Florida A&M Preview

The Miami Hurricanes kick off their 2002 season with a matchup of biblical proportions. No Canes fans, not the mythic clash of the titans in week 2 against the Florida Gators. Miami's first contest more closely resembles the story of David versus Goliath. The Florida A&M Rattlers come to the Orange Bowl on August 31st looking very much like the proverbial underdog.

And they are. The Division 1-AA Rattlers have faced the Hurricanes five times; they have won once.

In 1979 FAMU topped Miami 16-13 in Tallahassee. The next year the Canes seemed to take offense and won by the score of 49-0 at the Orange Bowl. That game would establish a trend as Miami would hold the Rattlers to only 6 points in the next 3 games, winning in 1992, 1995, and 1999. The scores? 38-0, 49-3, and 57-3. As you can see, FAMU has not had much of a chance against Miami since the disco era died. And why would they? Although the Rattlers have established themselves as a force in the MEAC conference, the Miami Hurricanes, when at the top of their game, are almost unbeatable against Top-25 competition. Asking a Division 1-AA team to knock off the Canes is akin to asking an army to fight tanks with toothpicks.

FAMU may struggle with their regular schedule outside of the defending National Champions. The Rattlers have lost 20 seniors from their 2001 squad, including their starting quarterback, their leading wide receiver, and their leading rusher. While this seams like an awful lot to replace, they have managed to fill the holes quite nicely. Casey Printers, the ex-TCU signal caller, looks to at least fill departed Quinn Gray's shoes at quarterback. They also return plenty of experience at receiver, with Charles Allen and Marco Junious looking to follow up 30+ reception campaigns in 2001. The running back situation is up in the air as leading rusher Kelsie Lordues has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth season. If his petition is denied, Ed Baker will likely get the majority of the carries. The main loss along the offensive line is that of center Terrie Logan.

On defense, cornerback Sequan Dowe returns to anchor a secondary that will be tested early. His four interceptions tied for the team lead last season. Also returning is rising sophomore corner Shedrick Copeland who finished with 78 tackles, second on the team. FAMU's defensive backfield must have been busy last season, as four of the team's top 5 tacklers played in the secondary. Returning to lead the linebacking corps is rising senior Alex Fortson, who finished with 16 tackles-for-loss last year and seven sacks. Converted offensive lineman Stephen Brown looks to anchor the defensive line.

The Hurricanes are somewhat fortunate to open with FAMU. Although a division 1-AA opponent may hurt schedule strength in the very unpredictable eyes of the BCS, Miami's brutal schedule should more than allow for this tune-up. FAMU's wide-open offensive game, which averaged over 470 total yards last season, may provide just the test a young Miami secondary needs. Offensively, this game gives the new line some game situation experience as a unit, and it provides Ken Dorsey and company with fresh defensive backs to abuse. Not too much the Rattlers will try to do should stop the juggernaut that the Miami offense has become over the past few seasons. Heading into the Florida game, the Canes will most likely focus on their first game to pinpoint some last minute adjustments heading into the marquee matchup of the early season.

But really, all this analysis only serves to whet the football appetites of the near-starved. It doesn't take much digging to unearth the recent history of this short series, and it doesn't take a mental giant to realize that the Canes should win, and win big. Optimally the Hurricanes finish off the Rattlers injury free, after getting the new freshmen and the backups plenty of playing time. If the universe operates normally on Saturday, Miami will blow out the Rattlers in front of a lively crowd and head into the Swamp with a clear picture of where the 2002 Hurricanes stand. Here's hoping this Goliath fares better than the biblical one.

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