By Alex Donno

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MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – The fourteenth ranked (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Miami Hurricanes have waited three weeks to finally take the field again. They’ll welcome the (3-0) Toledo Rockets of the MAC Conference to Hard Rock Stadium.

After cancelling a September 9th meeting with Arkansas State and postponing their September 16th clash with Florida State due to Hurricane Irma, Miami has not played a game since opening their season with a 41-13 win over Bethune-Cookman on September 2nd.

“There’s no doubt,” said head coach Mark Richt on Wednesday, when asked if his team was anxious to play again. They’d missed ten full practice days before setting up for the week at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex in Orlando.

Richt is impressed with the way his team handled the tough situations of hurricane prep, recovery, and displacement.

“I’ve been impressed with their attitude, their focus, their effort,” Richt said.

The effort will need to be sharp against a well seasoned Toledo squad that’s already jumped out to a 3-0 record. Last week the Rockets put up 54 points in a thrilling comeback win, 54-51, over Tulsa.

Toledo senior quarterback Logan Woodside tossed a school record-tying six touchdown passes, while throwing for 458 yards. Woodside led all FBS quarterbacks with 45 touchdown passes a season ago. He’s thrown eight so far in 2017.

“He’s the kind of guy that, if you pressure him, the ball is going to come out quick to the right guy,” Richt said of Woodside.

Miami will look to bring plenty of that pressure. The Hurricanes only managed one sack and seven tackles for a loss against Bethune-Cookman. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski has said he expects his defensive front to provide ten tackles for loss and three sacks, at least, in every game.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said, “we really played very poorly on defense” in the Bethune-Cookman game.

If Miami can slow the Rockets down, it will start with pressure from the defensive front. Senior defensive end Chad Thomas had eleven tackles for a loss last season with four and a half sacks. Sophomore end Joe Jackson had seven and a half sacks in 2016 as a true freshman.

Starting cornerbacks Dee Delaney (Senior, grad transfer) and Michael Jackson (Junior) could have their work cut out for them with Toledo’s twelfth ranked passing attack. Delaney was picked on a bit in the first half of the Bethune game, but finished strong in the second.

Offensively, Miami could look to pound the football with running backs (Junior) Mark Walton and (Sophomore) Travis Homer. Toledo’s defense ranks 114th in the country in stopping the run, giving up 220 rushing yards per game. This is an area Miami can exploit. Walton rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Bethune-Cookman game, while Homer added 108 yards on eleven carries.

Plus, establishing ground control will bleed more time off the clock and keep Toledo’s gifted quarterback off the field.

For Miami’s passing game, expect junior quarterback Malik Rosier to continue throwing downfield to Darrell Langham, who hauled in three catches for 65 yards in the opener. Rosier will also look for the crafty senior Braxton Berrios and senior tight end Christopher Herndon. Herndon is expected to be a major weapon this year, but caught just one pass for ten yards in the opener.

Sophomore wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, who led the team with 934 receiving yards last season (and broke Michael Irvin’s 31 year old freshman receiving record) is questionable for this game with a hamstring issue. He’s yet to make his 2017 season debut.

Kickoff for Miami-Toledo is set for 3:30 PM on Saturday, September 23rd from Hard Rock Stadium. You can hear the game on Miami Sportsradio 560 WQAM.


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