Even present-day ’Canes em­brace Or­ange Bowl’s his­tory

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - By David Furones [email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com

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.”

the Knights.

“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:

JENNIFER LETT/SUN SEN­TINEL

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.

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