University of Miami coach Randy Shannon told reporters in his press conference Tuesday, the rivalry between the Canes and Gators no longer exists the way it used to because the teams don't face each other on a yearly basis anymore. Annual rivalry or not, nobody can deny emotions will be running high for the Canes when they visit the Swamp Saturday night -- even if linebackers Romeo Davis and Glenn Cook are the only guys on the team who actually played against Florida in the 2004 Peach Bowl.
When Florida receiver Louis Murphy made his comments earlier this week about Miami not being the Real U, his quote was instantly posted throughout the team's locker room Sunday.
Tuesday, UM cornerback Bruce Johnson looked like he was boiling inside when I asked him about Murphy, telling me he's sweeping it under the rug until Saturday night. Safety Anthony Reddick just smirked, saying the team will handle it "between the white lines." Offensive tackle Jason Fox responded with some old school Canes bravado I haven't seen or heard in years.
"They can talk whatever they want, Fox said. "They can try to fuel the media and try to get whatever they're trying to do. But they're going to look pretty dumb when we come out and stick it to them. But I'm not going to say anything more than that."
Words of course only go so far. What's really fueling Miami this week are two things -- the urge to prove themselves in the eyes of the nation and the suffering of one of its senior leaders, defensive end Eric Moncur, whose mother died after a long battle with cancer Sunday. Johnson, Moncur's roommate, said Moncur's mother's death and his willingness to play this week in spite of his emotional pains has really hit home with his teammates and is motivating them a lot.
Johnson said Moncur would visit his mother everyday in the hospital after practice and he could tell it was wearing on him. "I feel like we're going to feed off his energy on Saturday. I mean, I'm playing to help The U and everything, but I'm also playing for Eric too. For him to come out and still practice and do what he's doing after what he's been through. He doesn't want to let us down and we don't want to let him down. We're playing for Eric too. We're going to give it all we got."
Linebacker Glenn Cook told me many of the current players have received calls this week from former players including Kenny Phillips and Jon Beason to talk to them about the importance of beating Florida. "It's intense," Cook said of his memories playing Florida. "It's probably the most intense game we've played, a lot of trash talking. We just don't want to lose Florida because they say things the whole time were out there. That's how its going to be this Saturday."
> Shannon talked during his ACC teleconference Wednesday about his defense focusing on stopping Florida's running game and not making the game so much about stopping Heisman winner Tim Tebow. Shannon said Tuesday what makes Florida's offense so successful is when the running game is working and Tebow can run the playaction. Basically, Shannon said he's not worried about Tebow getting his -- it's the other guys. The numbers certainly don't lie. Last year, in Florida's four losses (Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Michigan), Tebow still was affective running the football, averaging 46 yards on the ground (not that far off from what he did in UF's wins when he averaged 79 on the ground). As a team, when Florida ran the ball well, they blew teams out. In UF's nine wins, they averaged 222 yards rushing. In their losses? 151.
> New defensive coordinator Bill Young could ultimately be the star of Saturday's game.
If he can devise a way for UM to contain the likes of Tebow, Percy Harvin and Chris Rainey from turning broken plays into big plays, Miami can be successful. Florida's spread offense, though, will make open field tackling the most important aspect of the game. Cook said Young has been preaching turnovers all week and feels giving Tebow different looks (zone blitzes, etc.) could produce that. Johnson said Tuesday the defense began working on new fronts and it was being successful against the scout team. "We're really trying to work on [turnovers] because its going to be a big key in the game, Cook said. "Tebow is still young. He's still getting comfortable as a quarterback. So, we got to give him different looks. That will make him read a little bit more and keep him in the pocket."
> Offensively, several players told me UM has spent a lot of time this week "going silent" to simulate the fact they likely will not be able to hear a peep in the Swamp. Offensively, I expect Miami to run the ball a ton with Graig Cooper and Javarris James and take as much pressure off Marve as possible.
> UM will definitely get a boost from having Allen Bailey and Moncur back in the rotation this week at defensive end. But I wonder how effective both can honestly be. Shannon told reporters they would both get between 20-25 snaps. Fans should realize both still aren't at 100 percent. Moncur obviously will wear his emotions on his sleeve. Bailey told me he'll likely have to wear a brace on his chest to protect his torn pectoral muscle at least half of the season. Bailey said he doesn't feel any more pain in the muscle, but the brace does restrict him some. Expect Miami's defensive line starters this week to be Steven Wesley (who played well against Charleston Southern), Adewale Ojomo and Antonio Dixon and Marcus Forston. Bailey said that's who was going with the first team Tuesday.
> It's amazing to me how much of a leader Xavier Shannon has become on this team, especially so quickly, since transferring in from FIU last spring. Yesterday, e talked at length about his experiences playing on the road and how he's trying to keep his teammates calm heading into The Swamp. He sounded so much like his father it was amazing. Even if Randy never says it, he's got to be proud how much Xavier helps this team.
> I think everyone laughed out loud yesterday when quarterback Robert Marve told reporters he couldn't wait to get "the crap" knocked out of him so it would calm him down. Marve, who usually sounds rehearsed when he talks with us, was about as human as ever yesterday (JUST LISTEN). He obviously doesn't want to get the crap knocked out of him (although I'm sure the Gators would love to). Marve was just so excited yesterday, you can tell he's salivating at the mouth to play this week.
As for those worried about his first start coming in The Swamp, check out some of the comments from his teammates, including Jones below who said Marve came in with the right attitude from day one.
> Another moment I laughed out loud yesterday was listening to Jones talk about some of his funnier experiences in hostile environments. The most hostile place Jones said he's been
in was Clemson where he says "the ground shook." Jones said fans were taunting former assistant Don Soldinger, calling him a Potty Mouth after Soldinger cussed out a UM player. At Virginia Tech, Jones said fans taunted players by telling them would all be in jail by morning. At Oklahoma last year, fans pulled the same stunt but actually brought bars with them to drive their point further. Jones said its always good to embrace the wild atmosphere in games like the one UM will face Saturday. "It's always better to embrace it than to run away from it. You have to use it to drive you." God knows the Gators will come up something creative for the Canes this week.
> Jones said playing in a loud environment really won't affect the receivers. He said most of the time he can't hear the snap count anyway and just goes when the ball is snapped. "You just have to block everything out and focus on the task at hand. Whether its quiet or loud, coaches expect you to make that catch. You got to get the job done."
> I'll be back later tonight with if there's any news from this afternoon's practice.