Entering just their third season of Division I-A football, UConn prepares for the biggest challenge in their history – a nationally televised date with No. 1 Miami. Good luck, boys.
Everybody wants their shot at the best – a chance to take down the king of the hill. It is a true measuring stick for where one is at and where one aspires to be. The Huskies can use the analogy that the Canes put on their helmet and pads the same way they do. That UM is no different then UConn in the sense that they are all young men who dedicate the majority of their time to becoming better football players and athletes.
But the comparison must stop there.
The UConn Huskies are light years from being on the same page as the Miami Hurricanes. As different as night and day. It truly is the men against the boys. The Canes recruit and sign some of the best high school talent in the nation every year. The Huskies take what they can get. A squad made up of predominantly average sized northeasterners and a few Florida scrubs that couldn't play for one of the big state schools, the Huskies are a young bunch that are experiencing their first taste of the big time.
Last season UConn cut their teeth with a season opener at Virginia Tech where the Huskies gave the Hokies a competitive first quarter. This season growing pains were felt in close losses to both Boston College and Georgia Tech. Against the Eagles, the Huskies sported a lead they eventually lost. When the Yellow Jackets were the opponent, UConn showed that they were not quitters. Refusing to be shut out they scored their only two touchdowns of the day in the game's final quarter. Add it all up and you have a young Division I-A team short on talent, but oozing with heart.
This weekend the Canes and Huskies tee it up for their first ever meeting. Miami is coming off the bye week and looking ahead to the annual Florida State match up. UConn fell in overtime last week to Ball State and looks forward to a bye week to heal after their visit to the Orange Bowl. While the Huskies see this game as the pinnacle of their season, one must wonder what the Canes feel when preparing for such a meaningless game.
Miami coaches and players can say all the right things in regards to this inaugural meeting. Larry Coker has referred to them as a "much improved football team" and mentioned that they are "going in the right direction." Coker also mentioned the importance of having his Canes prepared and guarding against the upset.
The larger question remains – how will Larry Coker get his No. 1 Canes fired up for the task at hand? The Huskies will come into the Orange Bowl intimidated and awestruck, but they will be ready to play. There is no fabricated hype – this is the game they have looked forward. They know Miami is looking forward to Florida State. They know they pose about as much of a threat to the Canes as a last weekend's bye.
Miami on the other hand is yet to experience that breakout game that many are expecting. FAMU had the feel of a typical season opener against a lesser team. The win at No. 6 Florida was incredible when you look at the 41-16 score, but it was far from a mistake-free game. Temple was the inevitable letdown game experienced after the Canes shot their load at The Swamp while the Boston College game was slow paced and in the Eagles' hands until the Canes defense exploded in the second half.
For those looking for the long awaited breakout game, exercise patience one more week and expect to see a Miami team similar to the one that faced FAMU earlier in the season.
The first team Canes will see some early action while the rest of the game will be dominated by back ups who need the experience. Once the game is out of reach and the Canes have made their statement to the future BIG EAST foe, it will be time to protect the starters and start thinking Florida State.
Ken Dorsey will get his 15 to 20 reps, 170 yards and three touchdowns. Willis McGahee will put a hurting on UConn defenders with 150 yards and a few touchdowns before giving way to Jason Geathers and Jarrett Payton.
On defense there will be some moving around at the linebacker position as Roger McIntosh continues to battle Howard Clark for the weakside spot. Some healing bodies on the defensive line will get the juices flowing before getting a breather and thinking about October 12th and Florida State's first trip to the Orange Bowl since the 27-24 thriller in 2000. Hurricane upperclassmen know the feeling. They can already taste it. The youngsters can only wait in anticipation and listen to stories about the dramatic win of a few season's back.
Cane fans must wait patiently as well. Everyone knows what's on deck. It's no secret. For now we'll have to settle with watching Miami welcome UConn to the BIG EAST family in typical Hurricane fashion. Get in and out quickly – all business. Treat UConn's Huskies like Washington's for four quarters and officially shift the focus to where everyone's minds secretly are – Miami vs. Florida State 2002. One more week.
Hurricanes 52 Huskies 6
Born and raised in Miami, FL and a Grassy.com guest columnist since 1995, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org