University of Miami

Miami coach Al Golden: ‘I just want our guys to play well’ against Savannah State

Hurricanes coach Al Golden told Miami Herald columnist and 790 The Ticket radio host Dan Le Batard earlier this week that “maybe,” as the former Temple coach, he had been “on the other side” of a football game with a 60-point favorite.

But as the favorite?

Not a chance.

When the 16th-ranked Hurricanes (2-0) meet Savannah State (1-2) on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium, Golden will not only be coaching for the first time as a huge favorite (as of Friday afternoon, the spread had dropped to 59 1/2), but also as a coach with a team ranked in the Top 25.

All week, as the media pounded the 60-point-spread angle, Golden was his usual, stick-with-the-process self.

“I just want our guys to play well,” he said when asked if the Canes will be damned if they score big and damned if they don’t. “I want us to execute well. I want us to fix the things we’ve been working on.”

The coach noted “innumerable things” that the team is trying to fix “before they get exposed.”

Some of the obvious objectives, in addition to winning, that Miami will have against the Football Championship Subdivision Tigers:

• Improve the offense — in particular, third-down efficiency; the passing game; and the run blocking along the offensive line.

• Get the freshmen — redshirt and otherwise — substantial playing time.

• Eliminate some of the worst penalties.

• Improve on kickoff returns.

The no-huddle Hurricanes are ranked 119th (out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams) in third-down conversion percentage (20) and as a result are 119th in time of possession (average of 24 minutes 11 seconds).

Their passing offense, led by veteran quarterback Stephen Morris, is ranked 98th nationally with just 181 yards per game.

“We’re back to the basics,” Morris said this week. “I have a lot of things I have to work on.”

Those include staying “a little more calm in the pocket” and cleaning up timing issues with his receivers.

“I have great chemistry with all those guys,” Morris said, “even if sometimes it may not look like it on the field. I’m looking forward to being a lot more relaxed.”

The Hurricanes have had two weeks to rest after their upset over then-No. 12 Florida, and they have one more game that is expected to be relatively painless after Savannah State — a Sept. 28 clash at South Florida.

UM then begins its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule at home against Georgia Tech on Oct. 5.

As for the Tigers, coming off a 27-20 victory over Division II Fort Valley State, they lost 77-9 in their season opener against Georgia Southern and 66-3 to FBS Troy.

This season, the Tigers have been outgained on the ground 1,022 to 52.

The opening 60-point spread was only the third recorded 60-plus spread in college football since 1980.

But don’t expect the Canes to run up the score if Golden can help it.

“It’s an unforgiving game if you try to hold back,” Golden said.

“You’ve got to be locked in as a player. You’ve got to be locked in as a unit. You’ve got to be locked in as a position group and then, ultimately, as a team.

“Everybody has to have the right frame of mind. You’ve got to play fast.

“If things go well and we start to make progress then we’ll adjust as we go.”

Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson III, according to the Tigers’ website, was asked by a caller this week what he thought of the oddsmakers branding his team 60-point underdogs against Miami.

“I thought we were ahead by 60 points!” Wilson joked. “I can’t believe they have us as underdogs.”

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