When the Hurricanes take on the Syracuse Orangemen Saturday at the Orange Bowl, there will be a new quarterback behind center. Derrick Crudup will make his first career start, replacing Brock Berlin.
Crudup, a junior, was Ken Dorsey’s backup quarterback for two seasons. In spring practice, he competed with Berlin for the starting job, but the coaches decided to go with Berlin.
This Saturday, Crudup finally gets his opportunity to prove himself and to show that he can be the starting quarterback at Miami.
“I’ve been in this offense four years and if you don’t know this offense in four years, then that’s just saying that somebody’s just stupid or they don’t know the offense,” Crudup said. “I feel I know the offense very well. I know this offense better than a lot of people here.”
The quarterback change was made in order to spark an offense that has scored just 13 points in its last two games. The ‘Canes out gained Tennessee 321 to 170 yards, but still managed to score only six points on two Jon Peattie field goals. The biggest problem with the offense the last two weeks has been turnovers. The Hurricanes turned it over four times in each of their losses the last two weeks against Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
“I think we need a spark on offense and we need to be efficient,” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “We don’t need to score 50 points a game because we are playing well on defense, but we do need to be consistent on offense.”
On Saturday, Crudup and the ‘Canes’ offense will have a chance to silence their critics. Crudup will have a chance for some personal vindication if he plays well.
“I love critics because they make me play harder. I love people that say that I can’t do this or that,” Crudup said. “I listen to a lot of stuff. It just brightens my day to hear people really talk bad about me…it makes me want to work harder each and every day.
It will be very hard for the Hurricanes to develop continuity early on offense without the unit’s best player. Tight end Kellen Winslow II will not start on Saturday, but will play later in the game. Coker points to the overabundance of undisciplined penalties as the reason for Winslow not starting. Winslow has been penalized for personal fouls numerous times this season. The benching comes in the same week as Winslow’s controversial comments after the loss against Tennessee.
“The thing that I am concerned about with Kellen is not the comments, the apology was given, accepted, and that’s over, but the situation with the extracurricular activities and the penalties hurts our football team,” Coker said. “The most pain you can inflict on a player is playing time, so I am going to take away some playing time, but I am not going to say this number of plays or this many quarters.”
In order for the ‘Canes to beat the Orangemen, they will have to contain Syracuse’s star running back Walter Reyes. Reyes is just 34 yards away from the 1,000-yard mark and his 14 touchdowns is tied for second in the Big East with Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones.
“Going into the season, Walter Reyes was one of the two top backs in the league and he has not disappointed anybody,” Coker said. “He has had a great year so far and presents us with a lot of challenges.”
On defense, the Hurricanes have been playing well, but struggled pressuring Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen last week. The challenge for the defense will be to contain Syracuse quarterback R.J. Anderson and to hurry him when he tries to pass.
“Syracuse has a lot of players coming back on defense, and their defensive front four is playing very well,” Coker said. “Their offensive line is one of the strengths of their team, and as of late, they have played a lot better as a team.”
After two tough losses, the heart and motivation of the Hurricanes has been called into question. A win over Syracuse could silence some of the doubters.
“I still feel like we have a lot of fight. We still have three games left and none of the guys are ready to give up,” said running back Jarrett Payton.
If the ‘Canes can win their last three games, they will win the Big East and get an automatic bid into a BCS Bowl Game. This serves as motivation for the team.
“I will be happy if we get to a BCS game, and that is the goal now as a team,” Payton said. “Anything else, and we won’t be as happy, but we still have something to play for and as long as we win these last three games, we won’t be disappointed.”