Even though he has graded out the highest among Miami’s offensive lineman over the past two games, Hurricanes right tackle Taylor Gadbois hasn’t forgotten about his rough night in the season opener at Louisville.
“I had a lot of good plays and I had three really bad plays that were just uncharacteristic of me,” said Gadbois, a 6-3, 316-pound redshirt sophomore who will make his fourth straight start Saturday night at 24th-ranked Nebraska (3-0).
“I kind of let the game get to me a little bit. I like going out there being a warrior and setting the tone for the O-line. I think I was just trying to do too much the first game.”
Among his mistakes at Louisville, Gadbois said he called a protection the wrong way and it got quarterback Brad Kaaya hit. He said poor communication on his part led to him missing a block near the goal line that led to a tackle for loss. And he said he got “beat across [his] face” on an inside zone run because of poor footwork.
Coach Al Golden cited poor communication at Louisville as part of the reason why the offensive line struggled against the Cardinals, who produced two sacks, six quarterback hurries and didn’t give running back Duke Johnson much in the way of running lanes as they crowded the box.
That was in front of a loud sellout crowd of 55,428 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Saturday in Lincoln there will be nearly 40,000 more fans – in a sea of red – seeking to make things hard for Miami’s offense.
One big difference since the Louisville game: Hurricanes offensive line coach Art Kehoe, who was up in the coach’s box against the Cardinals, has been down on the field alongside his players. He will be again Saturday for the third straight game.
“It’s going to be loud,” Golden said. “But there’s no excuse. We have to make sure we’re doing a good job communicating. We’ve got to control our variables. At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s anybody in the organization that thinks we’re the same team that we were against Louisville. Now we have to go out and do it. Now we have to go out and show each other.”
Nebraska junior defensive end Randy Gregory (6-6, 240) hopes to foil those plans. After being injured in the opener and slowed by a knee injury through the first three games, the Big Ten Conference’s leader in sacks (10 1/2) last season will be going head-to-head with Gadbois and veteran left tackle Ereck Flowers.
Gregory is considered the second-best defensive end prospect in next year’s draft by NFLDraftScout.com and a potential first-round pick.
Opposite Gregory, Nebraska has 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Greg McMullen, who leads the team with 2 1/2 sacks. He will be a challenge for UM, as will be 6-3, 325-pound sophomore defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who had two sacks and nine tackles in last Saturday’s romp at Fresno State.
“They got a couple of werewolves over there,” Gadbois said. “Me and E [Ereck Flowers], we’re ready for it. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I don’t really see them finding our quarterback, but that’s just between me and that guy I guess.”
▪ The Hurricanes have given up six sacks through their first three games, but not all of the blame should fall on the line. Against Arkansas State, running back Duke Johnson whiffed when he went to pick up a blitzing linebacker. Kaaya was also called for intentional grounding (that counts as a sack). Coordinator James Coley said Kaaya has been guilty of holding onto the ball a little too long, too.
Kehoe says the line in general is “inconsistent, but we’re playing hard. That’s all I care about. The last game we made way too many mistakes. But we were playing hard and it was evident on the film the whole time that we were finishing, and our standard is six seconds and we’re hitting the standard a lot. We’re not there yet. But like our team, we’re getting better.”
▪ Miami was flagged 11 times for 93 yards against Arkansas State. The 11 penalties were tied for the most in the Golden era (UM had 11 penalties vs. Duke in 2012). Flowers is tied for the team lead in penalties (four) with right guard Danny Isidora, who has been flagged three times for false starts. Flowers has been charged with holding penalties twice and false starts twice.
“We’ve had to many penalties on the offensive line,” Kehoe said. “No matter how tired you get, you have to focus and talk to each other, communicate. That’s the thing about the offensive line – you’re only playing good if everyone is playing good.”