Defense Going About Its Business

It's easy to see why the University of Miami defense was fighting off plenty of doubters even before the season-opener against Florida State two weeks ago. And if ever there was a time to doubt this was it.

Although talented and highly-regarded, the Hurricanes showed up at the Orange Bowl with seven new starters, including all three linebackers, in hopes that they could replace four first-round selections in the last April's NFL draft.

What would the Hurricanes do without Sean Taylor's vision and bone-jarring tackles in the secondary? Would the defensive-line soften up with the absence of space-eater Vince Wilfork? Who would make-up for the smarts and leadership skills of Jonathan Vilma?

So far, so good.

"They've just been tremendous. What you've seen is a group of outstanding athletes just going out there and making plays," says UM coach Larry Coker as the No. 4 Hurricanes (2-0) wrap-up preparations for tonight's game against Houston in Reliant Stadium. "We have good speed and can run."

Despite minimal support from the offense in the first two games of the season, Miami's defense has delivered in a big way and already drawn comparisons to the Hurricanes best defensive units in school-history.

All they've done is keep the Seminoles offense out of the endzone in over 60 minutes of play and shutout Louisiana Tech - all in a span of nine days. Miami held the Seminoles high-powered offense to 165 total yards, including 57 on the ground, before allowing Louisiana Tech to cross the 50-yard-line three times during a 48-0 victory.

Miami has held the opposition to an average of 174 yards while not allowing a single touchdown. Too young you say? The team's top-two leading tacklers are junior Roger McIntosh (16) and sophomore Tavares Gooden (14). Before this season both starting linebackers had never started a game.

"That just proves the kind of talent we have on that side of the ball," say Miami quarterback Brock Berlin. "They do a great job of doing what they're coached to do. They're a special group and it's always good to know you have guys like that backing you up."

A group that could be on its way to a few school records. The Hurricanes, who collected six sacks against Louisiana Tech, have nine in two games. The 1989 Miami defense holds the school-record with 52 for the entire season.

Miami is allowing their opponents an average of 54.5 rushing yards per game. In 1989, Miami held the opposition to 69.1 rushing yards a game for the entire season.

"I'm not going to try and compare us against them or any other defense because those guys were pretty good," says UM defensive back Antrel Rolle. "But we have a great chance to be special."

Just ask Florida State and Louisiana Tech.

"It's just a great defense, they are scary man," said Bulldogs coach Jack Bicknell. "Everywhere you look on the field there's an orange shirt."

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