Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 10/5/12
CORAL GABLES, Fl. No one, least of all coach Al Golden, knows what to expect when the University of Miami (4-1) plays ninth-ranked Notre Dame (4-0) at Chicagos Soldier Field on Saturday. Among the 44 players listed on Miamis two-deep depth chart, 26 are freshmen and sophomores. Youth is unpredictable. I mean this honestly, the Hurricanes second-year coach said, every day is an adventure. I have no idea what teams going to show up tomorrow. Golden is hoping its not the Cardiac Canes that rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat Georgia Tech, 42-36 in overtime two weeks ago. Hes also hoping its not the Cardiac Canes that scored with 19 seconds left to defeat North Carolina State, 44-37, last week. Oh, yeah, and the UM squad that got roasted, 52-13, at then-No. 15 Kansas State on Sept. 8? That Hurricanes team better not show up to play Notre Dame, either. We kind of unraveled, Golden said of the beatdown at Kansas State. We werent ready for that stage, so well see. As good as Miami has looked at times this season, the Hurricanes have also sprung leaks all over the place. Quarterback Stephen Morris has been erratic. There are plays in which he shows no touch at all, doing things such as throwing heat-seeking missiles at receivers who are, say, 10 yards away. The running game (seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 144.2 yards per game) has been unreliable, the secondary has given up big plays (11th in the ACC in pass defense), and the usually solid kicking game has been anything but solid as Jake Wieclaw has missed four field goal attempts in the last two games. Still, the UM players say theyre ready for the bright lights of national TV and the challenge of what would be the schools first victory over a top 10 team since defeating No. 8 Oklahoma, 21-20, on Oct. 3, 2009. They know a victory over Notre Dame would be sweetened because the game carries so much tradition. I know the history of this game, senior cornerback Brandon McGee said. I know the controversy surrounding it as well. I really wont touch on it, but its two great powerhouses, Notre Dame and the University of Miami, and when they clash its a great rivalry. Curiously, thats about as far as most of the UM players go with the Notre Dame thing. The current Hurricanes arent nearly as obsessed with the Fighting Irish as some of the former Canes, the guys who, for example, got into that memorable fight in the tunnel in 1988. This crew is much more low key. Golden has stressed being humble and staying focused on the opponent, not the history of the rivalry or the hype surrounding the game. The players have bought in so much they regurgitate his words as though its their new credo. I know theyre a good team and theyre a ranked opponent, sophomore cornerback Thomas Finnie said, but were coming in, were focused, we arent getting to hype or anything. We just have to play ball. Thats where things get a bit hairy for UM. The Hurricanes have speed and talent, but its young speed and young talent. Notre Dame has veteran speed and veteran talent. And its front seven, led by senior All-America middle linebacker Manti Teo, a likely first-round pick in the NFL Draft, is among the best in college football. UM has an answer for Notre Dames rugged defense, however. The Hurricanes, who should be boosted immensely by the return of linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle), can score in bunches, and they can score on big plays, explosive plays, at any time, and from anywhere on the field. Quarterback Stephen Morris put an exclamation point on that statement last week with a school-record 566 passing yards (and five touchdowns) against North Carolina State. The game winner was a thing of beauty a 62-yard touchdown pass from Morris to sophomore wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, a play in which the ball traveled 62 yards in the air. Dorsett, a sophomore, has epitomized the Hurricanes big-play ability. Hes put up legendary numbers in the last two games, registering two of the schools top 10 all-time receiving totals in the last two weeks -- 191 yards vs. North Carolina State, and 184 yards vs. Georgia Tech. Were a very explosive team, we have the opportunity to score, said Morris, who has showed a tendency to be erratic with his passes, but at the same time theres a lot of things to clean up. And thats where UM shows its biggest vulnerability on both sides of the ball. Things tend to get away from the young Canes on a regular basis. Miami allowed Kansas State to put their game away by halftime when the Wildcats built a 24-6 lead. The Hurricanes allowed Georgia Tech to score 36 unanswered points, and they allowed North Carolina State 664 yards of offense. UM has to be better, much better, if it plans on pulling the upset. Last Saturday is not going to be good enough to beat Notre Dame in Chicago, Golden said. Its just not.
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