Desperately Seeking A Spark

Now that the University of Miami football team knows who will be in charge of starting quarterback duties this Saturday against Syracuse in the Orange Bowl they all have one collective wish: Please, get the offense going. "I'm just hoping the change sparks something and gets us going," says senior running back Jarrett Payton. "I know turnovers and penalties have killed us recently, but then again maybe a change at quarterback is what we needed."

Junior Derrick Crudup, who was inserted by UM coach Larry Coker as the new Hurricanes starting quarterback before a team meeting earlier in the week, is finally getting the job he had hoped for since arriving in campus four years ago.

After sitting behind Ken Dorsey from 2001-02 and Brock Berlin for the first nine games this season, Crudup will be under center as a starter for the first time in his UM career as the Hurricanes attempt to snap a two-game losing streak against the Orangemen.

That might be the easy part.

Crudup is also being counted on to provide a spark for a sleepwalking offensive unit that has accounted for just seven points in the last eight quarters combined and has fallen into a fifth-place tie in the Big East in scoring offense with a total of 266 points this season.

Overall Miami has scored just 13 points in the last two games. One would have to go back over 25 years to find a UM squad that scored less points in a two-game span. That would be 1977 when the Hurricanes managed just six points in consecutive losses to start the season.

"It's just we need whoever is in there to produce and help us win," said junior offensive lineman Chris Myers. "What we can't continue to have are turnovers and penalties because they've been a problem all season. It's finally catching up to us."

So how does Crudup intend to fix the problem?

"Just be Derrick. Just be me. If I have to run the ball every down, I'll run it. Just don't turn the ball over that's my mindset," said Crudup, who hasn't started at QB since his senior season at Deerfield Beach High in 2000. "I can't be scared to throw the ball down the field, but don't turn the ball over with it. I don't care what I do. I just want to win."

Despite his inexperience at the Division I level, Crudup is considered a much more mobile passer than Berlin. That can come in handy behind an offensive line that has struggled in recent weeks and failed to engineer any sort of running game.

"I don't care if they say, he's running the ball on every down," said Crudup, who has completed 68.3 percent of his passes in five games this season. He has thrown for 290 yards and two touchdowns. "If I'm moving the sticks, I'm moving the sticks. Whatever it takes to move the sticks and score touchdowns."

Crudup also brings something to the offense that Payton said will add a whole new dimension to the team's ability to move the ball.

"Derrick's ability to scramble I think is the biggest difference," said Payton. "Arm-wise it isn't much of a difference, but Derrick can tuck the ball under his arm and run with it. If he doesn't see something he kind of jumps and tries to make something happen."

Crudup has rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts this season.

STILL MEANINGFUL

After dropping consecutive games for the first time since 1999 and dropping to 14th in both major polls the Hurricanes are no longer in the national title hunt. But Coker is wants his players understand that there are still some goals to be met as a team.

Payton agrees with Coker.

"We still have three games left, and to be perfectly honest with you I don't like the feeling of losing," said Payton. "I know none of the guys on this team are ready to give up. We still have a lot to play for, including winning the Big East."

Miami could sew up a BCS bowl berth and its fourth straight Big East championship with victories over Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh to close out the regular season.

MOSS PLAYING TIME

Expect to see more of freshman tailback Tyrone Moss against the Orangemen if what Coker said Tuesday is any indication. Despite saying that Payton would remain the starter at tailback Coker added that Moss would be in the offensive backfield a lot more on Saturday.

Moss, who has rushed for 221 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries this season, did not run the ball in the Hurricanes 10-6 loss to Tennessee last week although did not want to put too much pressure on the first-year player.

"I would have liked to play Tyrone against Tennessee because I felt he could have had a big impact in the red zone for us, but you don't want to put such a young player in that kind of position."

EXTRA POINTS

Coker is not sure whether senior right guard Vernon Carey, bothered by a sprained right ankle that he originally injured before the start of the season, will be able to play against Syracuse. Coker said Carey would not practice on Tuesday. Payton, who had been bothered by sore shoulders, said he was ‘good' and just ‘ready to play'.

Starting center Joel Rodriguez (shoulder) and linebacker Darrell McClover (lacerated hand) are expected to play Saturday. Asked if there was any chance junior Chris Myers could be moved to starting center to replace Rodriguez, Coker said that it was possible.

"Chris always practices at center (behind Rodriguez)," Coker said. "Again, anything is possible. But I can tell you this: We're going to go with the players that give us the best chance to win."

Coker added that the team is awaiting an MRI to determine the extent of defensive back Glenn Sharpe's injury although it is believed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Sharpe, who injured his right knee in the fourth quarter against Tennessee, will miss the rest of the season.

"Chris always practices at center (behind Rodriguez)." Coker said. "Again, anything is possible. But we're going with the players we feel give us the best chance to win."

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