‘We can’t let this one loss versus LSU just drag throughout the whole season’
Brian Hightower scored a 32-yard touchdown.
Brevin Jordan played 71 of 78 snaps.
Al Blades Jr. replaced starting cornerback/nickelback Trajan Bandy, who was ejected for targeting after the third defensive play of the game.
And those were just three of the youngest Miami Hurricanes who made their college football debuts against LSU on Sunday.
The now-No. 22 Hurricanes got clobbered by now-No. 11 LSU, but not without some good coming from it. Ten true freshmen and 13 Canes in all represented Miami in a game for the first time.
It should all help when UM meets Savannah State at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday in its 6 p.m. home opener. In that game, expect more freshmen and redshirt freshmen to debut, including quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon, and possibly newcomer Jarren Williams.
“It felt great going out there, first college game against one of the biggest college football teams in America,’’ said the 6-3, 210-pound Hightower, whose leaping touchdown with 8:43 left brought the Canes within 16 points. “...We still lost the game, so, you know, it wasn’t as big as it could have been. [But] it gave me some confidence going out there. It felt a little scary at first, but after that I got comfortable...’’
Jordan, UM’s 6-3, 245 man-child out of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High, came to UM this summer as the top prep tight end in America. And he showed it Sunday by not only starting, but playing nearly the entire game, said tight ends coach Todd Hartley.
“First game, that atmosphere to be able to go that long without having to come out — I hardly had to sub him— I thought he did excellent,’’ Hartley said. “He graded out very high — almost [former standout UM tight end Chris] Herndon level.
“Assignment wise he might have had two plays where he didn’t quite do what he was supposed to do. But two out of 71? I’ll take that all day.’’
Hartley, who said Jordan will surely get touches in the future, said the young tight end showed he could handle the atmosphere, a quality opponent, the blocking and the protection. “He didn’t bust one protection. He finished every play. He put his hat on people, he ran his feet, he competed. He didn’t back down and the moment wasn’t too big for him.’’
In the kicking game, new Cane Bubba Baxa hit his first field goal attempt from 38 yards to make it 3-3 with 6:49 left in the opening quarter. But his second kick got tipped by LSU and went wide left.
On Wednesday, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was especially effusive about Blades, who tallied two tackles and proved tough in extensive playing time.
“The freshman worth highlighting is Al Blades,’’ Diaz said, “because when we lost Trajan we lost two players -- not only our starting corner but our starting nickel on third down. Al came in there and did not blink. It was not too big for him. I mean, he covered maybe their best guy foot-for-foot.
“And then [cornerback] DJ Ivey played the majority of the last third of the game and you had the same feeling with DJ. Did a nice job. ...Looked like he knew what he was doing.’’
Sophomore slot receiver Jeff Thomas, who had a tremendous performance with five catches for 132 yards, including a dazzling, one-handed grab, made sure to give Hightower encouragement.
“He said he couldn’t believe he caught the ball in front of that many fans,’’ Thomas said. “It was a good start for him.’’
What was Thomas’ advice for young Hightower?
“Just keep working hard and put this game behind us. Let’s focus on the next one.’’
▪ The other true freshmen who played Sunday, some only on special teams: wide receiver Dee Wiggins, tight end Will Mallory, defensive end Greg Rousseau, running back Lorenzo Lingard and offensive lineman DJ Scaife. Also getting playing time was redshirt freshman Evidence Njoku and graduate transfers Tito Odenigbo (defensive tackle) and Venzell Boulware (offensive line).