By SHARON GINN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2005
Since Hurricane Wilma raced across South Florida on Monday, Miami's Orange Bowl has served as a FEMA relief center, with workers distributing water and ice daily to those patient or desperate enough to wait for it.
At noon Saturday, the stadium will provide another form of sustenance: normalcy.
Despite the chaos and difficulties left in Wilma's wake, some things go on. Miami will face Atlantic Coast Conference foe North Carolina in a game rescheduled to daylight hours because many of the light towers at the stadium are not working and aren't expected to be repaired until after the season.
Wilma also damaged the scoreboard, but otherwise the Orange Bowl is in good shape and safe for crowds. After consulting with various area officials, UM athletic director Paul Dee decided to proceed with the game, in hopes of doing some good for the community.
The No. 6 Hurricanes (5-1) have cut prices for the game. Some tickets will be $20 (down from $45), with a pack of four general admission tickets $64. Some proceeds will go toward hurricane relief efforts, and monetary donations for Wilma relief will be collected at the gates.
"I don't want to overstate the importance of our football program," coach Larry Coker said. "South Florida is important to us, and I think we're a big part of South Florida. We hope people can enjoy a break from the monotony (created by) all the terrible things that have happened.
"You see so much on the news that is so depressing. All you see is everything down, and the destruction. Hopefully, for a few hours, people can enjoy some Hurricane football."
Players and coaches haven't gotten much enjoyment this week. They returned to practices Tuesday, despite the fact most had no power or water. For Wednesday's 7 a.m. practice, "they all woke up and got here" even though few had working alarm clocks.
"It's a distraction that weighs heavily on the players," Coker said. But "our players (have) responded well. Plus, we let them have some time off to get rested. We have a lot of players healed up, and hopefully our batteries are recharged for a tough five-game stretch."
The Hurricanes, who saw last week's game against Georgia Tech postponed due to Wilma's approach, have got to be eager to take the field against North Carolina (3-3). A year ago, the Tar Heels pulled off a stunning 31-28 upset of Miami in Chapel Hill. This season UM has the nation's No. 1-ranked defense, and has given up an average of just 9.5 points a game.
MORE WILMA EFFECTS: Florida International's Sun Belt Conference game against Middle Tennessee, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed and likely will be played in December.
Florida Atlantic (1-7) was fortunate to have a bye week this week, but the Owls were unable to practice and won't return to the Boca Raton campus until at least Monday. With no power at the school's athletic center, it would have been too difficult to get uniforms cleaned between practices, a spokesman said.
TIME TO SHINE: Florida A&M (3-4) has had a tough year, but without senior running back Rashard Pompey and junior wide receiver Roosevelt Kiser, the Rattlers would have no hope of finishing strong.
Despite a revolving door of quarterbacks - all three of whom have struggled with injuries this season - Pompey and Kiser have rescued the offense from ineptitude time and again. FAMU is last in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in total offense, but Kiser leads the league in receptions (5.7 per game) while Pompey is fourth in rushing average (85.8 yards).
In the Rattlers' 31-17 victory over Norfolk State on Saturday, Kiser had 11 catches for 142 yards and Pompey rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 38 carries. Considering that both starting quarterback Josh Driscoll (groin) and backup Chris Owens (concussion) are injured and may not play Saturday against Morgan State, coach Rubin Carter said the Rattlers will rely heavily on Pompey.
"The ground game certainly is important for us," Carter said. "(Pompey) has a great passion for the game. ... He gives you exactly what you want as far as a running attack."