‘Canes look to make statement

The Miami Hurricanes find themselves in a position they faced just two weeks ago heading into the Oklahoma game: playing a nationally ranked Big 12 opponent on national television after easing by a weak non-conference opponent.

Nevertheless, this time the ‘Canes expect different results.

After a middling 23-9 victory over Florida International University on Saturday, the ‘Canes look to make a statement about their progress as a team on Thursday night when they host the Texas A&M Aggies.

“They are a real good football team,” Head Coach Randy Shannon said. “They are more of a run team. We need to get them in third down situations, to do things they don’t want to do.”

Miami faces several challenges in this game, chief of which is the spread option attack that the Aggies run so successfully. The three main players in the Aggies’ attack are quarterback Stephen McGee and running backs Jovorskie Lane and Michael Goodson. Lane, a 270-pound sledgehammer, and Goodson, a jitter bug-type with blazing speed, present a unique problem for the ‘Canes.

“When it comes to Lane, you have to get him to move sideways,” Shannon said. “The other kid [Goodson] does a real good job of getting to the edge and beating you with his speed.”

This thunder and lighting attack is very similar to the one employed by Oklahoma less than two weeks ago. The Sooners were able to wear down the middle of the ‘Canes’ defense by running the ball, which then opened things up for their passing game. The Aggies will look to establish their running game early, and unlike the Sooners they will continue to pound the ball all night.

“They want to make you make mistakes,” Shannon said. “They have real good kick coverage and will make you go 80 yards to score. We have to stop their running backs first.”

Shannon’s run defense will improve this week. Although many feel they played down to the level of their competition against FIU, it is important to note that several key players from the middle of the defense missed the game due to injury, including linebacker Daryl Sharpton and defensive tackles Teraz McCray and Antonio Dixon. Getting these players back will shore up the middle of the field and allow for a deeper rotation, which will be needed to keep the defense fresh against the grinding Aggies offense.

“Our run defense has been OK,” Shannon said. “They were not real good last week against the quarterback, but overall they’ve done a good job.”

Aside from stopping the run, the Hurricanes will have to show some imagination on offense and take advantage of scoring in the red zone, where they failed to score four times last week against FIU.

“Kyle [Wright] has to understand that he doesn’t have to win the game,” Shannon said. “He just has to get the ball in the players’ hands. We had a good day of workouts yesterday. Guys always respond when they don’t have a day off.”

Dan Stein may be contacted at d.stein4@umiami.edu.