it so the defense doesn’t have to be on the field for as long. Guys can just catch their breath and recuperate, and they don’t have to get right back out on the field.”
Said Berrios, who ran a punt return back 41 yards for a touchdown last week: “Yeah, the defense is banged up. … It’s our job to score, and especially now we’ve got to score a lot.’’
One of Berrios’ fellow receivers, freshman Sam Bruce, sustained a non-football-related broken leg on Thursday night and is expected to miss the season.
UM coach Mark Richt confirmed Thursday night, before it was known about Bruce, that defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins and cornerback Adrian Colbert had surgical knee procedures this week — making it worse for an already depleted defense.
Before he was injured, Colbert said earlier in the week that “like 10 percent” of the defense was shown in the opener.
How much of the offensive playbook was shown?
“Not too much,’’ Berrios said. “We really executed our base plays. And if it’s not broken don’t fix it.’’
On defense, the Canes will have to contend with an FAU offense that ran 76 plays in its 38-30 victory over Southern Illinois last Saturday.
“Offensively, they go about as fast as a team can go,’’ Richt said. “They do a really good job of getting a lot of plays. We’re going to have to communicate very quickly to our defense, get lined up quickly and be ready to play ball. We’re looking forward to a great challenge.’’
Defensively, the Owls have 6-4, 270-pound senior end Trey Hendrickson, who had five tackles, 2 1/2 tackles-for-loss, two quarterback hurries and a blocked extra-point attempt in the opener. More impressive is that Hendrickson finished his junior season second in the nation with 13 1/2 sacks, and also had five forced fumbles, 14 1/2 tackles-for-loss, one fumble recovery and a blocked extra-point attempt against Florida.
FAU coach Charlie Partridge said this week that his players were eager to play Miami, but no more than any other game.
“I want to say this respectfully,” Partridge said. “… Are we excited to play Miami? Of course we are. It is a great opportunity. But we will have the same excitement level in week three, four and five. We are focused on Miami because Miami is the mission.”