Special Teams, Defense Praised

It wasn't one of UM quarterback Brock Berlin's best days. Running back Jarrett Payton did just enough to keep the Hurricanes other options open. All-world tight end Kellen Winslow wasn't much of a factor in the final 30 minutes of the game.

But thankfully for the Hurricanes (5-0) their defensive and special teams units made quite a splash in leading UM to a 22-14 victory over the Florida State Seminoles in rain-soaked Doak Campbell Stadium last Saturday.

"A lot of people didn't give us a chance in this game, but our defense took it as a personal challenge and made the plays count," said UM coach Larry Coker, who was proud of the performance of the Hurricane defenders, especially up front. "They were pretty much dominant against a very good team and in poor conditions."

The Hurricanes' defense forced the Seminoles into five turnovers, including two Chris Rix interceptions, while limiting the Florida State offense to 296 yards. Florida State managed just 61 rushing yards against a suffocating UM defense. Sophomore defense end Thomas Carroll had a huge game with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 1.5 sacks. Carroll helped set the tone with a sack of Rix on the Seminoles third offensive play of the game. Miami junior safety Sean Taylor had two interceptions in the game, including a 50-yarder that he returned for a touchdown. UM has scored eight non-offensive touchdowns this season.

Special teams also came up pretty big for the Hurricanes. Senior Jarrell Weaver gave the team a lift with a blocked punt early in the opening quarter that set-up the Hurricanes first score of the day. Weaver broke through a block on the punt and Taylor recovered the ball. Four plays later, Jon Peattie kicked a 27-yard field goal to give the Hurricanes a 3-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, freshman Darnell Jenkins recovered Brian Monroe's shanked kick. The recovery led to another Jon Peattie field goal. Peattie hit three of four field goal attempts.

"I'm really proud of the special teams," Coker said. "They came up with some big plays."

Berlin, playing in his sixth career game at Miami, threw three interceptions despite completing 15-of-28 passes for 181 yards. Berlin was not sacked although he made a number of questionable throws, including a second quarter pass that led sophomore receiver Roscoe Parrish into Florida State cornerback Stanford Samuels. Samuels drilled Parrish in the chest sending the receiver several yards backwards. Berlin has a tendency of locking down on a receiver before throwing the ball. But Coker said that Berlin isn't completely at fault.

"We have some young receivers making some mistakes. Sometimes its just poor decisions and poor throws," said Coker. "The thing we try to do with the quarterback, if someone else makes a mistake, eliminate it. If you do that, guys will get their act together because they want the football. They'll get to where they're supposed to be. It's not all Brock's fault."

Payton (26 carries, 97 yards, and one touchdown) put together an inspired performance amid the sloppy conditions. Criticized often for choosing to be a finesse runner rather than hitting the holes immediately, Payton silenced his doubters with drive-sustaining carries for most of the day behind an effective offensive line. Payton's longest run of the day – 17 yards - came on a first-down play from the Florida State 28-yard-line early in the first quarter. Miami kicker Jon Peattie would go on to miss a 22-yard field goal. The fifth-year senior scored the Hurricanes' first touchdown of the game on a 14-yard reception down the right sideline courtesy of Berlin. Coker said that Payton would be splitting time with freshman running back Tyrone Moss. Winslow had six receptions in the first half.

Although its still early October, Miami's victory over FSU combined with four of the previously ranked top-10 teams losing (No. 3 Ohio State, No. 6 Louisiana State, No. 7 Arkansas and No. 10 Nebraska) helped the second-ranked Hurricanes close the gap on No. 1 Oklahoma in both major polls this week. The Hurricanes, who trailed the Sooners by 94 points in last week's AP poll, received 1,534 points to Oklahoma's 1,597, a 63-point difference. Oklahoma (1,570) is 56 points ahead of Miami (1,514) in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.

Up next: The Hurricanes host Temple (1-5) Saturday in the Orange Bowl (noon). Miami, who has outscored Temple 224-45 in the last five meetings, has won 11 of 12 games in the all-time series. The Owls are coming off a 38-13 loss to Boston College.

"We haven't played our best game yet," said Coker, who improved to 30-1 for his career. "There is a lot of things we have to get corrected if when intend to be there at the end."

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