After three and a half long years of patiently waiting in the wings, Derrick Crudup finally got his chance to start at quarterback for the University of Miami.
Brock Berlin’s 14 interceptions and three fumbles, several of them coming at key points of losses to Virginia Tech and Tennessee, had landed him a spot on the sideline. But Crudup did not look like an upgrade in last Saturday’s 17-10 win over Syracuse, completing just five of his 13 passes for one touchdown while losing a fumble and an interception.
“We won. That’s all that counts,” Crudup said. “I don’t care if I don’t throw for any yards. I don’t care if I don’t complete any [passes]…as long as I lead my team to a victory.”
Although Crudup stresses the importance of wins and losses, the coaches were troubled by their quarterbacks’ individual performances. Despite a victory in his first start, Crudup may lose the starting role before he gets too settled in.
As of early Wednesday the coaches had not chosen a starter for this week’s game against Rutgers, but they made it clear that both quarterbacks would play in the game.
“We’re going to have both players ready to play,” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “We don’t need to name a starter now. Definitely we need to have both players ready to play Saturday.”
One part of the offense that looked sharp against Syracuse was the running game. True freshman Tyrone Moss emerged as a force, running the ball 18 times for 91 yards and carrying the ‘Canes on his thunder-thighs during their game-winning touchdown drive.
Moss may become the next star running back at UM but for now he will come off of the bench behind senior Jarrett Payton.
“He’ll be extended more,” Coker said. “Jarrett will start the game. Tyrone will see extended playing time.”
“It doesn’t matter [if I’m the starter],” Moss said. “I just hope I get a chance to play.”
Saturday’s foe, Rutgers, has never posed a huge threat to the ‘Canes, but they have improved greatly since ex-Hurricane defensive coordinator Greg Schiano took over the program three years ago.
Schiano has stressed recruiting in the talent-rich South Florida area and he finally picked up his first Big East win over Temple earlier this season.
“Greg has 24 players from South Florida on his team,” Coker said. “That’s given him more team speed and that’s something that’s closed the [talent] gap on everybody.”
One of those South Florida players, sophomore quarterback Ryan Hart from Coral Springs, played surprisingly well in his first start last year against the Hurricanes. Rutgers took a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter before Miami woke up and scored four straight times.
Hart injured his knee during the last play of Rutgers loss to Boston College last week but he is expected to play this Saturday. He has completed 60 percent of his passes this season but he has 15 interceptions compared to 13 touchdown passes.
“He’s very impressive. He’s got some experience now,” Coker said. “The best thing he does is his anticipation, understanding and getting the ball to his receivers.”
This Saturday’s game marks the last home game for the seniors and any juniors who opt to leave UM for the riches of the NFL.
The ‘Canes have one more game after Rutgers, at Pittsburgh, over Thanksgiving weekend, and they have to win both games if they want to win the Big East and make a BCS Bowl Game.
On the injury front, offensive guard Vernon Carey will return from a sprained ankle that caused him to miss the Syracuse game, punt returner and receiver Roscoe Parrish will return after missing the SU game with fluid in his knee, and defensive tackle Orien Harris might play if his sprained knee ligament feels well enough. Defensive tackle Santonio Thomas will not return from an ankle injury before the Pittsburgh game.
Coker was asked if tight end Kellen Winslow will start this week after sitting out part of the first quarter against Syracuse because of his abundance of personal foul penalties.
“Yes, I’m not stupid,” Coker said.
Nate Johnson can be reached at NPJ44@aol.com