N’Kosi Perry doesn’t quite remember his first memory of the Miami-Florida State rivalry.
But he does recall the Hurricanes’ legendary safety who led the nation in interceptions in 2003 and set a Miami record by returning three of those picks for touchdowns.
“I definitely remember Sean Taylor’s big hits,’’ Perry said Tuesday. “That’s probably my favorite memory.’’
Perry will make his own memories before a national television audience (ABC) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, when the No. 17 Hurricanes (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) meet FSU (3-2, 1-2) in the young quarterback’s first start in one of the biggest rivalries in college football.
“I expect them to play harder than they play against anybody else,’’ the 6-4, 195-pound redshirt freshman said. “They have great players on their team. No matter what their record is, I know they’re going to play hard.’’
Perry, who supplanted redshirt senior Malik Rosier last week as starter, is now 34 of 51 (66.7 percent) for 442 yards and seven touchdowns, with three interceptions in four games played. He was 8 of 12 for 125 yards and a touchdown, with one interception at home last Thursday against North Carolina — a 47-10 UM victory.
The previous week, at home against FIU, he came in for the third series and was 17 of 25 for 224 yards and three touchdowns, with one pick, in a 31-17 UM win.
“Looking at it statistically, it looked kind of good on paper with completion percentages,’’ Perry said of his play. “But there’s a lot I can improve on in watching film. I see my mistakes, and I plan on getting better and better every week.’’
Rosier, who has struggled with accuracy, is 14-4 overall as a starter (including his 2015 win at Duke) and 38 of 73 (52.1) for 611 yards and five touchdowns in four games, with two interceptions. Rosier also has a team-leading five touchdowns rushing this season.
UM coach Mark Richt, as well as other coaches and players, have heaped praise on Rosier for his impressive decorum during the entire quarterback transition.
“Everything is still good,’’ Perry said of his relationship with Rosier. “He’s still that leader that he was before. He’s helping all of us out, not just me.’’
Perry graduated from Ocala Vanguard High School and was a consensus four-star, dual-threat prospect who threw for 1,778 yards, 24 touchdowns and four interceptions his senior season, with another 97 yards and four touchdowns rushing.
He acknowledged there’s “a lot more juice” in the huddle during a college game, and players said he has responded fittingly.
“He’s performing well,’’ said receiver Darrell Langham, who made the game-winning catch for a touchdown with six seconds remaining to give UM the victory last year in Tallahassee and snap FSU’s seven-year winning streak. “He’s doing his job. He’s getting his calls in. He’s not afraid to run the ball when he has to. He’s tough. He stays up. No one knocks him down.”
In the huddle, Langham said, Perry “just tells everybody to get their minds together — ‘Let’s get it done.’’’
Said center Tyler Gauthier of his new quarterback: “He wants full attention. He walks in there, he wants eyes on him...’’
Florida State is ranked 29th nationally in team sacks (14), but 112th in passing yards allowed (284.4 a game).
“They’ve got a pretty good D,’’ Perry said, “but I feel ilke we’ve got a better offensive line.’’
Perry missed the LSU opener because of a one-game suspension related to violating team rules more than six months ago, according to Richt. He was asked Tuesday how tough it was not to be there.
“I knew what I had ahead of me,’’ he said, “so I felt like I handled it well and was just preparing for the next week.
“That’s definitely one thing I had to learn, that I’m an example on and off the field. Even when nobody’s watching, I have to do what’s right at all times.’’
▪ UM safety Jaquan Johnson (hamstring) and linebacker Shaq Quarterman (ankle) praticed Tuesday.ion CTA