Coker Lauds UM Freshmen, Secondary

University of Miami coach Larry Coker's tone of voice and groggy look Friday morning were the results of an overnight flight back from Shreveport, Louisiana back to Coral Gables.

But besides not getting some quality sleeping time there was little Coker could complain about the morning after the Hurricanes opened the 2003 season with a 48-9 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

"There was a lot of unanswered questions about our football team that I think we have a better grip on after last night," said Coker, who improved his all-time coaching record to 25-1 after watching the Hurricanes start fast, hit a couple of speed bumps and finish strong against the Bulldogs. "I feel like we learned a lot about our football team. There were a lot of things I liked, but we're by no means a complete team. I still think we're a work in progress."

The Bulldogs might not share the same thoughts.

Despite nine first-time starters on both sides of the ball combined, the Hurricanes offense racked up 467 total yards, while an opportunistic defense forced three turnovers, including a Sean Taylor interception and D. J. Williams fumble-return for a score in the first half that helped UM jump out to a commanding lead.

With starting middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma on the sidelines for much of the game nursing a strained hamstring and sophomore linebacker Roger McIntosh out of the lineup after undergoing knee surgery, the Hurricanes still managed to limit Louisiana Tech's running game (98 yards in 25 attempts) and the effectiveness of quarterback Luke McCown (16 of 26, 0 touchdown passes).

The same McCown, who three seasons ago threw for 418 yards and three touchdowns in a respectable showing against Miami in the Orange Bowl, was held to 195 yards and two interceptions this time around as the Hurricanes defense came up big in several key situations.

Taylor, who had a team-high five tackles, intercepted McCown's first pass of the season to put the Hurricanes in position for their initial touchdown of the season. Senior linebacker D. J. Williams picked up a loose fumble and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Junior defensive back Antrel Rolle earned high praise from Coker after scoring on a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter and 66-yard punt-return in the first half.

"That's what I've saw from Antrel in high school when I was recruiting him," said Coker.

Although McCown was able to get the ball downfield several times in the game Coker credited UM defensive coordinator Randy Shannon and defensive line coach Greg Mark for doing a good job of rotating players and disguising coverages.

"Greg and Randy sure did a nice job of moving those guys around," said Coker." Anytime, you make a team one-dimensional you can do some things. They had the long plays. But we did a good job, a very, very nice job."

Miami's offense accounted for 27 of the 48 points the team scored as junior quarterback Brock Berlin threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Frank Gore, playing in his first game in 19 months after knee surgery last year, ran for 118 yards on 21 carries. Red-shirt freshman receiver Ryan Moore (67 yards,1 TD) and junior tight end Kellen Winslow (35 yards, 1 TD) had four receptions apiece to anchor the air game for UM.

"We're still not there yet, but I saw some signs. We have the potential to an outstanding offensive football team."

Coker was also ecstatic over the play of a handful of newcomers, including freshman Devin Hester. Hester brought the entire Miami sideline to its feet with a 53-yard kickoff return in the third quarter and added a 51-yard reception late in the game that set up a UM score. Hester finished with two receptions for 68 yards and two kickoff-returns 72 yards.

"Boy did he look fast," said Coker. "I told you he was fast. He made everybody else on the team look slow."

Although sophomore Mark Gent took the first kickoff of the season for the Hurricanes Coker added that redshirt-freshman kicker Jon Peattie will remain as the starting kicker after getting the starting nod in the opener Gent. Peattie was 2-of-3 in field goal attempts, while freshman punter Brian Monroe had one attempt of 46 yards.

"I think he's (Jon) is a better kicker," Coker said. "He gets the ball up a little higher. But I told Mark that it's not over yet. Its not etched in stone by any means."

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