Even present-day ’Canes embrace Orange Bowl’s history
CORAL GABLES — Manny Diaz remembers sitting in the Miami Hurricanes’ student section when they converted their historic third-and-43 in the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame in 1989.
“Wasn’t a student, but I’ll always find a way,” said Diaz, 45, the Miami coach who was in high school at the time. “There’s always a place you could stand in the student section.
“[Randal] ‘Thrill’ Hill comes out after the catch, gets up, runs to the middle of the field. That was one of those moments where the Orange Bowl was just going crazy. … It’s like it didn’t matter what happened after that. You knew Miami was going to win.”
Diaz certainly won’t be the only one reliving memorable moments when the Hurricanes (6-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) return to the site where the Orange Bowl once stood for a 7 p.m. kickoff against crosstown foe FIU (5-5, 3-4 Conference USA) on Saturday at Marlins Park.
While many current UM players may not be old enough to remember those historic moments at the Orange Bowl, which was demolished in 2008, they understand the significance of those grounds to the program and still feel an obligation to defend it — even as Miami will be the visiting team against the Panthers. The game was moved from FIU’s on-campus Riccardo Silva Stadium because of concerns the venue would not be big enough.
“We’ve got to go in there and protect it like our home because it is our home,” said sophomore cornerback Al Blades Jr., whose father by the same name and uncles Bennie and Brian Blades played at the Orange Bowl. “It was always our home, so we’ve got to go in there and play like it.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a special moment, not just for us but for all the players in the past.”
Even players who aren’t from South Florida comprehend what it means to return to that site. Quarterback Jarren Williams, who hails from Georgia, this week called it “sacred ground.”
“I always watched football growing up, with the family and stuff — I’ve known about the Orange Bowl growing up,” said Williams, who in his last appearance, before the UM bye week, tossed a school-record six touchdown passes against Louisville. “Some big-time players stepped foot on that field, so it means a lot.”
Said senior linebacker Shaq Quarterman, who is from the Jacksonville area: “It’s just so rich with history and it’s famous to us. I came here because I thought, before Hard Rock [Stadium] was built, that’s where I wanted to play. So getting the opportunity will definitely be special.”
Expected to make a 50th consecutive start for Miami, which would tie defensive tackle William Joseph’s school record, Quarterman will get to play on the grounds
ppg), but the Knights failed to find the end zone in the second half against Tulsa. They also turned the football over three times and failed to record a takeaway for the first time since the season opener against Florida A&M on Aug. 29.
Much of the bye week was spent focusing on creating those takeaways.
“We’ve got to get turnovers. We’re not very good at getting turnovers or creating turnovers right now,” UCF defensive coordinator Randy Shannon said of the Knights, who have forced 13 takeaways this season. “We’ve got to find a way to create turnovers and get some plays in the game to steal some field position.”
Shannon said turnovers come in bunches, and they’ll come for that so many Hurricanes greats of the past graced in his second-tolast regular-season game at UM.
Saturday’s game will also bring a UM coaching great back to where the Orange Bowl formerly stood, with Butch Davis now coaching FIU.
He was the Hurricanes head coach from 1995 to 2000, building the foundation for what is likely the greatest college football roster ever assembled with Miami’s 2001 team. He also was defensive line coach under Jimmy Johnson from 1984 to 1988, winning a national championship in 1987.
“Those 11 years [were] remarkable,” Davis said last week as the Panthers practiced at Marlins Park. “I was blessed to be a part of the program, and they played here, but the facility clearly doesn’t look the same. But you never know, there might be some vibrations still left.”
“Sometimes you may have five in a game, and sometimes you may have zero. It happens,” Shannon said. “You just always must chase the football hard, because usually when you chase the football hard, fumbles happen that way. Batted balls are not good; interceptions change games.”
Tulane, meanwhile, has lost the turnover battle during five of its last six games, with the Green Wave giving up the football 12 times in those games. Eight of those takeaways were through interceptions thrown by senior quarterback Justin McMillan.
McMillan’s abilities as a passer and a runner have made him a dangerous playmaker for a Tulane team that is bowl eligible for the
It’ll be the fourth time the two Miami-Dade County schools meet in football, with the latest pair being a home-and-home series agreed upon under the stipulation that FIU would find a site other than its on-campus stadium that has a seating capacity of about 20,000. Last season, the Hurricanes beat the Panthers 31-17 at Hard Rock Stadium.
They also won the first two matchups, played at the Orange Bowl in 2006 and 2007. The first one was marred by the infamous sideline-clearing brawl that resulted in 31 suspensions between the two teams.
“Obviously, we’re aware that in this game the emotions will be running high and we expect their best effort,” said Diaz. “They have our full attention. “They practiced two weeks for us. We may expect to see a few wrinkles, but we’ve been able
second consecutive season. He’s passed for 1,806 yards with 13 touchdowns while rushing for a team-high 552 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“For some reason, those running quarterbacks always do something to the defenses,” UCF senior linebacker Nate Evans said of McMillan. “He’s a really good runner. He’s a really good passer. If I’m not mistaken, he’s a lefty, too, so he’s a unique player. The people he has around him. … They’re a really good program.”
Added Anderson, “They’re very athletic, so we have to come out and play fundamental football at this point. We’re very talented, but so are they. We have to play the best of our ability.”
Tulane coach Willie
Fritz to keep an eye on them for two weeks as well and prepare for them.”
FIU, at 5-5, has under-performed after going 9-4 last season. The Panthers dropped a 37-7 decision at rival FAU before their bye week. Senior quarterback James Morgan has thrown for 1,852 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, completing 58.7% of his passes. FIU’s pass defense ranks 13th in the nation.
With both teams loaded with former South Florida high school standouts, there are sure to be some run-ins among familiar friends and foes.
“I don’t think we see it as any different.,” Blades said. “We just prepare for our opponent.
“Whatever happens at the end of it, when the game’s over, after we win, then we’ll clap you up [and] we’ll take a picture.”
knows a challenge awaits his defense against a UCF offense that is predicated on speed. Fifty-five of the Knights’ 67 offensive scoring drives this season spanned less than three minutes. Forty-three of those have taken less than two minutes, and 20 have been completed in less than a minute.
“We’ve got to get lined up quickly, and we’ve got to have some variety in our package, so we’re not just doing the same things when we line up each time,” Fritz said. “The big thing is to get lined up and have your eyes where they need to be. After a big play, they’re going to tempo you. For the most part, they’re going pretty darn quick.” column:
Miami Hurricanes players understand the significance of playing on the former grounds of the Orange Bowl, which they’ll do Saturday when they take on FIU at Marlins Park.