The injury bug bit the Hurricanes hard Saturday night at a position coach Al Golden noted they were already a little shorthanded.
UM lost not one, but two receivers to injuries on the opening drive of the game when junior Stacy Coley (left ankle) and sophomore Braxton Berrios (left knee) went down within four plays of each other.
Coley exited first after he caught a short swing pass from quarterback Brad Kaaya and got hit for a 2-yard loss. The 6-1, 187-pound junior, who had been phenomenal in training camp according to coaches, spent about 10 minutes on a stationary bike on the sideline before having his left hamstring wrapped with ice.
Berrios’ injury appeared more severe. He twisted his left knee while attempting to turn his body around and make a catch on a ball thrown behind him.
The 5-9, 180-pound sophomore stayed on the turf a few minutes and was visited by trainers and Golden before he walked off the field slowly under his own power.
Berrios tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the Under-Armour All-American Game as a senior in high school. This latest injury, though, was to his other knee.
“I don’t think we’re deep,” Golden said Wednesday when asked about UM’s receiving corps. “That’s one of the spots that when you look at our recruiting right now we need a lot of receivers … If you have those five extra scholarships right now [Golden said UM is at 80 because of NCAA sanctions], I’d say [we’d have] one or two more running backs, one or two more receivers, one or two more corners.”
UM entered the season with nine scholarship receivers: seniors Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott, juniors Coley, Malcolm Lewis and D’Mauri Jones, sophomores Berrios and Tyre Brady, and freshmen Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham.
Losing Berrios and Coley for a significant amount of time not only hurts the Hurricanes at receiver, but also in the return game.
Berrios won the starting job on punt returns and Coley was listed as a starter on kick returns alongside freshman running back Mark Walton.
After Berrios exited Saturday, junior cornerback Corn Elder and receiver Waters handled the next two punt returns.
Elder called for a fair catch on his return. Waters did too, but fumbled. UM retained possession after Bethune was flagged for kick-catch interference.
Elder later had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown. He had another 70-yard punt return for a score wiped out when officials ruled Waters had waved off the return before Elder scooped up the ball.
TWO SUSPENDED FOR OPENER
An hour before kickoff, UM announced redshirt sophomore rush end Al-Quadin Muhammad (6-3, 256) and sophomore receiver Brady (6-3, 200) had been suspended for Saturday’s game for a violation of team rules. School officials said both suspensions would only last one game.
Muhammad, a U.S. Army All-American coming out of high school, was suspended by the university all last season for getting into a fight after the 2014 spring game.
His stats at UM in 2013: 13 games, no starts, seven unassisted tackles, one assisted tackles, two tackles-for-loss.
Brady had 39 catches for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at South Dade High, but did not catch any passes for the Hurricanes in five games as a freshman last season.