No doubt that hurricane season, in all its fury, has released its wrath on South Florida and beyond.
But Hurricane season?
That baby is about to begin again.
On Saturday, the University of Miami Hurricanes will play their first football game in 21 days after canceling one game (Arkansas State) and rescheduling another (Florida State) because fearsome Hurricane Irma put the state’s college football calendar in flux and caused the first-ever evacuation of UM’s campus.
It’s the 14th-ranked Canes (1-0) vs. the Toledo Rockets (3-0) at 3:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium, after the longest UM football layoff since the 1987 team went three weeks between the opener against Florida and the next game at Arkansas. And Canes fans know what happened that season. (Think national title.)
UM coaches are unabashedly urging South Floridians to attend and stand behind their players, who went 10 days without practicing while many of them boarded their homes with their families and others flew out of harm’s way – then mobilized to Orlando to practice for six days while their campus in Coral Gables was being cleared of debris and made safe again.
“I hope it puts everything in perspective, that family is first and you see what you can lose in an instant,’’ Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said this week. “As annoying as it is to lose power, or for this generation to lose Wi-Fi, it does show you what matters.
“For South Florida, you always see the community come together and people come out of their homes and help each other….That’s what you want to see on Saturday. We want Saturday to be an opportunity where everybody in the community can get together and have a great tailgate and get in the stadium and create a great atmosphere and help our guys along.
“I’ll be honest with you. I think we are probably going to need it.’’
UM coach Mark Richt put it more succinctly on Twitter: “Fully understand the rebuilding after the storm. Hopefully we can brighten your day with how we play! Come to Hard Rock if you can! U Family!”
Toledo, however, is no pushover.
The Rockets, who play in the Mid-American Conference, are, as their game notes tout, “fresh off one of the greatest comeback victories in school history,’’ rallying from a 21-point deficit to defeat Tulsa 54-51 behind the efforts of one of the country’s finest quarterbacks.
Senior Logan Woodside, 6-2 and 210 pounds, threw for 458 yards and a school-record-tying six touchdowns. Tulsa is ranked 10th in the FBS in total offense, with 552.7 yards per game, 13th in passing offense (334.7) and 16th in scoring offense (46 points per game).
“He’s a guy that can make all the throws all over the field,’’ UM defensive tackle Kenrick Norton said. “He’s an NFL prospect… so, if you let him sit back there and be comfortable he can pick you apart.”
UM linebacker Shaq Quarterman said his “first impression’’ after watching the fast-paced Rockets rally against Tulsa was, “They play hard. They came from behind and ended up doing what they were supposed to do.’’
Added Quarterman: “But they’re coming to Miami and we’re going to give them a Miami welcome.’’
UM’s Diaz was more than concerned about the three-week hiatus from football. Miami’s defense underwhelmed in the first game – Diaz said it played “poorly’’ – and he knows his unit’s depth will be crucial in surviving Toledo.
“This is where our depth matters,’’ Diaz said. “This is why you’ve got to get all these guys in the game. This is a very fast-paced offense. They’re going to come after us. We have the ability to play multiple people at every position, which is going to help us regardless if we have played or have not played over the last couple weeks.’’
Receiver Braxton Berrios was asked how important it is to get fans out to the game Saturday. Like his coaches, he was direct.
“It’s very important,’’ Berrios said. “The whole Irma scare, it hit a lot of people pretty tragically, especially in the islands. Luckily Miami missed the brunt of it.
“We’re the Miami Hurricanes. We wear that on our chest. We wear that U on the side of the helmet. It means a lot to have Miami behind us, and we want to be behind Miami as well.’’
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Florida; 560 WQAM; 990 AM ESPN Deportes (In Spanish).
Favorite: Miami by 13 1/2.
Records: Miami 1-0 (0-0 ACC); Toledo 3-0 (0-0 MAC).
Series: Miami leads 1-0.
Miami injuries: Questionable — WR Ahmmon Richards (hamstring).
Toledo injuries: None reported.