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'Canes opener: It's no sweat

UM 63, FAMU 17: Now it's safe for the national champs to look ahead to Florida on Saturday.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002

[AP photo]
Quadtrine Hill helps UM running back Willis McGahee celebrate his score in the first quarter.
MIAMI -- Yep, there was plenty to worry about, all right.

Like wearing out the kicker.

Miami's Todd Sievers might need to spend the next several days nursing a sore right leg back to health, if he didn't leave it on the Orange Bowl field Saturday night.

Sievers got quite a workout, never on the sideline for long, having to deal with a seemingly endless stream of extra points and kickoffs after UM touchdowns.

The defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Hurricanes opened the 2002 season with a resounding 63-17 victory over Division I-AA Florida A&M.

The rout was rendered more ridiculous because UM coach Larry Coker actually fretted about the game.

He talked about it "not being a tuneup" and that it would be a "tremendous test right out of the chute." Coker, just 13 unbeaten games into his head coaching career, already sounds like Lou Holtz.

UM scored on three consecutive first-quarter possessions, didn't allow a first down until the second quarter and sacked FAMU quarterbacks seven times. Ken Dorsey threw three touchdowns then took a spot on the sideline midway through the second quarter.

By then, 68,548 were looking forward to the halftime show by the renowned Florida A&M band. And for the 'Canes, thoughts had turned to Florida, which will offer a far better assessment of UM's ability to become the first team since Nebraska in 1994-95 to defend a national title.

"I thought about them at halftime," said UM center Brett Romberg. "I wondered what the score of their game was."

The Hurricanes (1-0) take the nation's longest winning streak, 23 games, to Gainesville, where they have not played since 1986. UM has not lost in nearly two years, since Washington beat them in September 2000, that remains Dorsey's only defeat as a starter. The senior Heisman candidate ran his record to 27-1, the most wins in UM's storied quarterback history.

"That's the record you shoot for," said Dorsey, who was 8-of-13 for 110 yards. "You don't shoot for number of touchdowns or that kind of gaudy statistic because it doesn't mean anything if you lose. The wins are the most important thing.

"The general consensus is that we don't want to be the group that goes out 9-4. We want to go out on top."

The game against the Rattlers offered few clues about UM's chance at another championship season.

"You really can't get too excited about it," UM linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "They're still a I-AA team. But we didn't come out flat. We were sharp, tried to get our assignments down, did a lot of good things. It was a good start for us."

The Hurricanes showed plenty of spark and depth. Backup tailback Jason Geathers, a converted receiver, rushed for 199 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns. Starting tailback Willis McGahee added 60 yards on six carries and a touchdown. Four receivers caught touchdowns. Four quarterbacks played. Student managers were clamoring to get on the field.

The Rattlers, 7-4 last season, tried to put up a brave front entering the game, though most weren't born when FAMU upset UM in 1979. The Rattlers' two fourth-quarter touchdowns were their first against Miami since that game 23 years ago.

"People look at us and say, "Why are you all going down there? You're going to ruin your season,' " FAMU offensive lineman Fletcher Williams said before the game. "We may not get this opportunity for four more years."

Coach Billy Joe might not want it for four more decades. His team had 9 yards of total offense in the first half, when the score was 49-0. Only after the Hurricanes emptied their bench in the second half did the Rattlers have success. They had 155 yards for the game.

"We were truly outmatched," Joe said. "We played the national champions. When you play a team that is as strong, dominant and powerful as the Miami Hurricanes, they're going to cause your offense, defense and specdial teams to go off track."

FAMU went back to Tallahassee with $350,000 to put in the bank, a tidy sum that won't make quarterback Casey Printers feel any better. He took a beating so the Rattlers could pay their athletic department bills.

Printers was the player who really scared Coker. A transfer from Texas Christian, Printers led the Horned Frogs to three consecutive bowl games. He figured to pose problems running FAMU's no-huddle, run-and-shoot Gulf Coast offense.

That was the theory going in, especially against an inexperienced UM secondary.

But Printers could not get away from UM's swarming defensive front, which sacked him six times. He completed 8-of-22 for 42 yards.

Yet what does it prove? The biggest questions for UM, offensive line and secondary, could not be fairly judged, not against a school that plays the likes of Morris Brown, Delaware State and Tennessee State.

UM has games remaining against Florida, Florida State and Tennessee.

Sievers can't wait. In those games, he should get some rest.

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