University of Miami

After lightning delay, Miami Hurricanes thunder past FAU Owls 44-20

Brad Kaaya postgame after UM beats FAU

Brad Kaaya finished 21 of 32 for 287 yards and a touchdown as the Canes pulled away late to beat the Owls 44-20 on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 in Boca Raton. Video by Manny Navarro / Miami Herald Staff
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Brad Kaaya finished 21 of 32 for 287 yards and a touchdown as the Canes pulled away late to beat the Owls 44-20 on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 in Boca Raton. Video by Manny Navarro / Miami Herald Staff

The weather gods wreaked havoc again Friday night — this time at FAU Stadium.

For the second week in a row, lightning halted play during a University of Miami football game.

And like the opening week, the Hurricanes eventually gained momentum, defeating the Owls 44-20 in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a sporting event in Palm Beach County — 30,321.

Miami (2-0), which looked porous defensively for more than two quarters, forced five turnovers: interceptions by Rayshawn Jenkins and Artie Burns; and fumble recoveries by Corn Elder, Dallas Crawford and Deon Bush.

Miami scored 24 unanswered points after FAU kicker Greg Joseph hit a 32-yard field goal to tie the score at 20 in the third quarter.

Once the Canes got going, though, the Owls (0-2) fell apart.

“Was it perfect? No,” UM coach Al Golden said of the weather-delayed game. “Would I have liked to have a cleaner game? Heck yeah. But it is what it is.”

Coach Al Golden discusses the Miami Hurricanes' 44-20 win at Florida Atlantic on Friday,. Sept. 11, 2015. Video by Manny Navarro / Miami Herald Staff

Canes sophomore running back Joe Yearby had tallied two touchdowns and his 243 total yards – 146 of that rushing – by the time UM made it 44-20 with 8:55 left in the final quarter.

At halftime, Yearby said he told his teammates, “This is what we came for. We practiced for this all week. Let’s do it.’’

Herb Waters finished with 102 receiving yards on five catches.

UM freshman running back Mark Walton scored three rushing touchdowns, the last one pushing several defenders into the end zone with a 4-yard rush on fourth-and-goal.

“I just kept my feet moving,’’ Walton said. “I didn’t stop. … Determination. To overpower the defense felt great.’’

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 21 of 32 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown.

At 8:36 p.m., with just over six minutes left in the first quarter and UM leading 7-3 in front of the sellout crowd, the Hurricanes and Owls exited the field because lightning was detected in the area. The fans who were patient — seemingly most of them — waited.

The game resumed at 9:43 p.m. — a 67-minute delay.

“It’s up to the two schools to decide what makes sense,’’ UM athletic director Blake James told 560 WQAM broadcasters Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey. “You can continue on as long as you want with delays. But you have to protect the safety and well-being of the students and the fans. …You don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way.”

A game in which UM at one time led by 11 points became 20-20 on Joseph’s field goal with 9:44 remaining in the third quarter.

“I kept saying, and everybody wants to talk about next week [against Nebraska], that I knew exactly what we were getting into,’’ Golden said. “All you had to do is turn on the tape. They had [563] yards on the road [last week against Tulsa], 44 points, and missed some red-zone opportunities themselves.

“I thought they were physical on defense. They attacked us, and it took us a while to kind of push them back a little bit. If anybody thought this was going to be anything but this kind of environment, you’re nuts.’’

On the ensuing drive, a short pass by Kaaya became a 52-yard sprint by Yearby, putting the Canes on the 1-yard line for Yearby to make it 27-20 with 7:32 left in the third quarter.

From there it was all Canes.

Michael Badgley kicked his third field goal of the night, a 23-yarder, then Walton rushed for 1- and 4-yard scores.

“This team handles adversity,’’ Kaaya said. “Coach spoke to us Thursday night and he told us that there is going to be adversity [Friday] and there is going to be adversity for us in every game. You never know what is going to be thrown at you.

“When they scored to make it 20 to 20, a lot of the guys smiled. I looked over at Mark and Joe and said, ‘Let’s go! This is what we live for.’ ’’

I just kept my feet moving. I didn’t stop. … Determination. To overpower the defense felt great.

strong

FAU starting quarterback Jaquez Johnson, who had completed two passes, sprained his right ankle just before the lightning delay, and former UF quarterback Jeff Driskel’s younger brother Jason took over.

Driskel led the Owls on three scoring drives and finished the first half completing 11 of 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. He ended the game hitting 17 of 30 attempts for 155 yards, the touchdown and two picks.

Driskel was aided by a phenomenal performance by junior running back Jay Warren, who rushed for career-high 132 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries — before he was knocked silly by UM safety Jamal Carter’s crushing tackle at the FAU 27-yard line late in the second quarter. Warren fumbled, safety Dallas Crawford recovered and the Canes eventually made it 20-17 on a 21-yard field goal by Badgley.

“I just did my technique,’’ Carter said with a smile, “what Coach D taught us during practice. I brought my training to the game. It felt good to set the tone.

“We just took the momentum after that and went with it. In the first half we came out a little slow. We had too many mental errors. But as the game progressed, we came out in the second half and dominated.’’

Linebacker Raphael Kirby called Carter’s big hit “the turning point of the game.”

In the second quarter alone, FAU gained 138 yards to UM’s 50 — and the Canes were 0 for 5 on third-down attempts.

UM meets Nebraska at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.

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