All rested up for Huskies

Facing the No. 1 college football team in the country is quite a formidable task under any circumstances. But having them show up with a clean bill of health and coming off a bye week makes the assignment a tad bit more difficult. That will be the case when the top-ranked University of Miami Hurricanes (4-0) welcome the Huskies of Connecticut (2-3) into the Orange Bowl, Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Hurricanes, who will be facing Connecticut for the first time ever, are officially in preparation mood for the Huskies after practicing just twice last week.

Which is just fine with Miami coach Larry Coker, who put the focus on getting players healthier and making sure the team could regroup as a whole before getting back on the field.

Despite not having any serious injuries, Coker said that the time off helped several players recuperate from some bumps and bruises. Sophomore running back Willis McGahee (blister), offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli (knee) and linebacker D. J. Williams (ankle) were limited in practice last week. But Coker added that all three players, along with fullback Kyle Cobia and receiver Andre Johnson, will be available to practice, starting Tuesday.

McGahee, who leads the Hurricanes in rushing (533) and all-purpose yards (662), saw his practice time reduced last week after developing a bad blister on his right foot. McGahee was held out for most of last Thursday's workout while back-up running backs Jason Geathers and Jarrett Payton participated with the first and second-team offensive units.

"The time off couldn't come at a better time," said Coker, who will be searching for his 17th consecutive victory as coach since taking over last season. "Some of the other guys are getting themselves healthy as well."

Coker said the rest period was especially beneficial for Johnson and Cobia. Johnson, who missed the Temple game after having shoulder surgery to remove loose particles, contributed to the Hurricanes 38-6 victory over Boston College Sept. 21 with three receptions for 37 yards.

Cobia, who suffered a leg injury before the season opener, apparently has made it all the way back, according to Coker. Coker said that Cobia is making strides in practice and he indicated Monday that Cobia would get the starting nod over Quadtrine Hill against Connecticut.

The Hurricanes, riding the nation's longest winning streak at 26, continue to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

UM maintained the top spot in the Associated Press poll and picked up an additional three first-place votes without even playing a game. The Hurricanes received 71 of 74 first-place votes and a point total of 1,847. The No. 2 University of Texas Longhorns received two-first votes, while No. 3 Oklahoma got one.

Miami is also No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll after receiving 59 first-place votes. The Huskies will be facing a ranked Division I opponent for just the second time in school history, although they have never faced the No. 1 team in the country. Connecticut is coming off an overtime loss to Ball State. The 24-21 defeat to Ball State erased another strong outing by sophomore quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who was 23-for-37 passing for 236 yards.

Orlovsky (93-for-158 on the season) has been effective in the Huskies multiple-set offense with 1,050 yards and five touchdown passes. Last season, Orlovsky threw for 1,379 yards and nine touchdown passes in 10 games.

Connecticut freshman running back Terry Caulley anchors the running game with a team-high 471 yards on 87 carries. Caulley, who has 510 all-purpose yards, has scored three touchdowns and is averaging 5.1 yards a carry.

Sophomore linebacker Alfred Fincher leads the defense with 55 tackles. Chris Meyer (41 tackles, one sack) and Terrence Smith (36 tackles) anchor a solid secondary for the Huskies. "We're going to have to be perfect in every phrase of the game," said Connecticut coach Randy Edsall. "But the thing is Miami doesn't make too many mistakes either.

After playing Connecticut, the Hurricanes host Florida State at the Orange Bowl Oct. 12. The Hurricanes will then have 13 days off before beginning a stretch of three consecutive road games, including West Virginia (Oct. 26), Rutgers (Nov. 2) and Tennessee (Nov. 9).


Miami linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves, a native of New Haven, Conn., is a former All-American at Connecticut and is a member of the school's 100th anniversary team. Hargreaves coached the Connecticut linebackers from 1985-97.

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