La. Tech Preview

The Miami Hurricanes open up the 2003 season on the road. This is uncharacteristic for a top-level program to play on the road against a mid-major program. Miami won the last meeting between the two schools 42-31 in 2000. In the game, Miami rushed for 327 yards while Louisiana Tech got 418 yards passing from Luke McCown.

He went 42-72 with three touchdowns and three interceptions. The 72 attempts by McCown were the most ever by a Miami opponent.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - Notes and Quotes

McCown, now a senior, remembers that game quite well, "I was just about scared to death. It was my third start. I was thinking, ‘these guys are men and I'm just a 19-year old boy.' The Orange Bowl was a very intimidating place to play. A tremendous amount of great players have played at the Orange Bowl. Coach Butch Davis recruited me and I took the mentality that I deserved to be on the field."

McCown has thrown for more career yards (9,420) than any returning player in college football.

"I'm pumped," says McCown. "I'm very excited. It's the start of everything I've ever worked for. I think it's going to be a great year. I feel I'm the grown up on the field now. It is a night and day difference in my mentality."

Last year, McCown threw for 3,539 yards, 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Louisiana Tech struggled last year and finished with a disappointing 4-8 record.

"I felt it was all me. The coaches talked about how they took some responsibility for my interceptions. But, I think a lot of it was me. I went over every interception and every play against every defense this past summer. I know I can make better plays," says McCown.

McCown has a good relationship with Miami Hurricane quarterback Brock Berlin. They played flag football together a couple times back at Shreveport when Berlin was still at Florida. Brock's older brother, Corey, completed his senior season at Louisiana Tech last year. Corey, a wide receiver, formed a good friendship with McCown.

Louisiana Tech Head Coach Jack Bicknell enters his 5th season as the Bulldogs coach. He has guided the Bulldogs to a 22-25 record in his first four years.

"I really am ready to go. You get sick of practices this time of year. We are very excited about the game and hosting the best college program in the last 20 years, if not the best, definitely top three. We have been very focused during the off-season preparing for the game. We know what we are up against. It is going to be a tough game. The key is that we have to believe we can win."

Bicknell was a member of the 1984 Boston College team that upset Miami on a Doug Flutie Hail-Mary pass to end the game. He remembers it as a similar situation that his Bulldogs are now up against.

Coach Bicknell reflected on Brock Berlin, "I remember watching him in high school. He's an outstanding player and a good person. I don't think there will be too many people rooting against Brock in the game. It's exciting for everyone with Brock coming back and with the University of Miami in town."

Miami Hurricanes - Notes and Quotes

Head Coach Larry Coker leads the Miami Hurricanes. Coker, now in his third season with Miami, has an astounding record of 24-1.

"It's great to start another year," says Coker. "It's always an exciting time of year at the University of Miami. There are a lot of mysteries out there. I think everyone asks how good are you going to be and how good do you think you can be, and until you play you just don't know. We will certainly get a good indication Thursday night when we play a very good football team. They have some veteran players. They have a great quarterback who is statistically the best in the country and their top eight receivers are back. They are a very good team and playing at home will give them a lot of excitement going into the game."

The key to the game on Thursday will be the running game for Miami. Coach Bicknell has addressed this as the point of emphasis for his Louisiana Tech team and Coach Coker hopes the running game gets off to a fast start. The primary component to Miami's running game is sophomore Frank Gore. Gore enters the season as one of the most highly anticipated players in the country after missing the 2002 campaign with a knee injury. Gore racked up 562 yards during his freshman season in 2001 averaging 9.1 yards per carry.

Coach Coker is excited to see this young man in action.

"He has looked outstanding. I made the mistake of asking him how his bad leg felt and his response was that he didn't have a bad leg. He went through spring practice and had a great summer. He is a little stronger and has gained some weight but he still looks very lean. I am excited to see him. He will be a big key for us."

Gore gets advice from former Hurricane standout running backs Edgerrin James and Willis McGahee. Last year, McGahee set the individual season rushing record (1,753) and most touchdowns in a season (28) at the University of Miami. Beating McGahee's individual marks are two of Gore's personal records.

"I want to beat Willis's records. He told me to work hard and good things will happen."

Brock Berlin enters the season as the team's starting quarterback. There has been a lot of hype surrounding Berlin and his ability to take the team on his shoulders. Coach Coker thinks if Berlin can repeat Ken Dorsey's second year, then the Hurricanes should have a good season. Dorsey threw for 3,007 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions during his second year as the starting quarterback leading the team to an 11-1 record.

"I don't think you can expect him to go out with 15 days of spring practice and an August and be Ken Dorsey that was a four-year starter. He is not a rookie; he has been around for a while. He has been in big stadiums and big venues before. He just needs to do the things to give our team the chance to win the game. He just needs to make good decisions and be efficient because we have players like Kellen Winslow and Frank Gore and other guys that are going to be important. Brock seems to perform better in big situations."

Miami Hurricane Projected Starters

Coach Larry Coker has named the captains for the Louisiana Tech game but has yet to make a decision on captains for the rest of the season.

Offense: Brock Berlin & Vernon Carey
Defense: D.J. Williams & Maurice Sikes
Special Teams: Jarrell Weaver

The projected starters are as follows:

QB Brock Berlin Junior
TB Frank Gore Sophomore
FB Quadtrine Hill Sophomore
TE Kellen Winslow Junior
WR Kevin Beard Senior
WR Ryan Moore Freshman
LT Eric Winston Sophomore
LG Vernon Carey Senior
C Joel Rodriguez Junior
RG Chris Myers Junior
RT Carlos Joseph Senior

LE Baraka Atkins Freshman
LT Orien Harris Sophomore
RT Vince Wilfork Junior
RE Thomas Carroll Sophomore
WLB D.J. Williams Senior
MLB Leon Williams Sophomore
SLB Darrell McClover Senior
CB Antrel Rolle Junior
CB Kelly Jennings Sophomore
FS Sean Taylor Junior
SS Maurice Sikes Senior

The following players are considered out for the game: SLB Roger McIntosh – Knee; WR Jason Geathers – Hamstring; OG Joe McGrath – Leg; WR Akieem Jolla – Suspension.

Other notable players that have been dealing with injuries, but are expected to play: MLB Jonathan Vilma, WR Roscoe Parrish, DE John Square, and DT Santonio Thomas.

Two Key Match-ups To Watch

When Louisiana Tech has the ball…
QB Luke McCown vs. FS Sean Taylor

McCown has and arm and will be glad to use it. His top receivers are back and the he likes to spread the ball out. If McCown gets on a roll, the Bulldogs could make some noise. Taylor has looked great in August making plays all over the field. He has a knack for the ball and can't wait to line up a receiver over the middle. Taylor's dark visor will make it hard for McCown to read his eyes and where his coverage responsibilities are.

When Miami has the ball…
TB Frank Gore vs. FS Michael Johnson

This could be Gore's national breakout game. There have been nothing but good things said about him throughout the off-season. His teammates are praising his running ability and the coaching staff has been very impressed with his recovery from knee surgery. Johnson will be the guy counted on to track Gore down. With the loss of all three starting linebackers the reasonability falls on Johnson, who led the team in tackles (113) a year ago. Problem is Johnson is just 5-10 195 compared to Gore who is 5-10 220.

Coach Larry Coker's Final Word

"We'll play hard and we'll play well. We'll make some mistakes, we always do and everybody else does too."

Player Quote of the Week

Cornerback Kelly Jennings on facing a passing offense that spreads the ball out, "This is why a defensive back comes to college. There are a lot of opportunities to make an interception."

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com

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