OSU Faces First Road Test At Miami

Ohio State is the No. 17 team in the country but many observers feel the Buckeyes are in for a stern test Saturday night with the first road trip of the year, a game at an unranked Miami (Fla.) squad facing its own share of offseason turmoil. BSB previews the Hurricanes with notes, quotes, facts and figures.

Miami, Fla. (0-1)
Saturday, Sept. 17
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sun Life Stadium; Miami

The Hurricanes
Head coach: Al Golden, 0-1, first year (27-35 overall, sixth year)
2010 record: 7-6 (5-3, 2nd Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 3-1
School location: Miami, Fla.
Enrollment: 15,629
Colors: Orange, Green and White
Stadium: Sun Life Stadium
Fight song: "Miami U Fight Song"

Miami built a reputation in the 1980s as one of the most fearsome teams in the country – a reputation they certainly didn't shy away from.

The Hurricanes were known for their swagger and confidence, putting together a team that came from nowhere to capture five national titles between 1983 and 2001.

They used recruits from the talent-laden hotbed that is the greater Miami area to do it, and the program's meteoric rise – and repeated brushes with the NCAA law – was the subject of the ESPN "30 For 30" documentary "The U."

"I think the biggest thing that I took out of that is just a confidence level they had," said OSU nickel back Tyler Moeller, who enjoyed the film. "They went into every game and just, you know, had that swag, I think that's what they called it, just going in there and knowing they are the best. I think that's the biggest thing that I took off of that ‘30 For 30' is just the confidence level that those teams had and the players they had. They had some great players on those teams."

Even OSU head coach Luke Fickell, who came of age and was a high school recruit during that time, said he was a fan of the Hurricanes' brash style that took college football by storm.

"I would probably like to watch them, I really did. I can remember a little bit about it, but you know, probably not a ton," he said. "I don't know that it was something that was quite as polarizing to me. But I definitely liked watching the stories and seeing the uniqueness to how they did things in the ‘80s and '90s."

Things aren't quite the same in South Florida these days. After capturing the '01 title and losing to Ohio State in the '02 championship game, Miami began a consistent slide backward under Larry Coker and Randy Shannon.

The latter was fired following the 2010 campaign, and Miami brought in Temple's Al Golden to take over. Golden's tenure was quickly rocked in August when a Yahoo! Sports investigation alleged that former program booster Nevin Shapiro committed a bevy of NCAA violations with dozens of Miami student-athletes and recruits.

The result – for the time being – was that eight players were suspended for the team's season opener Sept. 5 at Maryland, a game the Terrapins won by a 32-24 score.

"Bottom line, we had enough talent at the game to win," said Golden, the 2009 MAC Coach of the Year. "We weren't going to win that game by one-third or two-thirds of the operation hitting. The only way we were going to win that game was if all three hit.

"The offense needed to help the defense and the special teams needed help both operations, and to be honest with you, the special teams was the only that executed the way we needed to win. It wasn't a great team effort."

Miami gets five of the suspended players back, including quarterback Jacory Harris, for the Ohio State contest.

Offense In A Nutshell
Though Shannon is gone, Miami is expected to run a pro-style offense similar to the one Shannon used in recent seasons.

"They do a lot of stuff the NFL runs," OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "They're going to run the ball and have some good receivers who get downfield."

Harris, a senior, is the man charged with running it all. Reinstated after missing the opener, Harris is trying to shake off a poor 2010 in which he threw 15 interceptions – including four vs. Ohio State in Columbus – against 14 touchdowns. A pocket passer, the Miami native is capable of delivering big plays with his arm – the question is which direction the play will go.

"I think he can do it all," Fickell said. "He can definitely spin the football. He throws it very good down the field as well. So he's a guy that has been there for quite a while, and has taken a lot of snaps. I'm sure he's well in tune to what they need him to do offensively. Any time you have a fourth year guy starting or playing a lot, there's a lot of positives that he brings to the tables. Obviously getting him back is something that I'm sure the whole team and offense will be able to rally around."

