Coker Assesses WVU Game

Despite having to fight off a torrential rain downpour that lasted for most of the game and getting off to a slow start, University of Miami head coach Larry Coker was pleased with the end result Thursday night in the Orange Bowl- a win.

"We were a little sluggish in the first half, but I don't think the rain really had a major effect on us. We're used to playing in that stuff all the time down here," said Coker, a day after the No. 1 ranked Hurricanes defeated West Virginia 45-3. "I think they (West Virginia) did some things on defense that kind of threw us off a little bit. Once, we went in and adjusted, we were fine."

The Hurricanes jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead only after senior free safety James Lewis intercepted a Derek Jones pass and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown with 9:09 remaining in the second quarter. Miami was held to three points and 69 total offensive yards, including 15 on the ground, in the opening quarter. This against a Mountaineers defense that entered the game ranked last in the Big East conference.

Coker was encouraged with the way the Hurricanes rebounded in the second half, although he wants to see the team play aggressively for 60 minutes. He credited the Hurricanes offensive and defensive coordinators (Rob Chudzinski, Randy Shannon) for making adequate adjustments in the locker room at the half and applauded his players.

"Both Randy and Chud have done an excellent job all season making adjustments for us and they did it again last night," Coker said. "I also think the players went in there, looked at themselves and said ‘We're better than that."

"Obviously any team in the country would like to play great football for four quarters, but that rarely happens. You're going to make mistakes no matter how good you are."

One player who didn't any miscues against West Virginia and continues to impress the coaching staff is freshman running back Frank Gore. Gore, who entered the game in the third quarter, finished up with 124 yards on six carries. Gore finished two of those carries in the endzone with 47 and 49 touchdown runs.

Going into the game, Gore had rushed for 132 yards on 19 carries. So, the first-year Hurricanes almost equaled his season total in a quarter and a half. Although Gore's accomplishments came in the second half against a poor run-stopping defense, Coker took notice. "Frank was fantastic," Coker said. "That's what he's been doing in practice everyday. A special talent like Frank without question deserves to play. He's earned the opportunity."

With backup Willis McGahee (MRI today) suffering a knee injury in the first quarter last night, Gore could quite possibly be moved up in the depth chart before too long. As of now Coker isn't planning any changes in the line-up, although things could always change. Asked if Gore could see significant playing time in the future, Coker said: "That's up to Frank and what he does with the opportunities he's given.

Coker followed that up by saying: "We're not here to keep people happy or make superstars out of anybody. If you deserve playing time, you're going to get it."

Starting running back Clinton Portis, a junior, had 76 yards on 21 carries after being held to eight yards in the first quarter. But Portis' lackluster performance against West Virginia and Gore's coming out contest shouldn't change a thing.

"I don't think Clinton would be worried if Barry Sanders or Terrell Davis came in here," Coker said. "He would still think he's better than all of them."

CAPSHAW A CANDIDATE

UM junior Freddie Capshaw has been named as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's top punter in college football.

Capshaw, 3-for-43.8 last night against West Virginia, has an average of 44.5 yards on 19 punts this season, including boots of 51 (twice), 54, 56 and 58 yards. Among some of the other nominees: Brooks Barnard (Maryland) and Jeff Ferguson (Oklahoma).

The award will be presented Dec. 9 as part of ESPN's College Football Awards Show.

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