St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Crudup confident he can spark UM offense

A threat to pass and run, he finally gets his chance to start at QB.

MICHAEL SNYDER
Published November 12, 2003

CORAL GABLES - For Derrick Crudup, the time is here - finally.

After patiently waiting for a chance he wondered if he'd ever have, Crudup will replace Brock Berlin as Miami's starting quarterback for Saturday's home game against Syracuse.

It was a decision some Miami faithful thought was a long time coming.

"It's something I felt like we needed to do," coach Larry Coker said. "It's a tough decision, but I think it's probably the right decision at this time for our football team."

Berlin has had a difficult two-week stretch in which he has thrown four interceptions and fumbled twice, a huge factor in losses to Virginia Tech (31-7) and Tennessee (10-6) - the Hurricanes' first losing streak since early in 1999.

The 'Canes, who are now playing for a Big East title and BCS bowl game instead of a national championship, are hoping Crudup can provide a spark to the offense. Miami hadn't been held under 10 points in back-to-back games since 1977 before this skid. If you toss out a rout of Temple, Miami's offense has scored only three touchdowns in its past 17 quarters. Defenses have pressured Berlin, knowing his penchant for turnovers, while almost ignoring Miami's struggling running game. Berlin's inability to handle the pressure, often forcing the ball into double and triple coverage and not finding the open receiver, were factors in the switch.

"Yeah, I think I can," Crudup said when asked about getting away from the pressure. "But it's hard to say. It's easy to sit on the sidelines or in the stands and say, "He should've done this.' Or, "He should have made him miss.' Or, "Brock should have done this or that.' It's different when you get on the football field."

Crudup, a junior, hasn't spent much time on the football field since signing with Miami. His most meaningful moment came in last season's Fiesta Bowl when he briefly replaced Ken Dorsey, who had been shaken up, in overtime and threw an 8-yard completion to Quadtrine Hill.

That wasn't what Crudup had in mind after throwing for more than 1,800 yards and 26 touchdowns as a high school senior. In two years starting at Deerfield Beach, he threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10. It's that double threat that can give Miami a new dimension under center.

"If I can run the ball every down, I'll run it," Crudup said. "Just don't turn the ball over, that's my mind-set. But I'm not scared to throw the ball down the field."

Miami hasn't had a true doublethreat at quarterback in quite awhile. Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said that gives his team more to worry about.

"When you look at the National Football League right now, you look at the great quarterbacks, everybody would love to have a quarterback who can drop back and beat you with his arm, and then keep plays alive with his legs," Pasqualoni said. "I don't think there's anybody who wouldn't love to have that style of quarterback."

Leading the 'Canes is a pressure-filled job, but Crudup said he's ready.

"Yeah, I think Ken Dorsey is the best quarterback, in my book, and one of the best ever to step foot here and people criticized him," Crudup said. "So, you're going to get that from fans and people. That's a part of the game. That's why I love the game."

Crudup has gone 28-of-41 for 290 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in spot duty this year.

"I'm excited," he said. "I'm excited for myself, I'm excited for my family, my football team family, and I'm just really excited to get out there. I've waited for a long time."

The coaching staff also hopes Crudup can inject some confidence in the offense.

"I don't think we're struggling with confidence," Crudup said. "I think it's mostly, like, with what we need to do. It's weird. We're out there and we're not used to losing. We're not used to teams not respecting us on the football field. It's just a funny feeling when you look at this team and past teams with the atmosphere, especially offensively. We need to get that back. ... I've been here for a long time and it's much different."

And now so is the starting quarterback.

"It's better late than never," Crudup said.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.