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September 20, 2013

Game Day Information: UM vs. Savannah State

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MOVING UP THE POLLS

UM VS. Savannah State
The Opponent

Who: Savannah State
Location: Miami Gardens, FL
Record: 1-2
National Ranking: NR
Head Coach: Earnest Wilson III
Record at UF: 1-2 (1st year)
Total Record: 1-2

The Game

When: Sept. 21, 7 p.m. EST
Where: Miami Gardens, FL
Venue: Sun Life Stadium

TV: ESPN3
Radio: 560 WQAM

Quick hits
1. Miami ranks second nationally in red zone defense, holding opponents to one rushing TD and three FGs in eight RZ trips.

2. Miami's offensive line has allowed only two sacks through two games - t18th among FBS schools.

3. Miami's defense has allowed only two touchdowns in the last 220:30 at home.

4. Miami ranks 34th among FBS schools in total defense (331.5 ypg).

5. Saturday will be Al Golden's first game as head coach of an AP Top 25 team.

6. Miami is 11-2 all-time at Sun Life Stadium against nonconference opponents.
The Quote

"We have no idea what's being said outside these doors. We're going back to work. Whatever celebration (there was) was short-lived at best. I kicked it off, was here at 6 a.m. (on Sunday), Randy Johnson was the first player in about 9:30. We got a good lift in on Sunday, watched the tape and we're moving forward. We have a lot of things that we have to fix."

- Al Golden on how the team got back to work after the UF win

Following its 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida, the Hurricanes made their first AP Top 25 appearance since the week of Nov. 14, 2010, snapping a 38-poll drought of not being ranked by the AP.

During the week of September 8, Miami was ranked in the AP Top 15 for the first time since the week of Oct. 3, 2010, when it was ranked No. 13.

Al Golden is ranked in the AP Top 25 as a head coach for the second straight week. Prior to Miami's appearance at No. 15, Golden hadn't been a part of an AP Top 25 team since Oct. 16, 2005, when he was the defensive coordinator at Virginia.

Miami's No. 17 coaches poll ranking is its highest in the coaches poll since the week of Oct. 3, 2010, when it was ranked No. 14.

THE GAME

No. 16/17 Miami (2-0) concludes its season-opening three-game homestand Saturday when it hosts Savannah State at Sun Life Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN3.

Saturday marks the first series meeting between the schools. Miami is 11-2 all-time at Sun Life Stadium against nonconference opponents and has won five straight against non-ACC foes.

DEPTH CHART CHANGES

After his team's first open date, Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden released the Savannah State game week depth chart Sunday night.

Miami's offensive starters remain relatively unchanged from the previous two weeks. Senior Allen Hurns, junior Phillip Dorsett and sophomore Herb Waters are penciled in as the No. 1 receivers for the Hurricanes. Sophomore Ereck Flowers (LT), junior Jon Feliciano (LG), junior Shane McDermott (C), senior Brandon Linder (RG) and senior Seantrel Henderson (RT) are listed as the starters along the offensive line.

Freshman Alex Gall and redshirt freshman Taylor Gadbois are listed as the backups at right guard and right tackle, respectively.

Senior Jimmy Gaines (MLB) and junior Denzel Perryman (OLB) are the No. 1 linebackers on the depth chart. Junior Thurston Armbrister and freshman Alex Figueroa are listed as co-starters at the other outside linebacker position.

Sophomore Tracy Howard (CB), senior Kacy Rodgers II (S) and sophomore Rayshawn Jenkins (S) are listed as the starters in the secondary. Junior Ladarius Gunter and freshman Artie Burns are listed as co-starters at the other cornerback position.

Canes release updated depth chart: See the changes

CLOSER LOOK AT THE TIGERS

To call UM's third game of the season a glorified scrimmage might be making too much of this game.

The Canes' Sept. 21st home opponent, Savannah State, wasn't even close to competitive in its first two games against Georgia Southern (a 77-9 loss) and Troy (a 66-3 loss).

Then the team matched its 2012 win total in the most recent game Saturday against Fort Valley State University, 27-20.

