BALTIMORE (AP) — 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 short-handed 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.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)