BOONE, N.C. (CBSMiami) — The University of Miami heads to Boone, North Carolina for their first road game of the year against the Mountaineers of Appalachian State.
It’s the first time a power five team has played at Kidd Brewer Stadium, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Usually the Mountaineers play in front of a capacity of 23,150, but the Canes are the biggest thing to ever hit Boone and a record crowd of over 30,000 is expected.
There will be more people in the stadium than the 17,177 that actually call Boone home.
In getting ready for a crowd that will be in full voice, Head Coach Mark Richt said, “It’s like any week, regardless of where you’re going, you have to get ready. First time non-verbal cadence. First time crowd noise against us – that’s new. We’ve practiced it a lot – all spring, all fall. But we haven’t really had the reality of the noise. We’ve piped it in all week and made it as loud as we can and do our best to simulate the crowd noise we’ll have. The goal is to make it louder than we can hear each other. That’s going to be very important.”
Brad Kaaya is coming off a subpar game for him against FAU and he’ll have to be sharp against an undersized but active and confident defense. This is Kaaya’s 28th game. In 19 previous games he has thrown for 200 yards or more. Despite Kaaya not looking comfortable last week, Richt isn’t concerned.
“Brad has been through it,” he said. “I’m not worried one bit about how Brad is going to react to anything that might come up. I listened to him in the post-game press conference – the guy was awesome. He didn’t put the blame on anybody; he said he needed to get better. He understands, as a quarterback, there’s a lot more going on than just dropping back and throwing the football. Part of the reason our running game is good is because he’s getting us in the right plays at the line of scrimmage, without having to do this, look to the side, let them check while you’re checking, and all that. He knows what to do. He gets us in the right spot. He knows he’s managing the game more than just dropping back and slinging the ball. He also knows that if we execute well, we’re doing the right things. I think he’ll do fine.”
The key for Miami might be their defense.
Appalachian State was 6th in the nation last year running the ball at 271 yards per game. Quarterback Taylor Lamb, making his 26th straight start, is an excellent field general. Running back Marcus Cox has six career 3 touchdown games and 24 career 100-yard games.
Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Miami’s number one priority is to stop the run.
“Well it’s the best thing they do, and they were one of the best in the country at it a year ago,” said Diaz. “They really know what they’re doing. They doctor it up a million different ways with formations and motions and heavy alignments and unbalanced alignments, and so on and so forth, so that is a massive challenge for our defense. As the year unfolds, it might be one of the better running attacks we go against all season.”
The Canes are allowing just 34 yards a game on the ground primarily because they have a nation-leading 28 tackles for losses. So getting across the line of scrimmage and playing physical will be of paramount importance said Diaz.
“Well there’s no doubt that that shows up on tape. Their offensive linemen finish blocks, they try to grind people into the ground. First play of the season they got called for a 15-yard penalty because they took Tennessee’s defensive tackle and knocked him into literally the sideline, the wall of the stadium. So that made a statement early on of what type of team they have — they’re a hard-nosed, blue collar football team. They’re talking about all week trying to get after us. Our guys are fully aware of what they do in their run game.”
It’s the first meeting between Miami and Appalachian State. The Mountaineers were a late add to the schedule because another program canceled.
App State is 18-3 in their last 21 games. They have not trailed in regulation this season.