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College football

'Canes contain big plays

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

CORAL GABLES - Last year, Miami had the nation's best pass defense, and that was expected to be the case again this season.

But Louisiana Tech and Florida exposed weaknesses that resulted in five plays, running or passing, of 40 yards or longer. That was a big concern of Miami coach Larry Coker entering Saturday.

"If people beat us physically in the game, fine. We'll live with that," Coker said last week. "But just to turn people loose ... that's not acceptable."

The Hurricanes did better against East Carolina but were not perfect. The Pirates got a 28-yard run by Marvin Townes and a 20-yard run by Desmond Robinson. And East Carolina gained a first down on a fake punt during its lone scoring drive.

Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon said the mistakes resulted from players trying to be stars.

Instead of wrapping up a sure tackle, they went for the big hit. Instead of making sure the pass is incomplete, they looked for the interception.

"They get anxious. They're trying to do something spectacular and are pressing to make plays," Shannon said last week. "When Mo Sikes got his picks last year, he didn't press. When Sean Taylor made big hits in the game, he didn't press. It just happened naturally."

Sikes was more to the point.

"People are getting too fat and happy, and that includes myself," he said last week. "We still need to be working."

LINEUP CHANGES: Middle linebacker Chris Moore, the Pirates' best defender, missed the game with a knee injury.

Redshirt freshman Alex Pou made his first start at left guard for Miami in place of Vernon Carey (left ankle sprain). Sophomore Rashad Butler started for senior Carlos Joseph (ankle tendon) at right tackle.

And Kyle Cobia started at fullback with Quadtrine Hill out with a dislocated left shoulder.

NOTEWORTHY: East Carolina's first-year coach is well aware of what Miami can do. John Thompson witnessed it last season as the defensive coordinator at Florida, which lost 41-16 to Miami. ... The 'Canes are the highest-ranked team East Carolina has faced since it took on top-ranked Miami in 1986.


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