Another Miami native, sophomore Stephen Morris started four games last year and this year's opener, going 19 for 28 – though his last four desperation passes were incomplete – for 195 yards with two interceptions and a rushing touchdown vs. Maryland.

Running backs Mike James and Lamar Miller are known as "Smash and Dash," respectively. Miller is the team's starter, and the sophomore speedster ran 18 times for 119 yards and a touchdown in the opener. James averaged 5.7 yards per carry last year as a sophomore but had 12 carries for only 34 yards and a score vs. the Terps.

Senior Travis Benjamin, who caught 43 passes last year for 743 yards – a team-high average of 17.3 yards per catch – along with three touchdowns, is the leading returning receiver, though he too was suspended vs. Maryland. Senior LaRon Byrd had 41 grabs last year and is a big target, while sophomore Allen Hurns and junior Tommy Streeter are both rising talents who had four catches apiece in the opener.

Miami lists four tight ends on its depth chart, one from each class – senior Chase Ford, junior John Calhoun, sophomore Asante Cleveland and redshirt freshman Clive Walford. Of that group, Cleveland led the way with eight catches for 110 yards last year, while he, Walford and Ford each caught a pass in the opener.

The offensive line is in a state of flux, as sixth-year senior Joel Figueroa, who started the opening game, might be replaced for the Ohio State game. Possible replacements are redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche and Brandon Washington, a first-team All-ACC choice at right guard last year. Washington started the opener at right tackle, but he could move with the emergence of redshirt freshman Jon Feliciano.

The middle of the line is set with senior Harland Gunn at left guard, senior Tyler Horn at center and highly touted sophomore Brandon Linder at right guard.

QB 12 Jacory Harris, 6-4, 195
HB 6 Lamar Miller, 5-11, 212
FB 33 Maurice Hagans, 5-11, 240
WR 1 Allen Hurns, 6-3, 185
WR 3 Travis Benjamin, 5-10, 175
TE 82 Asante Cleveland, 6-5, 255/9 Chase Ford, 6-6, 245/46 Clive Walford, 6-5, 245
LT 61 Joel Figueroa, 6-6, 315/79 Malcolm Bunche, 6-7, 320/72 Brandon Washington, 6-4, 320
LG 66 Harland Gunn, 6-2, 310
C 63 Tyler Horn, 6-4, 305
RG 62 Brandon Linder, 6-6, 310
RT 72 Brandon Washington, 6-4, 320/70 Jon Feliciano, 6-5, 320 PK 40 Jake Wieclaw, 6-2, 200
KOR 6 Lamar Miller, 5-11, 212/3 Travis Benjamin, 5-10, 175

Defense In A Nutshell
Figuring out what Miami brings to the table on defense under Golden could be tough, as the team was without five major contributors against Maryland because of the NCAA situation. It showed, as Miami gave up 499 yards of offense – 71 yards more than OSU has given up in its first two games combined.

Three of those suspended players – linebacker Sean Spence and defensive linemen Adewale Ojomo and Marcus Forston – are back for the Ohio State game, but defensive lineman Olivier Vernon and safety Ray-Ray Armstrong are still suspended.

"Definitely looking at the guys who were playing in the Maryland game, but you definitely have to look at last year's game and a couple of their late games in the season last year to remember how they play and how they move," OSU center Michael Brewster said of scouting.

Ojomo, who had 38 tackles and five sacks last year, fits back in at defensive end, where he will split time with highly touted true freshman Anthony Chickillo. On the other side, seniors Andrew Smith and Marcus Robinson will split time after entering the year as part-time players in their careers previously. Forston, a preseason All-American after making 37 tackles and 12 TFL last year, will start at tackle with senior Micanor Regis, who had 42 tackles last year. Miami also has massive JUCO transfer Darius Smith, who started vs. Maryland.

