‘Mo' mentum for UM secondary

Not 20 seconds had elapsed and Maurice Sikes was already being hounded with questions he knew were coming sooner or later. "What do you mean how good can we be," said Sikes, a junior safety, immediately after the No.1 ranked Hurricanes had disposed of the Florida Gators 41-16 in Gainesville last Saturday.

"Just yesterday, we were all listening to how Rex (Grossman) was going to tear Miami's secondary apart. But I guess it didn't work out that way did it."

The Hurricanes (2-0) take their 24-game winning streak, the longest in the nation, into Franklin Field in Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon as they face the Temple Owls (1-1) in the Big East opener for both teams. And after doing his part to limit Grossman into his worst day ever as a collegiate, Sikes leads a confident Miami secondary against the Owls.

"The experience of going to Florida and then playing as well as we did is only going to make as better," said Sikes. "We might be young, but everybody saw there is plenty of playmakers back there that can win a game."

Sikes, the reigning Bronco Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, might have done just that against the Gators as he came up with two interceptions, one that resulted in a touchdown, and was part of a secondary that held Grossman to 191 passing yards.

The Hurricanes held a 27-16 lead late in the third quarter, but the Gators offense drove the ball to Miami's five-yard line and appeared to be going in for a score. That's when Grossman threw a pass into double pass coverage and Sikes stepped in front of Carlos Perez for the interception and a 97-yard return for a touchdown.

"He never saw me and I was reading his eyes the whole way," Sikes said. "Rex tried squeezing the ball in there and I was ready for him."

Sikes, who has seven tackles in two games this season, had another interception in the fourth quarter that iced the game for UM.

After two seasons of having to sit behind Ed Reed, Mike Rumph and Phillip Buchanon waiting his return, Sikes is finally getting a chance to prove himself since being named starting strong safety in the summer. Before starting against Florida A&M and Florida, Sikes had been used exclusively in Miami's nickel and dime packages.

Last season, Sikes played mostly on third down and special teams as he recorded 15 tackles and a sack in a victory over Florida State. In 1999, as a freshman, he played in nine games and recorded eight tackles.

But Sikes wasn't always sure that things would work out for him as a Hurricane. The 5-11, 193-pounder was red-shirted in 1999 and being recruited out of Monsignor pace in Miami. He spent the entire season on UM's scout team.

"I had some doubts that it was going to work out for me here," Sikes said. "But I stuck it out and thankfully things have been alright. The coaching staff here has made me the player I am today."

And Sikes plans to keep contributing in a big way. If not ...

"It happened to be my turn this time," Sikes said "But when you go up against Andre Johnson, Roscoe Parrish and all these our guys in practice there is the possibility that any of these guys can beat you."

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