CORAL GABLES (AP) — Off the field, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya and receiver Braxton Berrios are often inseparable.
On the field, they’re now together again.
After both feared the worst when Berrios hurt his left knee on the opening possession of the season, the receiver has been cleared to play Thursday when Miami (3-0) visits Cincinnati (2-2) in the Hurricanes’ final non-league test before entering Atlantic Coast Conference play. Berrios practiced on Sunday without any limitations.
“I’m back,” Berrios said. “Feel good.”
His return comes at a good time for Miami, which will be without receiver Stacy Coley against the Bearcats. Coley is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, and Miami’s hope is to have him back for the ACC opener on Oct. 10 at Florida State.
Berrios was running to his right across the middle in Miami’s season-opener against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 6 when he tried to awkwardly reach for a ball that Kaaya threw behind him. Berrios started grabbing at the knee in obvious pain, and Kaaya later acknowledged that he immediately thought he’d gotten his best friend badly hurt.
A day later, Berrios was already rehabbing on an underwater treadmill, and now he’s good to go.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Berrios said. “That’s instincts. That’ll never change. Got a little bad luck, but we’re rolling, the team’s been rolling, and we’re good.”
Despite dealing with plenty of injuries — among them, running back Gus Edwards (foot) was lost for the season in August, Coley and Berrios have missed time, linebacker Derrion Owens (knee) is out for the season and linebacker Marques Gayot (neck) was airlifted to a trauma center after a scary incident in practice last week — the Hurricanes are one of only five teams at the FBS level to have not trailed for a single second this season.
And getting Berrios back figures to only make Miami better, especially since Kaaya has plenty of confidence in his fellow sophomore.
“He’s still a quick-twitch guy, still fast, runs some good routes,” Kaaya said. “With him, he’s an easy guy to throw to. It shouldn’t be an issue. All the routes that he’s run so far, we’ve connected on pretty well.”
Kaaya has thrown five touchdown passes this season, to five different receivers. Rashawn Scott, Herb Waters and running back Joe Yearby all have receiving games of at least 95 yards through the season’s first three games, and Miami — which has outgained opponents by an average of 472-310 to this point — will likely need plenty of offense to keep up with the Bearcats.
Cincinnati is averaging nearly 623 yards per game, and piled up 752 in a loss to Memphis last Thursday.
“We knew coming into the season this game was going to be a tremendous challenge for us,” Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “They’ve done an awesome job so far. They’re putting up a lot of points and yards.”
Miami did the same against Cincinnati last year. Kaaya threw for three touchdowns, and Miami rolled to a 55-34 win last October. The Hurricanes said they aren’t going to overly fixate on the staggering numbers the Bearcats’ offense has posted so far in 2015.
“We’re going to focus on us,” Berrios said. “We’re going to do our job. It’s gotten us to 3-0, so we’re going to keep on going down that path.”
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