University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes embark on journey to part ‘Red Sea’ of Nebraska Cornhuskers

University of Miami's coach Al Golden on the sideline as the Canes play Arkansas State in the third quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014.
University of Miami's coach Al Golden on the sideline as the Canes play Arkansas State in the third quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. Miami Herald Staff

After two weeks in the comfort of home, the University of Miami goes on the road for the first time since falling to Louisville in the season opener in front of 55,428 mostly unfriendly faces.

Now, just add about 35,000 more to that equation and you’ll have around the number — maybe more — expected at Memorial Stadium to cheer on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0) against the Hurricanes (2-1) at 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).

Nebraska fell out of the AP’s Top 25 rankings last week after barely defeating McNeese State 31-24 on a spectacular 58-yard touchdown reception by Ameer Abdullah with 20 seconds left, but jumped back to No.24 Sunday after dominating at Fresno State late Saturday, 55-19.

“I’m real excited,” said Hurricanes linebacker Denzel Perryman after UM’s 41-20 victory Saturday over Arkansas State. “What do they call that? The Red Sea or something like that? I’m excited to go up there and see all the fans with the little corn on their heads, all that red stuff.”

UM coach Al Golden kept the talk to Miami on Sunday in his weekly day-after teleconference.

“I have a lot of concerns about Nebraska,” he said, “but I’m just trying to get through [Sunday] in terms of all three phases evaluating where we are and examining each position to see if there are any personnel things we want to change around — and then we’ll move on to Nebraska.”

Golden went on to discuss his team’s progress on third-down conversion percentage — the Canes were 5 for 12 Saturday but nonetheless rank 122nd of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

“We very easily could have been 7 for 12. We put the ball on the ground on a third-and-2, and then we dropped a slant.”

The Cornhuskers, conversely, rank 13th in third-down conversion defense.

Said Golden: “Just what I’ve seen of Nebraska, they’re an excellent football team in all three phases, and third down is no exception.”

The coach praised his offensive line, saying that sophomore right tackle Taylor Gadbois, who made his third career start, performed best of the linemen. He also praised right guard Danny Isidora as being “dramatically improved.”

Golden said more than once that the Hurricanes could have run the ball more, “but it’s not the way the game worked out,” as “some of the bigger, explosive plays” were basically ripe for the taking.

When asked about his defensive philosophy “in terms of rotating so many guys in,” Golden pointed to the 89 plays by Arkansas State (compared to 61 for UM).

“Well, holy heck,” Golden said. “That is as fast an operation as we’ll see. When you play those types of teams you have to rotate those guys down the line to keep the play counts down to continue to be aggressive, tackle well, stop the run and not let one or two of those plays end up being an [explosive] play, and for the most part we did that.”

Some other points he made:

▪ Special teams are being closely evaluated and “there will be a lot of personnel changes.” Additionally, kicker Michael Badgley will compete with Justin Vogel to see who does kickoffs.

▪ Freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya left the game with 9:59 left but returned later to get the starters back and attempt to regain the rhythm that was lost when the reserves came in. “We were in a little bit of a jam in terms of our field position and I really didn’t want a lot of young people out there and create a mess,” Golden said

▪ The UM cornerbacks need to improve their coverage techniques, as two pass interferences “were rightfully called,” Golden said. “In both of those situations, the corner is in great position, and we’ve got to get our hand either off the receiver down the field or just get our hand lower. We ended up putting our hand high up on his shoulder, and that’s going to be called every time.”