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BY J.T. WILCOX | Staff WriterREAD MORE: Attorney: School Gunman Nikolas Cruz To Plead Guilty To Massacre; Parkland Families React
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Athletes – football players especially – are creatures of habit.
They want things to be the same, to be consistent.
So with the biggest game of the season so far days away, Miami head coach Al Golden wants his team to show some consistency.
“We don’t need to act a different way this week than we did last week, we need to be the same,” Golden said after practice. “We have to be consistent in everything that we do. We need to be the same…we all need to improve. We need to create excellence in every opportunity that we get – meetings, film sessions, practice, whatever it is – and then we need to compete.”
Being the same as last week, where the Canes (2-0) racked up nearly 600 yards of total offense and held their opponent scoreless in the second half, would be a major positive – as familiar foe Nebraska (1-1) comes to town for a showdown set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Sun Life Stadium.
This is the second year of a two-year home-and-home series with the Cornhuskers. Miami lost 41-31 in Lincoln last year, a game in which Nebraska chewed up 456 yards of offense – including 223 rushing yards for Ameer Abdullah.
Even though Abdullah is gone on to the NFL, Nebraska still has an offense capable of racking up big yardage.
Tackling The Problems
Junior running back Terrell Newby appears to have taken the leadership role in the Cornhuskers’ backfield. He’s averaging 120 yards per game, but what could be a problem for the Hurricanes is his 6.3 yards per carry.
As a team, Nebraska is averaging just over 500 offensive yards per game.
Tackling in the run game was an issue for the Canes defense last Friday at FAU. The Owls totaled 223 rushing yards, gaining 6.3 yards per carry.
Golden said that his team is fully aware of the task at hand.
“Our guys know what we’re up against,” Golden said. “[Nebraska has a] big physical offensive line. They are getting their tight end back. They have running back depth – so the heat won’t be a problem for them. And the quarterback is a leader who can run.”
“Our guys know what’s up. We have to play our game plan, tackle really well, be really mature and have leadership on game day,” Golden added.
Last year Miami had issues wrangling dual-threat quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.
He threw for a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 96 yards – keeping the Canes off balance most of the night.READ MORE: Nikolas Cruz Pleads Guilty In BSO Jail Guard Attack
Miami linebacker Jermaine Grace said that the key to stopping Armstrong this time around is simple.
“We just have to be really physical with him,” Grace said. “Whenever someone has the chance to get a hit on him, we have to bring it and make sure we really get after him.”
“I honestly think this is going to be one of our biggest home games this season. We want to take it all in, enjoy the moment and play for our families, our wives and our fans that support us each week,” Grace said.
Berrios Ruled Out
Golden said Wednesday that sophomore wide receiver Braxton Berrios won’t play Saturday against Nebraska.
“I don’t think he’s going to make it for the game,” Golden said. “Everybody else is ready to go.”
Berrios was injured during the first quarter of the home opener against Bethune-Cookman and did not return to that game nor did he play in the Canes 44-20 win Florida Atlantic.
The second half of that statement points positively to the return of Stacy Coley. Coley too was injured during the Cookman game and missed the FAU game, but he’s practiced this week and should be available for the Canes against an aggressive Cornhusker secondary.
Time To Step Up
When linebacker Darrion Owens left last Friday’s game against FAU, things didn’t look good.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound versatile sophomore was visibly upset on the sideline and his worse fears were realized when doctors found that he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Golden said Sunday that Owens will miss the rest of the 2015 season.
“He’s a tremendous young man…one of our hardest workers,” Golden said. “We feel badly for him, but we have some guys that have to step up. We have to have a next-man mentality.”
Owens is eligible for a medical redshirt and joins running back Gus Edwards (foot) as Canes that are gone for the season.
The next men up will be senior linebacker Tyriq McCord, sophomore Trent Harris – who’s listed as a defensive lineman – and redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Smith.
Harris and McCord have both seen action in each of Miami’s two games this season. Harris started in both games and has registered 11 tackles (1.5 tackles for loss) and a half a sack. McCord started against FAU and registered four tackles.
Third Down Woes
With the first two games of the season being against teams that won’t stack up against college football’s elite, it’s been concerning that Miami has only converted on 6-of-24 third downs.
While that number is concerning to most, Canes offensive coordinator James Coley thinks the numbers can be skewed a different way.MORE NEWS: Parkland Survivor David Hogg On Potential Guilty Plea: 'It's Horrific That Our Community Has To Continue Going Through This'
“No, our third down numbers don’t look good,” Coley began. “But I think you have to take into account our fourth down numbers. We’re perfect in our fourth down conversion. So looking at it only from the third perspective can be deceiving. We have to be better on third down – no doubt. But our philosophy is that we have four downs to get it done.”