After their 41-16 disposing of Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes made their statement to the rest of the college football world: They are still the team to beat.
However, if Miami wants to continue their championship form, they must avoid a letdown of sorts. Tomorrow afternoon’s contest at Temple represents a challenge of different sorts for the Hurricanes, one that Miami will have to show they can play consistent football. Head coach Larry Coker doesn’t see any potential for a letdown.
“A letdown is something you use as an excuse,” Coker said. “I don’t think it’s natural to have a letdown and we are not going to let that happen.”
Historically, Temple has not posed any sort of problem. Miami enters tomorrow’s game with a 10-game win streak against the Owls, including a 38-0 shutout at the Orange Bowl last year.
Yet, two things bring out a yellow flag for any assumptions that Miami will win this one in a cakewalk. First, the game will not be played at the familiar surroundings of Veteran Stadium, but rather at the historic Franklin Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Again, Coker does not view field location as an incentive for the Owls.
“Our normal approach is to play the game and not give the field too much credit,” Coker said. “That’s the same approach we used last week.”
There is also the fact that the contest comes three days after the anniversary of Sept. 11, something that the state of Pennsylvania, due to the events of Flight 93, were a major part of. At the same time, Coker points out that the Hurricanes had a close call with directly being involved in the tragedy.
“Leon’s [Williams] mother worked in the World Trade Center,” Coker said. “He went through a period without contact, before he eventually contacted her. Fortunately, she was late for work that day.”
On the field, the Hurricanes dominate nearly all of the matchups. Despite the absence of Andre Johnson, who sits out this week’s contest due to discomfort in his shoulder, the Temple secondary still has Kevin Beard, Ethnic Sands, and emerging threat Roscoe Parrish to deal with.
“I got a lot of confidence in KB,” said offensive lineman Vernon Carey. “He’s made a lot of plays in college, and this also gives Roscoe a chance to step up and make some plays.”
On the ground, Big East offensive player of the week Willis McGahee comes off a 204-yard effort against a mediocre Florida defense. In order to pick up a large yardage total again, the Hurricane offensive line must contend with Outland Trophy candidate Dan Klecko.
Whether the unit stops Klecko remains to be seen, but Carey has been impressed by the offensive line’s improvement.
“I’m pleased, but Coach Kehoe isn’t,” Carey said. “I’m pleased that the O-Line has done well as a unit and we just need to keep on working.”
On defense, strong safety Maurice Sikes grabbed the headlines after intercepting a Rex Grossman pass and taking it back 97 yards for a touchdown. Sikes, who picked off two passes in the Florida game, also took home Big East defensive player of the week honors.
“Mo Sikes is a big part of our secondary,” said cornerback Al Marshall. “He’s been around here for a long time so he’s kind of our leader and he is going to be a heck of a player.”
Although the defense as a whole remains stronger than ever, the front four were dealt some bad news. Santonio Thomas, who saw time behind William Joseph at defensive tackle, tore his pectoral muscle in Gainesville and will miss the remainder of the season. Freshman Orien Harris replaces Thomas on the second team.
“He [Santonio] is in good spirits,” Coker said. “He does have a redshirt year, and in fact, he laughed and said, “Coach you wanted to redshirt me anyways, didn’t you.””
Although the incentives could play out in Temple’s favor, the Hurricanes should be able to have the way on both sides of the ball. The biggest challenge, according to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski , remains remembering that Miami has a game
“They’ve always given us a battle, whether we’ve gone up there or played down here,” Chudzinski said. “We need to keep our guys focused and coming off an emotional game last week, we need to stay on task.”
Jeremy Marks-Peltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.