Hard dose of on-field reality
Gaudy helmets, jerseys and cleats only deflected attention away from the University of Miami for so long.
The University of Maryland’s odd choice in uniforms — which wreaked havoc on TV screens around the nation, particularly those with HD — didn’t impact this season-opening ACC contest like the brewing scandal at the U. Eight Hurricanes were suspended from Monday’s contest, including five potential starters on defense.
That defense on Monday allowed 499 yards — the most in nearly two seasons — and was unable to match the Terps’ two TD returns in a 32-24 Maryland victory at a soaked Byrd Stadium.
“Hopefully, the further we get away from this game and the story breaking, we’ll continue to focus on ourselves,” said Al Golden, who made his debut as Miami’s head coach. “We had enough talent to win tonight and we didn’t do it.”
The NCAA announced the suspensions last week in the wake of the allegations made by convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, a former booster who admitted he plied dozens of current and former ‘Canes with benefits that ranged from prostitutes to cash. Along with the suspensions, each suspended player and a handful of others must pay restitution for the gifts.
None of the suspended players — a list that included quarterback Jacory Harris, who led the ‘Canes past the Terps a season ago — made the trip. Miami remains on the hook for further sanctions, which could include a postseason ban and lost scholarships among other penalties.
“Whatever the situation is with the NCAA, we just have to get the sanctions and move on,” said Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, who was 19 for 28 for 195 yards with two picks, a fumble lost and zero touchdowns. “You can’t rely on that. If a player goes down, the next player has to step up. That’s our mentality.”
The taunts began not long after the tailgaters staked out their turf in the hours before game.
“Shapiro!” one Maryland fan yelled from the top of a parking garage at a passing group of Hurricanes fans. “And you still didn’t win anything.”
The student section white-out in the northwest corner of the stadium included hundreds of fans wearing “Sucks to be U” shirts along with Maryland garb.
This scandal involving Shapiro certainly has given opposing fans more fodder, not that most needed any more reason to mock the U. Players from Ray Lewis to Michael Irvin to Kellen Winslow provided enough swagger to draw that sort of ire.
“It was interesting,” said Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed, who cheered on his alma mater from the sideline. “We knew it was going to be interesting for a lot of guys. It was a battle. They played their hearts out and at the end of the day you see what happened. It came down to the last couple plays.”
Miami took a 24-23 lead with 4:01 left in regulation on Jake Wieclaw's 30-year field goal. Terps wide receiver Kevin Dorsey and quarterback Danny O’Brien connected on a 52-yard pass on the ensuing drive to set up a field goal from 32 yards out by Nick Ferrera with 1:39 to go.
On the ensuing drive, Morris was picked off by defensive back Cameron Chism, who ran the ball back for a 54-yard TD for the game’s final margin. Couple that play with ‘Canes running back Mike James’ fumble in the final minute of the first half, which was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by tackle Joe Vellano, and you couldn’t lay this all on Miami’s defense.
“Unacceptable,” Morris said. “That’s the only word I can say from an offensive standpoint as the quarterback. It’s not just supposed to happen. We’ve got to be top of that.”
The ‘Canes will have all but three players back when they host Ohio State on Sept. 17. Ray Ray Armstrong — considered one of the nation’s premier safeties — and tight end Dyron Dye have to miss an additional three games, while defensive lineman Olivier Vernon has five games remaining.
“We just take each (suspension) and more forward,” Miami cornerback Brandon McGee said. “As each player comes back, we’ll get stronger as a team. I know those guys are ready to come back and compete. We’ll go from there.”