The off-week is normally a time to enjoy a weekend off from football and to reflect on the positives and negatives of the past few weeks. For one member of the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes, though, the off-week resulted in a near death experience.
Freshman Buck Ortega, a high-school quarterback converted to linebacker by the University of Miami coaches following the FAMU game Aug. 31, was rushed into the intensive care unit late Wednesday night following complications of arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. Although Ortega’s condition improved over the past few days and has since been released from HealthSouth Doctors Hospital, the news shook up many of his teammates.
“I got a call from somebody and I didn’t even know what happened until the reporter called me,” said offensive lineman Brett Romberg. “You got a guy that you think is just going to get something taken care of on his shoulder and all of a sudden, he is in intensive care. It just puts things into perspective.”
Head Coach Larry Coker wouldn’t elaborate on the specifics of the injury, but Ortega’s mother told South Florida newspapers that Ortega suffered a severe reaction to anesthesia. Ortega spent three days at the hospital before being released Saturday. His return to football this season is in doubt.
Other News From the Injury Front
Three Miami Hurricanes were banged up with minor injuries after the Florida State game and missed some practice time last week. Running back Willis McGahee was held out of contact drills Wednesday due to turf toe but resumed practicing Thursday. Second-team defensive back Greg Threat suffered a slight hamstring pull but also wasn’t expected to miss much time this week.
The most serious of the three, offensive tackle Carlos Joseph, injured his knee against the Seminoles, but MRI’s revealed no serious damage, and according to Coker, the sophomore will resume full practice this week.
“Carlo practiced some, but we held him out some,” Coker said. “He knew we were going to hold him out all of this [past] week.”
Several Hurricanes Receive Midseason Awards
The Semi-Finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s best linebacker, were announced and two Hurricanes made the cut. Junior middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and fellow junior weak-side linebacker D.J. Williams were among the 11 players who remain in the running.
Vilma leads the Hurricanes with 55 tackles, while his two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, which resulted in a touchdown, have been instrumental in the front seven’s success this season. Williams, meanwhile, ranks right behind Vilma with 47 tackles.
“We are very, very honored by that,” Coker said. “They are two excellent people and two excellent football players and to both be nominated by the same school is outstanding. That is an excellent honor both for them and for the university.”
A Final Look Back at FSU
The Hurricanes last action on the football field was ten days ago, when Miami came from behind and survived a last-second missed field goal to defeat Florida State 28-27. The ‘Canes scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to win, but also committed 14 penalties and surrendered 296 yards rushing in the process. The negatives are still stuck in the mind of Brett Romberg.
“We’re not happy with the win,” Romberg said. “You know, it’s a win but we did all we could to lose the football and we’re lucky to come out on top.”
The end of the Seminoles contest marked the close of a successful first half to the 2002 season for the defending champions. Miami is 6-0, and although their play has been far from flawless, the Hurricanes have met their goals of being the consensus No. 1 in both major polls. Offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli says the ‘Canes still have a lot of work to do.
“We are really relieved that we won this game and it woke us up,” Haji-Rasouli said. “We know that we have a couple months left in the season and we really want to make the best of it and reach our potential.”