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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Freshman running back Mark Walton ran for 85 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown and Miami’s defense allowed just 79 yards and forced two turnovers as the Hurricanes defeated visiting Bethune-Cookman University 45-0 Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.
Miami (1-0) rushed for 202 yards as a team – getting 77 second half yards and a fourth quarter touchdown from Trayone Gray along with 40 yards and a score from Joe Yearby – playing its first game without injured junior running back Gus Edwards.
Defensive backs Artie Burns and Rayshawn Jenkins each picked off passes and junior Corn Elder recorded two tackles for loss – including a sack – and returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown – which gave Miami a 31-0 lead before halftime.
Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said his team played hard Saturday.
“I thought we played physical and we tackled well,” Golden said. “Our defense played hard. We put them in a tough spot and they responded. Obviously it’s hard to get a shutout no matter what. We had an ‘x’ play in special teams that’s big because we haven’t had that in a little [while]. And we played a lot of guys tonight. We played three running backs, a lot of linemen…I mean we played a lot of young guys tonight.”
The game, which drew 43,467 fans, was suspended at the 9:18 mark of the second quarter and was delayed 75 minutes due to lightning.
Leading 10-0 before the delay and looking blasé right after play resumed, Miami got some juice late in the second quarter. The Canes strung together three touchdowns in a matter of two minutes – a 17-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya to Rashawn Scott with 3:42 left, a 25-yard scamper by Yearby and Elder’s punt return as only 1:37 remained in the first half.
Halftime was shortened to accommodate the delay, much to the dismay of many fans because it meant Bethune Cookman’s acclaimed marching band’s performance would be cut short. Then the teams agreed to play the second half with 10 minute quarters instead of the normal 15 minutes.
Bethune Cookman never threatened the Hurricanes. Wildcats starting quarterback Quentin Williams completed just two of seven passes for eight yards and the team didn’t have a play longer than 16 yards.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
While Miami’s performance Saturday was statistically impressive – holding the Wildcats (0-1) to just five first downs and registering five sacks – there were facets of the game that showed the Hurricanes’ room for improvement.
Kaaya, who begins the 2015-16 season on the watch list for the Maxwell, O’Brien and Manning awards, completed 16 of 27 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns in two and a half quarters of action against a Cookman defense that is replacing nine defensive starters from this past season.
After the game, Kaaya was asked to rate his performance on a scale of one to 10.READ MORE: Florida Lawmakers Face Challenges As 60-Day Session Begins
“I’d give myself a five or six,’ Kaaya said. “I’m not going to say I did amazing. We have to keep getting better. Especially on a short week, we have to watch the film and get better.”
Kaaya had some passes miss their mark early, including a pass that went behind sophomore receiver Braxton Berrios during the Canes’ opening offensive drive. Berrios landed awkwardly reaching back for the ball and went to the ground holding his knee. Berrios left the game and did not return.
Also, Stacy Coley left the game in during the opening drive, sustaining an ankle injury and missing the remainder of the contest.
Golden didn’t speculate on either players’ injury but said he thought it “wasn’t that serious”.
Without Berrios or Coley, Miami is left with six scholarship players at the receiver position going into next Friday’s matchup at Florida Atlantic and a home showdown against Nebraska in two weeks – something Kaaya said he’s not too concerned over.
“Obviously we’d like to have both of those guys, but that only means that someone else has to step up,” Kaaya said. “I think we’ll be fine either way.”
Rashawn Scott was the proverbial “next man up” as the redshirt senior caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Standish Dobard caught his first career touchdown and Miami’s first touchdown of the season – a 5-yarder midway through the first quarter.
UM’s offensive line did pave the way for a big night on the ground, but it also showed it is still a work in progress. The most egregious play being a third quarter strip-sack on Kaaya.
“I felt Brad was solid tonight,” Golden said. “Two of the guys that he throws to went down early…but he missed a few throws, there were a few drops. It wasn’t perfect for us, but we’ll learn a lot from this.”
Saturday marked the return to football for Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman Hunter Knighton.
Knighton, a redshirt sophomore, nearly died after suffering a coma-causing heatstroke during a practice in February 2014. But the 6-foot-6, 300-pound lineman worked his way back and returned to action against Bethune-Cookman.
With his mother and some of the medical professionals that cared for him in the stands, Knighton played on special teams during the first half and was subbed in for action on the line during the second half.MORE NEWS: Small Plane Makes Emergency Landing In West Kendall; US Coast Guard Searches For Missing Plane Off Boca Raton
“It felt great to be back out there,” Knight said. “Before the game, during pregame warmups things started to hit me – the butterflies and emotions came up. But it felt so good to be back out there with the team playing football again. I’m back. I came to the University of Miami to play football and reach certain goals. And I am going to play my role and do whatever I can to help this team win.”