Over the past 12 days, the Miami Hurricane football team has had a lot to think about.
On Thursday night, however, the 19th-ranked Canes can prove the doubters wrong.Ever since the Sept. 11 36-24 loss to Ohio State, UM has been criticized by disappointed fans.
At 7:30 p.m., Miami (1-1) faces an uphill battle on the road against the Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1) at Heinz Field.
“This week’s game against Pitt, another ESPN game, national game which is great for us to have an opportunity to play on national TV,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “The game will be very physical. It’s going to be fun to see what happens.”
The Hurricanes hold a 21-9-1 all-time record versus the Panthers. The last time Miami faced Pittsburgh was in the 2003 regular season finale when the Canes produced a defensive stand and beat the Panthers, 28-14.
Former defensive backs Sean Taylor and Antrel Rolle completely shut down former All-American Larry Fitzgerald as he was held to three catches and one touchdown.
Fitzgerald did, however, extend his NCAA record to 18 consecutive games with at least one touchdown reception. The Hurricanes also managed to tally nine sacks.
But this year will be a different headline.
It marks the first time Shannon will face an old Big East foe and the first meeting between Shannon and Pitt’s head coach Dave Wannstedt.
“Knowing Dave Wannstedt for a long time, I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” Shannon said. “We have always had an open relationship on and off the field. He’s in it for the kids. He’s done a great job at Pitt.”
Shannon and Wannstedt have a long history.
While Wannstedt was defensive coordinator at Miami under former head coach Jimmy Johnson, Wannstedt helped recruit Shannon out of high school and coached him as a Hurricane.
When Johnson and Wannstedt were with the Dallas Cowboys, they used their 11th-round pick to draft Shannon in 1989. After Shannon finished playing football, Wannstedt hired him to be the Dolphins linebackers coach.
“Randy and I go way back,” said Wannstedt, whose program has lost 14 of the last 15 games against the Canes, but has never personally faced Miami as a head coach. “I’ve probably been involved with his football life most of his life.”
For the players, this becomes a bounce back game from the Ohio State loss. Miami had its moment against Ohio State, but blew its opportunity to win. This will be the second of three games on the road, and the Canes need to rebound.
“It’s very important,” said redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Forston, who is a starter on the defense that leads the nation in tackles for loss with 25. “Coming off a loss, you don’t want guys still thinking about that, underestimating Pittsburgh. Back-to-back losses, that would really mess the team up right there. Coaches are making sure we practice hard, chase the ball.”
In week one, Utah upset then-No. 15 Pittsburgh, 27-24, in overtime. The Utes controlled the game by containing Pittsburgh’s running game. Utah held sophomore All-American Dion Lewis to three yards per carry and finished with 15 carries for 75 yards. Last year as a freshman, Lewis rushed for 1,799 yards.
Since 1996, Pitt is 1-10 against ranked, non-conference opponents.
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at email@example.com.