UPDATED 9:54 a.m., Sept. 6, 2015: Quote from the players and coach Al Golden have been added to the story.
Not even Mother Nature could save Bethune-Cookman from being blown away by the Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium Saturday night. Officials suspended play due to inclement weather for an hour and fifteen minutes with 9:08 left in the second quarter, but the Canes poured it on the Wildcats after play resumed to win their season opener 45-0.
“I think we played hard. It’s hard to get a shutout no matter what,” Coach Al Golden said. “We were physical, we tackled well. We played a lot of guys, somewhere between 20 and 22 freshmen. It’s a good first game.”
The Hurricanes opened the new season with a three-and-out on defense, followed up by a 16-play, 70-yard drive for a touchdown on offense. The Canes went for it on fourth down twice in the seven-minute long opening drive that saw the Hurricane debuts of highly rated freshmen Mark Walton and Lawrence Cager.
Miami (1-0) was ready to settle for three points on a 36-yard field goal attempt, but a Bethune-Cookman defender ran into sophomore kicker Michael Badgley for a penalty, giving Miami a first down in the red zone. Sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya took advantage of the extra set of downs, and found junior tight end Standish Dobard in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown pass after receiving ample time in the pocket from his offensive line.
The Canes showcased their newest weapon in the second quarter. Walton, the first-year running back out of Booker T. Washington, carried the ball five times for 64 yards, breaking multiple tackles and juking flat-footed defenders along the way.
Miami scored three touchdowns in a two minute and five-second span to blow the game open near the end of the first half. Kaaya initiated the onslaught with a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Rashawn Scott in the right corner of the end zone with 3:42 remaining.
An interception on the ensuing Bethune-Cookman drive by redshirt junior defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins gave Miami great field position. Not to be out done by Walton’s impressive showing, sophomore running back Joseph Yearby blasted up the middle two plays after the interception for a 25-yard touchdown.
The Hurricanes weren’t satisfied with a 24-point lead heading into halftime, though. Junior defensive back Corn Elder returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown with 1:37 remaining to send Miami into the half up 31-0. Elder’s first career punt return touchdown was Miami’s first since Nov. 16, 2013.
Elder thought he put the Canes up by three scores with nine minutes left in the half when he returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back due to teammate Herb Waters waving the fair catch signal before Elder picked up the ball. Shortly after the touchdown was negated, the game was suspended due to inclement weather.
“I was just thinking I hope I get another chance to take one back,” Elder said after his first return touchdown was called back.
To make up time, the third and fourth quarters were only ten minutes long rather than the customary 15 minutes.
Kaaya fumbled away the ball after getting sacked on the first play of the second half. Bethune-Cookman (0-1) squandered the opportunity by turning the ball over right back three plays later on an interception by junior defensive back Artie Burns.
Kaaya exited the game after the next Hurricanes drive with 173 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-27 passing. The second-year quarterback out of California looked comfortable operating out of the shotgun, hitting receivers in stride down the sidelines and over the middle.
“I feel like we took advantage of the turnovers our defense created,” Kaaya said. “We were good in the red zone. We limited penalties.”
Redshirt freshman Malik Rosier replaced Kaaya and promptly marched the Canes down the field 53 yards for a touchdown in his first possession. Walton capped off the drive with a five-yard run up the middle for the first touchdown of his Hurricanes career. The freshman led all rushers with 85 yards on ten carries in his first collegiate game.
“[Scoring the touchdown] felt great. It was unbelievable. I didn’t even know what to do after that,” Walton said. “Coach Golden did a great job preparing me. I just have to trust my ability.”
Sophomore running back Trayone Gray completed the touchdown trifecta for Miami rushers with a 1-yard score near the end of the fourth quarter. He carried the ball all four plays of the drive for 47 yards.
“All three of them did good things tonight against a stacked front,” Golden said of the team’s running backs. “Overall, they did a pretty good job rushing the ball.”
Miami defenders smothered the smaller Bethune-Cookman players throughout the game. The Hurricanes held the Wildcats to 79 total yards on 46 plays, made two turnovers and sacked the opposing quarterback five times.
Elder set the tone early when he had a sack, a broken up pass and a tackle for a loss in the first quarter alone.
The huge victory wasn’t all good news for the Hurricanes, though. Sophomore receiver and punt returner Braxton Berrios went down around the eight-minute mark of the first quarter with a left knee injury and did not return. Junior receiver Stacy Coley also left the game early with a left ankle injury and did not play after the weather delay. The team is reevaluating both players.
“We think they will be all right,” Golden said after the game.
The Canes move to 3-0 against Bethune-Cookman and have won nine consecutive home openers. The 45-0 win was the first shutout by the Hurricanes since 2010.
The Hurricanes next play Florida Atlantic 8 p.m. Friday in Boca Raton.