University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes try to put distractions aside for crucial game at Duke

Canes QB Malik Rosier will make his first career start on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015 against Duke as Brad Kaaya recovers from a concussion.
Canes QB Malik Rosier will make his first career start on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015 against Duke as Brad Kaaya recovers from a concussion. AP

Despite a traumatic week that would try the strongest of young men, the University of Miami football team still clings to hope.

After the Hurricanes endured their worst defeat in the program’s 90 years; after their coach was fired; after a fatal heart attack struck the mother of their star cornerback; after their nationally touted quarterback sustained a concussion — the Canes will do what gives them the most comfort: play football.

“We’re all just trying to battle through this,’’ said senior safety Dallas Crawford, one of four UM captains for the 7 p.m. game Saturday against No. 22 Duke (6-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).

The others are tight end Stan Dobard, receiver Herb Waters and cornerback Artie Burns, the son of Dana Smith, the well-loved mom who died Tuesday at age 44.

The player not listed as a captain for the first time this season: quarterback Brad Kaaya, who did not practice all week and did not travel to Durham.

Kaaya’s roommate, redshirt freshman Malik Rosier, will make his first career start after being unexpectedly thrown into the Clemson game last week and completing only 7 of 22 passes for 42 yards with two interceptions.

“It was a shock,’’ Rosier admitted.

Rosier said he would be “a lot more prepared’’ against Duke.

“I felt like there were a couple plays, a couple of passes I missed because I didn’t have chemistry with some of the receivers,” Rosier said. “Duke will be a good test. They’re a great defense, but the game is going to slow down for me and I’ll do better.”

Minutes after UM coach Al Golden was fired Sunday night, on the heels of the 58-0 loss to Clemson, the coach addressed the team and then approached players individually with words of encouragement.

“He said, ‘Listen, you have a great opportunity if you’re the starter to lead this team,’ ’’ Rosier recalled. “And I said, ‘I know Coach. I’m doing it for you.’

“He’s the reason we’re striving for this Coastal [Division], so our plan is to win it for him, because that’s what he’d want.’’

But now even the Coastal Division goal espoused by the Canes (4-3, 1-2) and their former coach, who was replaced as the interim leader by assistant Larry Scott, will be hard to achieve.

Miami, burdened with an unfortunate schedule that had its two crossover divisional games this season against now-No. 3 Clemson and then-undefeated Florida State, already has the two losses in the conference, with road games Nov. 14 against North Carolina (7-1, 4-0) and Nov. 27 against Pittsburgh (6-2, 4-1) — not to mention games against Duke, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

To win the Coastal, the Canes would likely have to win out and would definitely have to get help from other teams.

“Coach Golden set a goal for the team and that was to win the Coastal,’’ cornerback Tracy Howard said. “It’s still in front of us.

“And even though he’s not here we still can finish it for him. No matter what anybody said, he was our leader, and it’s only right we finish it for him.’’

The Canes not only will be playing for their former coach, they’ll be playing to honor the memory of Burns’ mother, who will be buried Thursday. Smith knew the players well and often had them at her house.

Burns, 20, came to practice the day after his mother died and tweeted that “Saturday will be my greatest effort because that’s what you would want.’’

The players have responded, saying they will rise to the moment.

“Obviously, it’s a sad thing that happened, but Artie is a great player, he’s going to focus real hard … and I’m sure he’s going to have his mother watching over him,’’ offensive lineman Kc McDermott said.

Duke, favored by 13 points, has the ninth-ranked defense (281.3 yards allowed per game), the sixth-ranked passing defense (151 yards) and sixth-ranked scoring defense (14.1 points allowed per game) in the nation.

The Blue Devils are led by safety Jeremy Cash, who played at Plantation High and was named this week as a Thorpe Award semifinalist.

On offense, Duke’s Thomas Sirk is one of five quarterbacks among Power 5 schools to lead his team in both rushing and passing yardage.

Sirk has thrown for 1,530 yards and 11 touchdowns, with three interceptions. He has run for 430 yards with two touchdowns.

UM safety Deon Bush, who will attempt to contain Sirk, was asked earlier this week if he was able to even think about Duke because of what had transpired.

“We’re thinking about Duke because we owe it to people,’’ Bush said. “We owe it to Artie. We owe it to Coach Golden. We owe it to have a good week.

“We’re looking forward to Duke.’’

Susan Miller Degnan: 305-376-3366, @smillerdegnan

Saturday: Miami at No. 22 Duke

Kickoff: 7 p.m.; Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.

TV/radio: ESPNU; WQAM 560; WURN 1020 (Spanish); WVUM 90.5 FM.

Favorite: Duke by 13.

Records: Miami 4-3 (1-2 ACC); Duke 6-1 (3-0 ACC).

Series: Miami leads 10-2.

Miami injuries: Out — QB Brad Kaaya (concussion); LB Raphael Kirby (knee); LB Marques Gayot (neck); LB Darrion Owens (knee); RB Gus Edwards (foot).

Duke injuries: Questionable — DE Kyler Brown (knee). Out — OL Cody Robinson (back); CB Bryon Fields (ACL); LB Kelby Brown (ACL).

PROBABLE UM STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

12

Malik Rosier

Fr.

DE

9

Chad Thomas

So.

RB

2

Joe Yearby

So.

NT

93

Calvin Heurtelou

Sr.

FB

40

Gage Batten

Jr.

DT

92

Courtel Jenkins

So.

WR

6

Herb Waters

Sr.

LB

35

Trent Harris

So.

WR

11

Rashawn Scott

Sr.

LB

51

Juwon Young

So.

TE

5

Standish Dobard

Jr.

LB

5

Jermaine Grace

Jr.

LT

73

Trevor Darling

So.

LB

8

A. Muhammad

So.

LG

52

Kc McDermott

So.

CB

3

Tracy Howard

Sr.

C

68

Nick Linder

So.

CB

1

Artie Burns

Jr.

RG

50

Joe Brown

Fr.

S

25

Dallas Crawford

Sr.

RT

63

Daniel Isidora

Jr.

S

2

Deon Bush

Sr.

PK

15

Michael Badgley

So.

P

16

Justin Vogel

Jr.

PROBABLE DUKE STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

1

Thomas Sirk

Jr.

DE

56

Kyler Brown

Sr.

RB

28

S. Powell

Sr.

DT

93

A.J. Wolf

Jr.

WR

3

T.J. Rahming

Fr.

DT

98

Carlos Wray

Sr.

WR

87

Max McCaffrey

Sr.

DE

22

Britton Grier

Sr.

WR

4

Johnell Barnes

Jr.

LB

24

X. Carmichael

So.

TE

89

Braxton Deaver

Sr.

LB

40

D. Norman

Sr.

LT

76

Gabe Brandner

So.

CB

21

A. Saxton II

So.

LG

67

Lucas Patrick

Sr.

CB

31

Breon Borders

Jr.

C

62

Matt Skura

Sr.

S

33

D. Singleton

Jr.

RG

79

Tanner Stone

Jr.

S

16

Jeremy Cash

Sr.

RT

71

Casey Blaser

Jr.

S

27

D. Edwards

Jr.

PK

35

Ross Martin

Sr.

P

41

Will Monday

Sr.

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