Spence is a welcome addition as the senior weakside linebacker was listed as a preseason All-America candidate after making 111 tackles and 17 TFL last year. He has the speed to go sideline-to-sideline to break up plays. Seniors Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanan (54 tackles last year; eight tackles, two TFL vs. Maryland) are the strongside players, while sophomore Jimmy Gaines mans the middle and had seven tackles to start the year.

Miami has an experienced secondary, especially at safety. Junior Vaughn Telemaque is a playmaker who had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries last year and added another pick vs. Maryland. The strong safety is JoJo Nicolas, a converted corner who had 36 stops last year.

The corners were victimized both short – screen passes – and long vs. Maryland. Former OSU recruit Brandon McGee is a junior who handles one side, while Wake Forest transfer Mike Williams has beat out converted running back Lee Chambers to start on the other side. Both are seniors.

DE 71 Anthony Chickillo, 6-4, 248/97 Adewale Ojomo, 6-4, 270
DT 54 Micanor Regis, 6-3, 305/99 Marcus Forston, 6-3, 300
DT 98 Darius Smith, 6-2, 360
DE 48 Andrew Smith, 6-3, 250
SLB 45 Ramon Buchanan, 6-1, 222
MLB 59 Jimmy Gaines, 6-3, 220
WLB 31 Sean Spence, 6-0, 224
CB 41 Mike Williams, 6-1, 170
SS 29 JoJo Nicolas, 6-1, 200
FS 7 Vaughn Telemaque, 6-2, 200
CB 21 Brandon McGee, 6-0, 190
P 13 Dalton Botts, 6-3, 198
PR 85 Phillip Dorsett, 5-9, 170/3 Travis Benjamin, 5-10, 175

Five Fast Facts
1. Golden wears a shirt and tie on the sideline, making him one of the few coaches in Division I-A football to do so. Another is former Miami coach and current Florida Atlantic mentor Howard Schnellenberger.

2. Miami's 978 score in the annual NCAA APR rankings that came out in May placed eighth among all Division I-A football programs. The team upped its APR score for the seventh year in a row.

3. According to Phil Steele's college football annual, Miami will face the 10th toughest schedule of any Division I-A school this year. In addition to facing Ohio State, the 'Canes also face BCS foes Kansas State and South Florida in the nonconference season.

4. A list of the top 100 players in the NFL released by NFL Network this offseason included 10 former Hurricanes, the most of any school. Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis led the list as the No. 4 spot, while Baltimore safety Ed Reed was fifth and Houston wideout Andre Johnson was seventh.

5. Chickillo is third-generation Hurricane. His grandfather, Nick, played at the U from 1950-52 and earned All-American mention as a guard as a senior. His father, Tony, lettered from 1979-82 before a short NFL career.

Last Time Out
Ohio State got 346 yards of total offense from quarterback Terrelle Pryor and a school-record tying five field goals from kicker Devin Barclay while the defense intercepted Miami (Fla.) quarterback Jacory Harris four times as the No. 2 Buckeyes carved out a 36-24 victory over the 12th-ranked Hurricanes on Sept. 11, 2010.

The only things preventing total domination on the part of OSU were a pair of special-teams breakdowns and an offense put the ball in the end zone only three times despite rolling up 414 total yards.

For the first time since 1936 – and perhaps the first time in program history – the Buckeyes surrendered kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns in the same game while the offense got inside the Miami 25-yard line on 10 occasions and came away with only three touchdowns.

"Those were two teams that played awfully hard against each other today," said OSU head coach Jim Tressel. "That was a battle. But when you can create four takeaways, you're going to have a chance. Then when you have zero giveaways, you have a real good chance.

"You don't give up two long returns like that and usually survive, but defensively, we flew around. Our guys up front are relentless, our linebackers fly around and our defensive backs will hit you. Miami has some good guys but we were smacking them."

Pryor completed 12 of 27 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown, but where he really hurt the Hurricanes was with his scrambling ability. He carried 20 times for 113 yards and a touchdown, and he scrambled three times for first downs late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Meanwhile, Harris was pressured relentlessly by the OSU defense but still managed to complete 22 of 39 attempts for 232 yards and one TD. He was picked four times, though, matching a career-high he set in 2009 in a 33-24 loss to North Carolina.

