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.”