With the Miami Hurricanes surging full throttle after Thursday night’s 48-7 win over the FCS’s Bethune-Cookman, it’s almost time to pack their bags and see the world — or at least Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Despite University of Miami fans knowing exactly how the degree of difficulty will increase next month for their No. 22 Hurricanes, the Canes have seemingly mastered their one-game-at-a-time mantra, with their first 2023 road challenge at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 23 against the Temple Owls of the American Athletic Conference.
The Owls were 1-1 heading into the 2 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 16) game against Norfolk State.
“It shouldn’t present any changes in terms of process,’’ UM coach Mario Cristobal said of the road game. “We did talk about it. We closed out the month of September 3-0 here at home, which is really important to us.’’
The timing of this season thus far has been splendid for Miami, which had only five days to prepare for the Wildcats after a gratifying 48-33 victory over then-No. 23 Texas A&M. Now the Canes have an extra two days to prepare for the Owls, which should help, given the day they’ll spend traveling this week.
Cristobal mentioned the extra days, but said coaches “broke down all of our opponents in the offseason.’’
Miami has certainly done a great job emptying the bench and giving backups, third-teamers and others playing time. According to Thursday’s game book, 68 UM players got in the game.
“On defense, we probably played more guys than we did on offense,’’ Cristobal said. “But overall, some improvements. You see the dropoff [with] some of the twos and threes...’’
Among the true freshmen, former Fort Lauderdale Dillard star running back Chris Johnson Jr. — Miami Herald Broward Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year — got his first collegiate playing time and first touchdown. Johnson made his seven carries count for 40 yards, a 5.7-yards-per-carry average, including his 21-yard touchdown to complete UM’s scoring late in the game.
For those who don’t realize, Johnson defended two high school state track-and-field titles this past spring before enrolling at UM. One championship finish was the fastest 200-meter dash in state history (20.40 seconds) and the other a 10.25 in the 100 meters, two-tenths of a second faster than he won it in last year.
“It was like, ‘Chris got in!’ an excited UM tailback Don Chaney Jr. told reporters after the game. “It felt good. I feel like he had a warm feeling in his heart. He finally had a chance, and like I said, ‘When your number is called you go out there and you prove yourself.’’’
After spending almost all of the past two seasons sidelined with significant injuries, Chaney again proved himself Thursday, averaging 10.4 yards a carry on seven touches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Among other proud freshmen who got their first taste of college Thursday: receiver Robby Washington (two catches for 27 yards); and linebacker Marcellius Pulliam, with one unassisted tackle.
Defensive end Rueben Bain, a true freshman who go his first start at defensive end because starters Akheem Mesidor and Nyjalik Kelly were sidelined with injuries, also got his first sack.
“It felt pretty good,’’ Bain said. “I’m still in shock, but I’m just ready for the next one.’’
True freshman backup quarterback Emory Williams, playing in his second game, replaced starter Tyler Van Dyke at 9:58 of the third quarter. Williams completed his first six passes and was 9 of 11 for 102 yards. He was sacked once.
Sophomore backup Jacurri Brown still has not played this season. UM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson indicated before the Texas A&M game that he had a plan for — in a perfect world — limiting each of the two scholarship backups to four games apiece so they could redshirt.
Williams’ role model, Van Dyke, had another exceptional performance, completing 19 of 23 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. Statistically, Van Dyke as of Friday was sixth nationally in passing efficiency (200.6), fourth in passing touchdowns (eight) and fifth in passing yards (822), but the national numbers will be reflected more accurately after this weekend’s games.
Van Dyke was kept clean by another stellar offensive line performance, which included redshirt freshman Matthew McCoy alternating first-half drives with left guard Javion Cohen. “Progress,’’ Cristobal said. “Matthew McCoy has an unbelievable future here.’’
Said Van Dyke: “Give credit to the offensive line. I’m sitting back there all day. It allows me to be precise and accurate. Not just that, the receivers are doing a great job getting open and making good catches.’’
Six UM receivers had multiple catches and another four players caught a pass apiece. And for the second consecutive week, fourth-year junior Xavier Restrepo led everyone with six catches for 120 yards. As of Friday, Restrepo was third nationally with 314 receiving yards.
“I don’t pay too much attention to those standings,’’ Restrepo said. “It’s a great feeling to go out there with my teammates after all the hard work we’ve put through to finally be able to excecute against another team.”
Now, it’s time for another location.
“Really, it’s my first road game ever,’’ Bain said, “so I’m excited for that. We’re looking forward to next week, putting our heads downs and working like we always do.’’
▪ UM, missing five usual starters with injuries Thursday (safety Kam Kinchens, running back Mark Fletcher Jr., defensive tackle Branson Deen and Mesidor and Kelly), did not appear to sustain any new injuries.