University of Miami

UM-Nebraska rivalry renewed on Canes’ home turf

AP

While longtime Hurricanes fans revel in the storied football rivalry between Miami and Nebraska, many of the teenagers and 20-something Canes, other than, perhaps, offensive line coach Art Kehoe’s bunch, consider ancient UM-Nebraska history a mystery.

On Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium, however, they hope modern history doesn’t repeat itself.

For the first time since Nebraska and Miami converged in 1951, the Canes (2-0) will host the Cornhuskers (1-1) in a regular-season game.

“You can’t ask for a better challenge this week than Nebraska,’’ said UM center Nick Linder, who for two years has listened to Kehoe — witness to all five Canes’ national titles — regale his players with tales of the rivalry. “We’re really excited.

“…Coach Kehoe tells us stories about the old Canes versus the old Huskers, so we know what this game means for the Hurricanes.’’

4 Out of 11, the number of times a national championship was decided by the result of a Miami/Nebraska matchup.

And he knows even more so after last year’s game in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In front of a Memorial Stadium turned red by the record crowd of 91,585, star running back Ameer Abdullah and his Huskers stomped the Hurricanes 41-31.

Abdullah, who ran for 229 yards and two touchdowns in a game marred by personal fouls and tempers run amuck, is now in the NFL. So is former UM left tackle Ereck Flowers, the New York Giants’ first-round pick who waved goodbye to the Huskers fans with his middle finger.

“I’ve heard,’’ said new Nebraska coach Mike Riley, who took over for the dismissed Bo Pelini and has installed a pro-style offense. “But I don’t know much else about it other than knowing that it was emotional. We’ve had two unsportsmanlike penalties, two cheap shots, and we’re going to get rid of all that. Self-control is always really, really important.

“…I understand the great history of this game and some of the historical ramifications of the games against Miami being played for national championships. That’s pretty good stuff, and it’s led to a nice, current-day rivalry.’’

The Hurricanes and Cornhuskers will meet for the 12th time, with NU leading the series 6-5. The 1983 Hurricanes defeated the Huskers in the Orange Bowl for their first national championship — and eight seasons later beat them again in the Orange Bowl for national title No. 4.

The 1994 Huskers defeated the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl for Nebraska’s third national title and legendary coach Tom Osborne’s first.

And old-time UM and NU diehards obviously recall – some with delight, others with disgust – the 2001 Canes’ 34-0 halftime lead that preceded their fifth national title 37-14 in the Rose Bowl.

Though it’s not at a postseason bowl or for a national title, this game screams of significance for a Hurricanes team that finished 6-7 last season and needs to keep winning to give its embattled coach some breathing room, maintain some of the highly touted recruits who have orally committed and keep alive hopes for a better 2015.

“We’re a different team,’’ safety Dallas Crawford said. “We’re the 2015 Hurricanes. We’re more disciplined now. We’re stronger at the point of attack. Everybody is buying in. We’ll see what happens.’’

Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya — the close friend and former West Hills, California, Chaminade Prep teammate of Abdullah’s heir apparent Terrell Newby — is the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year who threw for a career-high 359 yards in the Nebraska loss.

“I’ve known he was a great quarterback since high school,’’ Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week Newby said of Kaaya after Newby rushed for 198 yards in a 48-9 victory over South Alabama. “We’ve been real close since [we were] 6 years old.

“I was shocked at first that he committed to Miami. I thought he was probably going to stay local, but obviously he saw something in the program, and he’s been doing a great job over there.’’

Kaaya began his infatuation with the Canes when he said “Miami and Nebraska fans flooded L.A.’’ for the 2001 Rose Bowl. He is one Hurricane who knows about the rich, entwined history between the teams — four of the 11 games between them have decided national championships.

You’re bringing together two college football programs that have achieved tremendous success and have a great history of big games against each other.

-University of Miami athletic director Blake James

“I mean, that was the first Miami game I ever watched,’’ he said before last year’s meeting on Sept. 20. “And to be playing against Nebraska now as the Miami quarterback is a pretty cool feeling.’’

It wasn’t particularly cool as the game unfolded. The Cornhuskers rushed for 343 yards and picked off Kaaya twice.

Nebraska has won at least nine games each of the past seven seasons and is led by junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who amassed 3,400 yards of total offense in 2014, including 705 yards and six touchdowns rushing.

Armstrong has completed 63.3 percent of his passes through two games in 2015 for 589 yards and five touchdowns, with one interception.

Saturday’s game is expected to draw at least 50,000 fans, a hearty crowd for Miami.

The matchup “from a fan’s perspective’’ is a winner, said UM athletic director Blake James.

“You’re bringing together two college football programs that have achieved tremendous success and have a great history of big games against each other,’’ James said. “But for the guys on the field, they relate back to the game in Lincoln last year.”

Linder didn’t play in Lincoln, but will start Saturday. He said he’s ready for anything.

“It was a physical game last year and we’re expecting the same kind of game,’’ Linder said. “It’s a passionate sport we play. Stuff happens.’’

Susan Miller Degnan:

305-376-3366

@smillerdegnan

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