"Every week its something else that catches your eye and makes you take a step back and say- did he really do that," said Coker, reflecting on the Hurricanes 41-16 victory over the Florida Gators at Florida Field in Gainesville this past Saturday. "The thing about this football team is that its not one single guy winning football games for us. Every single football player on this team made a commitment to raise their game. That was really pleasing – top to bottom."
The Hurricanes' (2-0) next stop will be in Philadelphia next Saturday, Sept. 14, to play the Temple Owls (1-1) in the Big East conference opener for both schools. The Owls are coming off a 35-3 defeat at the hands of the Oregon State Beavers.
But after dismantling one of the premier college football programs in the nation, Heisman Trophy candidate Rex Grossman included, and with the contest against the Owls still five days away, Coker had plenty to be pleased about after assessing the thumping of the Gators.
"To put it all in perspective we've won two football games and we're 2-0," said Coker, who remains undefeated as a head coach since taking over for Butch Davis and is now 14-0 since the start of the 2001 season. "But obviously we won a very big football game and one that definitely could be very important down the road. There is no question that there were a lot of outstanding performances by some awfully talented players on our team."
Where do we start?
Coker is still beaming over what the UM running game accomplished against the Gators. Led by 204 yards on 24 carries by sophomore Willlis McGahee, the Hurricanes chewed up 306 yards on the ground in the "The Swamp" before a record crowd of 85,777. Back-up Jason Geathers did his part with 72 yards on 13 carries, most of which came in the second half as the Hurricanes offensive line wore down the Florida defensive front.
After a slow start, McGahee was a big part of the Hurricanes rally mid-way through the second quarter that gave UM the lead for good. McGahee had 44 yards on three carries, including a 27-yard run, that positioned Miami at the Florida 18-yard-line. Geathers had an 11-yard first-down run before quarterback Ken Dorsey connected with Andre Johnson on a touchdown pass.
McGahee finished the first half with 112 yards and added 90 in the second half. But none of his exploits caught Coker off guard.
"I'd be lying if I said I was surprised by what Willis did," said Coker. "He brings speed, strength and a combination of things that you rarely find in running backs his age. He's been playing at this level here for a while and has really been something for us."
Said McGahee, who replaced Frank Gore as the starting running back in the spring. Gore is out with a knee injury: "I'm really pleased because I don't think people expected it. I wasn't paying attention to everything being said. It didn't bother me. I just went out and played the game."
The Hurricanes offensive line was also a heavy topic of conservation with Coker, who credit the unit with opening plenty of running lanes and holding off the UF defensive line with regularity. That in turn allowed the Canes running backs to look for room to run.
"You must be doing something right if you get 300 rushing yards," said Coker. "Those guys did a stellar job."
Coker also praised the Hurricanes inexperienced defensive secondary for their effort against Florida sophomore quarterback Rex Grossman, Grossman, a Heisman Trophy candidate, was held 191 passing yards- his lowest total ever- on 19-of- 45.
But aside from making Grossman look mortal, the secondary turned in big play after big play, including perhaps the one that turned the contest in UM's favor. With the Hurricanes up 27-16 in the third quarter, the Gators marched 88 yards to the UM 5-yard-line and appeared to be going in for a touchdown.
That's when Miami free safety Maurice Sikes intercepted a Grossman pass intended for Carlos Perez and marched 97 yards with the interception return for a touchdown. The score gave Miami a 34-16 lead with 2:27 remaining in the quarter.
Sikes, who took four Tylenol aspirins at halftime for a separated shoulder, intercepted Grossman a second time in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Antrel Rolle had an interception in the first quarter, but it was wiped out by a pass interference call on the Hurricanes. Red-shirt freshman Kelly Jennings, who played with a cast to protect his injured right thumb, had five tackles despite drawing the assignment of covering Florida receiver Taylor Jacobs. Jacobs had five receptions and 56 yards.
"The interceptions were big for us," said Coker. "The secondary was aggressive for most of the day and that was really good to see. There is no question these guys have talent. They are just a little young."
With the victory over Florida, the Hurricanes, which own the longest winning streak in the nation, have now won 12 consecutive games on the road.
Hurricanes 'amaze' head coach
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