Scandal-ridden Miami ready for field

In spite of everything the Miami football program has gone

through this summer, the Hurricanes won’t be bringing a woe-is-us

attitude into Monday night’s game against Maryland.

Eight players were suspended, including quarterback Jacory

Harris and standout linebacker Sean Spence, after an NCAA

investigation revealed several team members took money from a

booster. The Hurricanes will be decidedly shorthanded in their

first game under Al Golden — and they’re OK with it.

”There hasn’t been any complaining. There hasn’t been any

excuses. There’s been a next-man-in mentality,” Golden said. ”I

feel badly for the guys who can’t play, but it’s an incredible

opportunity for guys who maybe haven’t played as much, or are on

the young side, to step up and make a statement on an incredible

stage.”

The Atlantic Coast Conference matchup is expected to attract a

sellout crowd and will be televised for a national audience. Not

only will Golden be making his debut with Miami, but it’s also

coach Randy Edsall’s first game at Maryland.

Best of all for the Hurricanes, it’s a chance to play football

instead of talking about sanctions, suspensions and shame.

”We’re looking very forward to this,” running back Mike James

said. ”I can’t explain it to you. We’ve been waiting for this time

since they put the countdown clock in the locker room. I can’t

wait. It’s an 8:02 kickoff, and I’ll be ready to go.”

It’s not as if Miami is suddenly scrambling.

”We had a little bit of foresight when this thing first

happened that we might have to alter some plans and do some things,

which gave us some time to start to think about, `If this, then

that,”’ defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. ”We started to

get some guys reps early enough on, so I think it’s going to help

us Monday night.”

The Hurricanes know all about playing without their first-string

quarterback. Harris missed last year’s game against Maryland

because of a concussion, and his backup, Stephen Morris, threw the

game-winning touchdown pass in a 26-20 win.

Morris will start this time, too. And Jordan Futch will serve as

the replacement for Spence, considered by many to be the best

player on the Miami defense.

”Sean’s an incredible talent,” Futch said. ”That’s the

hardest part, trying to fill his shoes. But I’m going to try. He’s

been coaching me up real good, getting me prepared for this

game.”

Futch and the Miami defense will try to duplicate their

performance last year against Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien, who

went 9 for 28 for 134 yards in his worst outing of the year.

”He’s going to come out and try to kick our behinds,” Futch

said. ”He’s going to be fired up. He’s going to be ready to

go.”

O’Brien is eager to go, but his motivation has nothing to do

with last year’s loss.

”It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” the sophomore

quarterback said. ”It’s a huge opportunity for us to start the

year off on a positive note. Not only winning the first game, which

is always important, but it being a conference game and getting a

leg up in the ACC, that would be huge for us, too.”

There is an aura of mystery surrounding both schools. Golden is

trying to rebuild a team that has not performed to its usual lofty

standards in recent years. Edsall, the successor to Ralph Friedgen,

is attempting to take Maryland to a higher plateau.

”We’ve got it where we want it. The kids know what we want to

do and how we want to do it,” Edsall said. ”I have tremendous

confidence that they can go out and do the job.”

Edsall can sympathize with Golden, whose rebuilding effort has

encountered many more obstacles.

”It’s unfortunate when you see that happen to a colleague,”

Edsall said. ”It’s not self-inflicted, so it’s a tough situation.

All you can do in a situation like that is play the cards you’re

dealt.”

The Terrapins know better than to think their task will be

easier because of the Hurricanes’ off-the-field problems.

”I know it’s tough down there,” Terps defensive lineman Joe

Vellano said. ”But they’re going to come ready to play. Obviously,

it’s a distraction. But we’re just focused on us.”