None of those three teams are remotely comparable to UM, of course.

And even the win over Fort Valley State University could easily have been a loss. The Tigers trailed 13-0 in the first half and won during the final five minutes after blocking a punt, scoring a TD and getting an interception in the end zone as time expired.

"We're proud to still be undefeated at home," first-year coach Earnest Wilson III said. "I'm just very proud of these players. I'm proud of these coaches. They did a great job trying to get these guys prepared. ... Some of the guys we asked to step up, stepped up. Our goal is to teach them how to win and to have a winning season. We ain't quitting."

This is a team that the New York Times wrote last fall "could justifiably claim ... that it had the worst Division I program since the turn of this century."

The Tigers certainly haven't made many improvements from a year ago, when the team finished 1-10 while suffering 35-plus point losses to the likes of Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Morgan State, Howard, Florida State and Oklahoma State. The latter two combined to beat Savannah State 139-0 over the final two games of the season.

Certainly neither side of the ball should pose much of a challenge for the Canes.

The Tiger offense averaged just 13.4 points per game last season, with 251.4 total yards (82.1 rushing). And on defense Savannah State averaged allowing 44.9 points and 466 yards per game (286.5 rushing).

This year?

The offense averages 13 points and 191 yards (17.3 rushing). On defense the team is allowing an average of 54.3 points and 535.7 yards (340.7 rushing).

Wilson certainly has a lot of work to do if he wants to get things moving in a positive direction. Wilson took over after spring practice and has implemented his "Air Raid" offense. So far the only sirens going off are around his own program, though.

This is a team that just doesn't really have any playmakers.

At quarterback Zach Hutcheson and Leon Prunty played in the first two games but both struggled tremendously. Returning starter Antonio Bostick was suspended by the NCAA for the first two games, but he came back for the most recent game and completed 15 of 33 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"After serving a two-game suspension, I didn't know I would get that much playing time coming into this game," Bostick said after Saturday's win. "Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, my suspension was lifted and I began to regain focus."

Running back Sheldon Barnes is a returning starter, and last year he had 101 carries for 316 yards with one touchdown.

This year?

Not so much.

He's run nine times for 23 yards. Last game it was Lereginald Veals getting most of the work, and he has 15 rushes for just one net yard this season.

The team's top receiving target last year was Simon Heyward, who put together a solid season with 44 receptions for 751 yards and six touchdowns.

This year he has eight catches for 178 yards. He had 115 yards receiving and a TD in the most recent game.

The offensive line was a disaster for the team in 2012, allowing 47 sacks (that equates to a sack every seven times the quarterback dropped back). The group remains a major problem. Running backs average under one yard per carry, and the team has allowed 14 sacks in the three games.

After the Georgia Southern game Wilson said that "We had a freshman (Chidi Onwuzuruoha) starting at center. We had a freshman (Afolabi Ayangbayi) starting at right tackle. They're going to be alright. Everybody didn't see everything that we saw, but they pancaked some of Georgia Southern's starters, and they're no joke."

The defense has spent plenty of time on the field this season.

Up front the team has managed three sacks.

This defense is led - if that's the right word - by its linebacker corps.

"The linebackers are young. They're freshmen and sophomores," Wilson said.

Three linebackers are the team's top tacklers - Trevion Ashford has 28 tackles, one for a loss, Justin Dixon has 27 tackles, two for losses along with a sack, and Marquis Smith has 26 tackles, 1.5 for losses.

In the secondary John Wilson returns after a season in which he had 68 tackles, seven passes broken up and four interceptions, and he has all three of the team's interceptions this season.

A leader up front is Micah Blount, who has three tackles for losses and a sack.

On special teams the woes extend to kicker John Barron, who has made one of three attempts. Preston McCarthy took over the punting duties from Barron last game and averaged 40.8 yards on his five attempts (Barron had averaged 30.3 yards on 19 punts).

"We've got a long way to go," Wilson said. "Our main thing is that we have great young men, and I just think that they need to improve and understand football scenarios."



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