If there were ever a salve to relieve the Miami Hurricanes of the pain inflicted by the Louisville Cardinals on Monday night, the home opener at Sun Life Stadium could be it.
After being humbled on the road 31-13 by Louisville in the nationally broadcast season opener, the Hurricanes return to Miami to face Florida A&M at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN3.
“It’s going to be real great,” said UM senior linebacker Denzel Perryman, who led all players with 11 solo tackles Monday. “My last go-around. … It feels good to be back home.”
The Hurricanes (0-1) are 8-1 all-time against the Rattlers (0-1), with their only loss coming in October of 1979 in Tallahassee.
“FAMU shocked the college football world with a win over the Division I-A Miami Hurricanes, a triumph that still resonates today,” an article included in FAMU’s game notes nearly a decade ago declared. “… Given no chance against the vaunted Hurricanes, the Rattlers deployed a deceptive option offensive attack and a hard-hitting defense which shut out Miami in the second half.
“… Sophomore Vince Coleman, who would go on to a Major League Baseball career, booted a 34-yard field goal with 3:49 left for the momentous victory.”
Nothing similar is expected Saturday from the Rattlers, who are a Football Championship Subdivision team and play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. They wear the same colors as the Hurricanes and are dubbing this as the “Battle of Orange and Green.”
For the Hurricanes, this game gives coach Al Golden a chance to play even more freshmen and try different players at various positions to give them experience and see what combination works best. Case in point: right tackle and guard, where sophomores Taylor Gadbois (tackle) and Danny Isidora (guard) struggled in their first starts. Freshmen Kc McDermott and/or Trevor Darling could see playing time at tackle, and Alex Gall was listed on Monday as second-team right guard.
UM, led by true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, converted only 1 of 13 third-down attempts against Louisville. Golden said the early downs were part of the problem.
“We were taking too many negatives [plays], most particularly on first down, that were getting us behind the chains and led to what I term are the ‘ban downs’ when you get third-and-eight, third-and-nine, third-and-seven, third-and-10 or more. Now the place is rocking and you’re kind of playing into their hands. That’s where Brad got under pressure too many times.
“There’s no question that’s a function of the entire offense. The offensive line would be the first to tell you we need to do a better job protecting him.”
The Rattlers have their own demons to exorcise. FAMU lost at Jackson State in its opener on a 49-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired. A FAMU touchdown from quarterback Damien Fleming to Gerald Hearns had put the Rattlers up 17-16 with 46 seconds left. Fleming, a 6-3, 210-pound senior from Jacksonville, completed 16 of 27 passes for 188 yards and two TDs, and he rushed for 59 yards.
The Rattlers have 18 players from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The last time UM and FAMU met was in the 2010 season opener, when the Canes sailed to a 45-0 victory at Sun Life Stadium. Jacory Harris completed 12 of 15 passes for 210 yards and three TDs and was not sacked. It was UM’s last shutout.
Freshman receiver Braxton Berrios said he’s looking forward to running through the smoke.
“That’s obviously the iconic Miami thing, the smoke,” Berrios said. “I can’t wait to go through that and grab somebody in front of me because I won’t be able to see — and run out in front of the home fans for the first time.”