tampabay.com

'Canes not giving up on season

By MICHAEL SNYDER
Published September 27, 2006


CORAL GABLES - Salvaging the season begins Saturday for the Miami Hurricanes.

After a bye week spent working on the physical and mental deficiencies that caused UM to open the season 1-2 and fall out of the Top 25 for the first time in the 21st century, the 'Canes host the red-hot Houston Cougars (4-0) at the Orange Bowl.

The message the 'Canes have been hearing - despite a mood that the season is over amongst many UM faithful and local media - is that this can still be a very good season ... if there are no more stumbles.

"We still have a lot left to play for," coach Larry Coker said. "We can still win the ACC and play in a BCS bowl game. That's our goal."

And that all begins against a talented Houston team led by record-setting senior quarterback Kevin Kolb.

"It's all Houston," Coker said Tuesday. "That's all we can control right now. It's a very important game, obviously. We have to win to soothe our pain."

And show that the 'Canes are still among the elite.

"What's going to make it better is going out and winning the rest of our games," quarterback Kyle Wright said.

The 'Canes can ill afford to take the field thinking this game is a gimme, especially with an offense that often has appeared lost and a defense that has been surprisingly easy to exploit for big plays.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Kolb leads active Division I quarterbacks in career completions (766), passing yards (10,348), total plays (1,652) and total yards (10,987). He's also first in the NCAA in consecutive starts with 40 and has 67 passing touchdowns to Florida quarterback Chris Leak's NCAA-best 77.

Last week he passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-25 upset of then-unbeaten Oklahoma State. The Cougars' start is their best since the 1990 squad, led by David Klingler, opened 8-0.

"He's a special player - a very special player," Coker said. "He throws a lot of high-percentage passes. He knows what to do with the football."

Kolb, whose 13 300-yard passing performances tie Klingler for most in school history, will be without his best protector in left tackle SirVincent Rogers, who sustained a season-ending knee injury Saturday.

"Yeah, it will hurt," Kolb said. "But we lost him in the first quarter last game. We continued to roll and never missed a beat."

UM's defense was riddled in its last game by Louisville's quarterbacks, and Coker cited a lack of pressure up front. "We've got to make the quarterback uncomfortable," he said.

Some have suggested that Miami quit in the second half against the Cardinals.

"I don't think (we) let down," cornerback Glenn Cooke said. "I think it's a lack of focus and guys running around and not really thinking, not really paying attention. ... We had a good week of practice, the whole team is feeling confident."

A Cougars win would rank among the biggest in program history.

"Everybody goes through a slump. I don't think their talent level has dropped off," Kolb said. "If they beat Florida State, which they should have, then nothing's gone wrong."