Fast Track to Stardom

Devin Hester decided it was time to have a little fun. Several yards away from the endzone on a punt-return he took for a touchdown, Hester waved the ball in Louisiana Tech punter Matt Butler's face. Hester followed that up with a dive into the endzone.

Hester was not only hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty that cost the Hurricanes 15 yards, but he received a tongue-lashing from a handful of coaches once he got to the sidelines.

"I said you've already stuck it to them with the play you made. You don't have to stick it in their face again," said UM special-teams coach Don Soldinger. "Devin knows that stuff was way out of line."

It was the only thing Hester did wrong in Miami's 48-0 victory. The 5-11, 185-pounder from Riviera Beach burned the Bulldogs for two touchdowns on 143 punt-return yards. Not that it caught the Hurricanes - or anybody else - by surprise.

"Obviously you don't have to be too smart to figure out he's pretty special," said Hurricanes coach Larry Coker. "He has good size and is well built for that position. He's just a physical football player."

The lightning-quick Hester struck first in the second quarter as he took a punt at the Miami 49 before heading to the left sideline. He broke a tackle and cut across the field for a 51-yard touchdown. Hester added a 92-yard punt return in the fourth quarter as he brought the Orange Bowl crowd to its feet.

"I'm confident that I can do some damage each time I have the ball in my hands," said Hester, as the No. 4 Hurricanes prepare to meet the Houston Cougars (1-2) tonight at Reliant Stadium. "I know I'm still learning, but if I get out in the open field I like my chances against anybody."

Hester, who ranked sixth nationally in kickoff return average with 28.7 last season, is widely considered the Hurricanes most explosive player. Hester led the Hurricanes in kickoff return yards with 517 last season.

With Hester leading the way, the Hurricanes are averaging 49.1 yards per punt return in nine attempts this season. Hester also had a 21-yard kickoff return in the opener against Florida State. With his two punt returns for touchdowns against Louisiana Tech, Hester has already equaled the Hurricanes' total of a year ago.

"He's just so fast," said Miami quarterback Brock Berlin. "The guy brings an added dimension that team's have to be aware of when they play us."

The Cougars, coming off a 35-21 victory over Army, are led by junior running back Anthony Evans. Evans, named the Conference USA Offensive player of the week, rushed for a career-high 282 yards against the Cadets and is 367 short of 2,000 for his career.

Still the Cougars needed a John Kolb to Vincent Marshall 44-yard touchdown pass with 6:38 remaining to take the lead for good. Houston coach Art Briles knows his team is attempting to climb a big mountain this week.

"We can't keep making the same mistakes if we want to stay in this one," said Briles.

Miami leads the all-time series 9-7.

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