POSTED SEPT. 2 at 5:16 P.M.
Randy Shannon’s debut as the head coach of the Hurricanes couldn’t have gone much better. Stifling defense, effective offense and an opponent eager to give yards away led to a 31-3 throttling of Marshall on Saturday.
The only place Marshall (0-1) had some success was in the passing game. Marshall quarterback Bernard Morris went 16-for-26, gaining 162 yards through the air, including two long passes through the Miami (1-0) secondary.
However, like every other aspect of the Thundering Herd’s play, it seemed to be one step forward, two steps back. Four interceptions and six sacks killed any offensive momentum Marshall built. The defense, formerly led by Shannon before his promotion, didn’t skip a beat.
Despite the sparkling run defense, the biggest performance of the day came from the Miami backfield. Starter Javarris James scored two touchdowns for the ‘Canes, coming one yard short of 100 for the day. Freshman Graig Cooper, off the bench, amassed 116 yards off only 12 attempts. His highlight was a 56-yard rush, proving incredibly elusive to the Marshall defense.
“I told God to let me have an all right game. I don’t want a big game to have all this hype around me,” Cooper said. “I asked him to bless me with an all right game, and he did.”
Shannon said he was impressed with the dynamic duo of James and Cooper.
“I though that was great,” Shannon said. “That reminds us of the days when we had Edgerrin [James] and [Clinton] Portis, Portis and Willis [McGahee], Willis and Frank Gore. We can wear teams down physically.”
While the running game was dominant, many eyes were on junior Kirby Freeman, in his first game since he was announced as the starter last Tuesday. His performance wasn’t sparkling, going 9-for-21 with one touchdown and one interception, more than a few of his incompletion were dropped passes.
“Kirby did a nice job,” Shannon said. “He managed the game, he had one turnover, and we won. We just want someone to give us an opportunity to win the game.”
With how strong Miami was playing, they didn’t need any help. But they got it from Marshall, as penalties piled up, totaling 12 flags for 67 yards to be exact. Marshall dug a hole they just couldn’t get out of it.
After the victory, Shannon took his team to the student section to sing the Alma Mater with the remaining students. Commonplace at other schools, this may soon become another Miami tradition.
“You’ve got to have some pride in the school,” Shannon said. “At the University of Miami, we’re going to have pride in our alma mater, we’re going to have pride in going out on the field, we’re going to have pride in doing things the right way.”
With Marshall now out of the way, the ‘Canes will head westward, visiting the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners. A victory next weekend would catapult Miami back onto the national stage.
The ‘Canes know they’ll be playing a much more formidable opponent with the Sooners crushing North Texas Saturday, 79-10.
“Both sides of the ball got catching up to do,” Shannon said. “You know how many deep balls we gave up today? That’s unacceptable. It’s not just offense and defense; as a team, we’ve got a lot to get done.”
But amongst players, there seems to be some anticipation for the challenge, put simply by Javarris James.
“I’m ready,” he said, with a smirk on his face.
Matthew Bunch is a Senior Sports Writer and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.