Most of the fireworks generated by the Hurricanes came from special teams. Redshirt freshman Lamar Miller returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to give his team a 7-3 lead at the time, and junior Travis Benjamin took a punt back 79 yards late in the second quarter to put his team within three points.

In the end, however, it was the Ohio State defense that kept Miami on his heels. Senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa had two interceptions while defensive ends Nathan Williams and Cameron Heyward had one each.

Both of Chekwa's picks and the one by Williams set up field goals for OSU while Heyward's interception came at a most opportune time. As the Hurricanes were headed for what looked to be a touchdown early in the third quarter that could have made the score 26-24 in favor of the Buckeyes, Heyward intercepted Harris at the 5-yard line and returned it 80 yards the other way.

Two plays later, Pryor ran for a touchdown to push his team's lead to 16 points.

In addition to Pryor, the Buckeyes got a lot of production from Barclay, whose five field goals tied the school record. The mark was established by Bob Atha in 1981 during a 29-10 win over Indiana. It was equaled by Mike Nugent in a 22-14 win over North Carolina State in 2004 and again by Josh Huston in the Buckeyes' 25-22 loss to Texas in 2006.

The Buckeyes drew first blood with a 24-yard field goal from Barclay at the 5:57 mark of the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead, but Miami wasted no time with its answer. Miller took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, and following a PAT from kicker Matt Bosher, the Hurricanes enjoyed a 7-3 advantage with 5:45 left in the opening period.

Miami made it 10-3 early in the second quarter on Bosher's 51-yard field goal, but the Buckeyes came roaring back. Pryor connected with junior receiver DeVier Posey on a 62-yard bomb and then hit senior running back Brandon Saine on a wheel route good for 18 yards and a touchdown. Barclay added the extra point to tie the score at 10 with 12:23 left in the second quarter.

Barclay nailed a 41-yard field goal to push OSU back into the lead at 13-10 with 7:03 left until halftime and then, after Chekwa's first interception of the day, Dan Herron took a 4-yard pitch into the end zone to make it 20-10 with 6:17 to go until to the break.

But the Hurricanes got back into it courtesy of Benjamin's 79-yard punt return, and once Bosher added the PAT, Miami had cut its deficit to 20-17 with 3:04 left in the half.

Ohio State quickly responded with a 21-yard field goal by Barclay before another Chekwa interception led to a 24-yarder from Barclay at the gun that gave Ohio State a 26-17 halftime lead.

Harris quickly moved the Hurricanes into scoring position with the opening drive of the third quarter, but on third-and-goal at the Ohio State 9, he was picked off by Heyward who rumbled 80 yards with the turnover. Two plays later, Pryor rolled to his right and then suddenly reversed field before racing untouched to the end zone on a 13-yard score.

Barclay's PAT made it 33-17 in favor of the Buckeyes with 10:16 remaining in the third period. Miami came right back with Harris engineering a 14-play, 47-yard drive that ate more than 8½ minutes off the clock. But it was all for naught when the OSU defense held and Bosher's 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Buckeye defender Devon Torrence.

Barclay's fifth field goal of the contest came at the 1:29 mark of the third quarter and padded the Buckeyes' lead to 36-17.

Harris went back to work and drove his team 60 yards in seven plays, topping things off with a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chase Ford. Bosher's PAT cut the Hurricanes' deficit to 36-24, and when Barclay pulled his 32-yard field goal attempt wide left at the 11:25 mark of the fourth quarter, Miami appeared to have hope.

But the Hurricanes got only as far as the OSU 39 before Harris' fourth-down pass sailed over the head of his intended receiver. The Buckeyes took over possession at the 7:31 mark, and thanks to Pryor converting a pair of third downs as well as a fourth-and-1, Miami never got the ball back.

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