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Ground game sizzles for 207 yards

By JOE FRISARO

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001


MIAMI -- Coach Larry Coker concedes the Hurricanes don't have any receivers in the class of graduating stars Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne.

It may not matter if the ground game performs in the fall as it did in Saturday's spring game.

Backs combined for 207 yards on 53 carries as the offense beat the defense 25-20 at the Orange Bowl.

"We don't have a Santana Moss," said Coker, UM's offensive coordinator the past five seasons before being promoted to coach. "He's not here. Still, we've got some quality receivers here. If we stay healthy, we can be pretty good."

Overall, Coker was pleased with all phases of the four-quarter scrimmage that gave points for touchdowns, field goals, turnovers, first downs and certain defensive stops. Coker devised the unique scoring system because he wants to drill into defenders the importance of creating turnovers.

Even without Moss and Wayne -- projected as early-round draft picks -- Miami again is loaded with big-play talent. Ten offensive plays were for more than 10 yards.

It took the offense six plays to score on a 64-yard opening drive. Junior quarterback Ken Dorsey was sharp, hitting 7 of 15 for 92 yards. On the third play, Dorsey threw 41 yards to Ethenic Sands to the 13.

"The offense went into this wanting to test the defense long and throw the ball deep," Coker said. "We were able to do that. We made some big plays."

Clinton Portis, who gained 59 yards on 11 carries, scored the offense's only touchdown on a 2-yard run.

"It was great for the confidence of our offense to score that first drive," said Dorsey of the drive that took 1:46. "With the depth we have in the backfield, we will keep teams off balance."

Redshirt freshman Willis McGahee is pushing Portis for the starting job. The 6-1, 220-pounder continued to impress with a game-high 74 yards on 13 attempts, with a long gain of 28. Portis broke free on a 21-yard run, and Najeh Davenport had 69 yards on 10 attempts.

"All the backs are feeding off one another," said McGahee, a former Miami Central High star. "When one guy breaks a big run, the others want to. The only thing we didn't do well was when we got into the red zone. We couldn't score touchdowns."

The defense, which returns eight starters, had its moments. It recorded six sacks, two by redshirt freshman defensive end John Square. Kevin Beard turned in the biggest plays for the defense on special teams -- blocking a punt and returning it 40 yards and tipping another punt.

"We were playing a lot of basic defensive schemes," safety James Lewis said. "This will probably be our toughest competition. Our offense is probably the best in the country."

Todd Sievers made a 29-yard field goal, but missed from 44 yards. Freshman Mark Gent missed from 41.

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