Coming off their dominating 70-3 victory over FAMU, the No. 25 Miami Hurricanes (1-0) welcome Florida Atlantic University (1-0) and their fast-paced offense to Hard Rock Stadium this Saturday afternoon. As the Canes – who are ranked in the AP top 25 poll for the first time since 2013 – prepare to take on FAU, there are some clear themes to the game.
Keep in mind that FAU is not FAMU, the Owls are a much higher caliber team. When Miami squared off with FAU last season, three points separated the teams heading into halftime. Although the Canes pulled away in the second half to make the final score 44-20, the Owls proved to be a challenge, specifically in the run game. FAU matched up well with 223 rushing yards to Miami’s 226. Where the Hurricanes took the game over was through the air. The Canes had 300 total passing yards to the Owls’ 166, which was the difference in the match. If the team wants to come out of this game 2-0, junior starting quarterback Brad Kaaya must play well because the run games are likely to neutralize each other.
“They’re well coached, they know how to execute the coverages their coach gives them,” Kaaya said of FAU.
Miami must continue their offensive balance and consistency from last week. Going into this week, the running backs will be the x-factors against a talented front seven for the Owls. FAU’s approach on defense will be to stop the ground game first and foremost.
“You just look at the tape to see guys playing hard, playing physical, their defensive is very, very stout,” Head Coach Mark Richt said. “They’ve very tough up front. Good run-stoppers.”
For FAU, senior defensive end Trey Henderson, who was No. 2 in the country in sacks a season ago with 13.5, and sophomore linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair lead the defense for the Owls. Al-Shaair finished with 10 tackles in their season opener while Henderson added five tackles, including 2.5 for a loss.
With FAU’s tendency to play a lot of press on the outside and get nine guys in the box, it’ll be a test for the offensive line and Kaaya to read the defense before the play to keep the ball rolling offensively.
The biggest concern with Miami heading into the FAMU game was the lack of depth on defense. That problem isn’t going away any time soon. The Canes have lost yet another defensive player, this time redshirt freshman linebacker Jamie Gordinier to a knee injury earlier in the week. Miami’s trio of starting freshman linebackers must step up once again to stop FAU’s run game early.
“Offensively, they go about as fast as a team can go,” Richt said. “They do a really good job of getting a lot of plays. We’re going to have to communicate very quickly to our defense, get lined up quickly and be ready to play ball.”
While FAU presents an interesting test for the Canes, Miami should come out on top for its second win under the Mark Richt campaign, figuring another strong performance on both offense and defense.