University of Miami

UM’s ‘Team Tampa’ ecstatic for return home against USF

Except for all those extra tickets they could use, “Team Tampa,” as Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle Earl Moore calls his buddies from his hometown area, is revved up for its noon meeting Saturday against the other team from Tampa — the USF Bulls.

“It has been a fight to get these tickets from the other guys that aren’t from Tampa,” UM defensive end Anthony Chickillo said. “We’re all trying to get as many as we can.”

The No. 15 Hurricanes (3-0) take on the winless Bulls (0-3) at Raymond James Stadium in Miami’s first road game of the season, and eight of those Canes are from the Tampa metropolitan area: Chickillo; Moore; quarterback Gray Crow; linebacker/rush end Tyriq McCord; cornerback Antonio Crawford; safety Rayshawn Jenkins; fullback Maurice Hagens; and walk-on linebacker Akil Craig.

Each of them has played this season, with most of them making a difference:

Crow, a redshirt freshman who debuted in last Saturday’s 77-7 rout of Savannah State, completed all six of his passes — the first one for a 13-yard touchdown to tight end Beau Sandland.

McCord, a sophomore who plays strong-side linebacker and rushes off the edge on third downs, had an interception last game and integral sack against Florida that forced the fumble he recovered.

Moore, a sophomore, had his first career interception last Saturday.

Jenkins, a sophomore, has seven tackles and an interception.

Crawford, a sophomore, has six of seven tackles unassisted.

Chickillo, a junior, has two sacks and ranks third on the team with 12 tackles.

Hagens, a senior, is UM’s unsung hero whose outstanding blocking has aided numerous teammates.

Most, if not all, were recruited by USF.

“I’m very excited to be able to see a lot of my family and old high school teammates,” said Moore, who graduated from Hillsborough High and has nine relatives coming to the game, including three who are USF students. “USF is a great school with a really good football program, but I wanted to get a little bit of space away from home. You know, not too close and not too far.”

Hagens, like Moore, wanted to experience a new setting.

“It’s a hometown school, but I really didn’t want to go there because I wanted to venture somewhere,” said Hagens, who played at Tampa Tech and is from Riverview, about a 20-minute drive from the city. “I’ve been in Tampa my whole life.

“It’s going to be good going home. I have 13 extra [tickets], but I’m trying to get more.”

Crow, who will have 10 to 15 family members at the game, is from Clearwater. He was with his parents at Raymond James Stadium when UM last played USF in Tampa in November 2011. In UM’s lowest-scoring game since 1979, Jake Wieclaw kicked a 36-yard field goal as time expired to give Miami a 6-3 victory in front of 57,572 stunned fans.

“It was really cool seeing the energy on the sidelines,” Crow said. “Coming back and being part of it is really exciting.”

This game is not expected to be as close. The Hurricanes are 18 1/2-point favorites, with USF already losing 53-21 at home to Football Championship Subdivision opponent McNeese State — the most points ever scored by an FCS team against a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

The Bulls, who have a new coach in Willie Taggart and new starting quarterback in Penn State transfer Steven Bench (8 of 24 for 128 yards and a touchdown, with one interception), also lost at home 28-10 Sept. 14 against Florida Atlantic and 21-6 at Michigan State.

USF is coming off a bye week and has had enough time to insert some wrinkles. The Bulls have the 119th-ranked offense and 23rd-ranked defense, though they are 101st in scoring defense.

Another statistic to ponder: USF is ranked 114th in turnover margin, and UM leads the nation in that category.

Still, UM coach Al Golden insists the Bulls are a legitimate threat.

“This is a team that beat Miami three years ago,” Golden said. “I don’t think there’s any question that they have our guys’ attention, and most particularly their defense. Take away the McNeese game, which is obviously an opening game in a transitional year for a coaching staff and the team, and really nobody’s scoring on them.”

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