CFB Preview: No. 25 Miami-Florida Atlantic

BY foxsports • September 6, 2016

It is difficult -- if not impossible -- to get an accurate measure of where Miami is from its 70-3 rout of Florida A&M in its season opener.

The visiting Rattlers are an FCS team that managed only one win in 2015 and were completely overwhelmed on their visit.

But at least the dominance defensively can be taken as a good sign for the newly ranked No. 25 Hurricanes, who host Florida Atlantic in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

After all, this is a unit that has been hit hard by the dismissals of last year's leading tackler, linebacker Jermaine Grace, and last year's sack leader, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, right before camp opened, and linebacker Juwon Young earlier in the summer.

The Hurricanes started three freshmen at linebacker -- Zach McCloud, Shaq Quarterman, and Michael Pinckney -- and it could have been excusable if there had been slip-ups along the way.

But to give up only a field goal was a big accomplishment even against an overmatched opponent.

"I thought it was important that we start the game and set the tempo early on, and to have a senior like Corn Elder make an interception on the first drive is what you want your older guys, your experienced guys, to do," Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "And I think the other guys fed on that.

"I was very impressed with the way we played up front and I think what we wanted to be as a defense in terms of the way we're getting our feet across the line of scrimmage, being disruptive making plays in the backfield.

"It looked for most of the game they had a hard time getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage against our rush defense."

Things will be a little more serious this week against Florida Atlantic.

The Owls aren't exactly a powerhouse but managed to win their opener 38-30 over another FCS opponent, Southern Illinois.

"Offensively, they go about as fast as a team can go," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "They do a really good job of getting a lot of plays. We're going to have to communicate very quickly to our defense, get lined up quickly and be ready to play ball."

Owls quarterback Jason Driskel completed 23 of 31 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns in rallying the Owls from a 24-21 deficit in the second half against the Salukis.

He also has experience against Miami. He was 17-of-30 passing off the bench as a redshirt freshman in last year's meeting and had the game in a 20-20 tie until the Owls faded in the second half of their 44-20 loss.

Special teams could present an interesting matchup.

"Their punter, Dalton Schomp, had 22 kicks over 60 yards last year," Richt said. "I think he led the nation in yards, average per punt -- I think it was around 48 per punt. That's amazing. He really can boom it, so it will be interesting to see how that goes."

Miami punter Justin Vogel is no slouch in that department. He averaged 42.5 yards per punt last year after a 42.8 average as a sophomore in 2014.

The Hurricanes received some bad news the day after the win over Florida A&M when it was determined linebacker Jamie Gordinier, a promising redshirt freshman, will require knee surgery and is lost for the season.

"Gordinier getting hurt early in the game, it was sad," Richt said. "Any time a guy gets hurt and can't play the rest of the season ... they work so hard. There's so much work between January and now.

"You get to that moment of truth early in the game, you get hurt and you're out of the season, it's heartbreaking for those guys. That also puts pressure on the rest of the team."

After hosting Florida A&M, the Hurricanes go on the road for the first time Sept. 17 when they travel to Appalachian State.

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