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UM notes: Feliciano hurt in celebration; Spence starts, finishes in middle; big day for freshmen

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Miami Hurricanes suffered a handful of bumps and bruises in Saturday's 24-7 victory over 20th-ranked Georgia Tech. Some were football related. One was celebration related.

Starting right tackle Jonathan Feliciano was involved in the latter.

After Lamar Miller scored on a 14-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left in the first half to give UM a 20-7 lead, the redshirt freshman hurt himself during the celebration in the end zone. Feliciano limped as he was helped off the field by trainers. Feliciano was replaced by redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche, who saw his first action since the Bethune-Cookman game on Oct. 1. Feliciano returned to the UM sideline in the second half on crutches and had a walking boot on his left foot.

"I can tell you the x-ray was negative," UM coach Al Golden said afterward. "What does that mean? I don't know."

Also hurt for the Canes: starting cornerback Brandon McGee. He collided with receiver Embry Peeples on a 16-yard reception with about 10 minutes left in the first half and didn't return. It appeared to be a right arm injury.

Defensive end Marcus Robinson, linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive tackle Adewale Ojomo also left with injuries. Ojomo and Robinson returned. Perryman didn't, but said afterward he was "OK." The Hurricanes (4-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have a short week to get healthy. They host Virginia (4-3, 1-2 ACC) Thursday night.

"I'm concerned about all of them," Golden said referring to McGee and Feliciano. "There's a couple others banged up, limping around. We're not going to do too much [this week]. We got to get rested up."


Linebacker Sean Spence, UM's leading tackler, has played middle linebacker at times throughout his career. But Saturday was the first time he played there from start to finish -- something defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio asked him to do to help slow down Georgia Tech's vaunted triple option rushing attack. UM held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 134 yards rushing.

"Playing in the middle was something I played in training camp, something we knew coming into this game I was going to do," said Spence, who finished with a team-high 10 tackles. "I just fit right in."

Perryman said Spence's job was to protect against the dive, while he and Jimmy Gaines, who normally starts in the middle, worried about the pitch.

"He did a great job. He's Mr. Know-It-All, Mr. Smart Guy," Perryman said. "Sean's job is just to protect the guys. Today he did a great job with it. Outside, me and Jimmy Gaines pretty much had that. Sean called things out, gave us the heads up."

Golden said it's likely Spence will go back to his weakside spot and this was a one-game experiment. He will continue to play spot duty in the middle.

> Golden said the key for UM's run defense success was the play of the defensive ends, who remained poised and disciplined. 

"We had 25 plays in that North Carolina game where everybody was doing what they had to do," Golden said. "I guarantee there was twice as many today."


All in all, it was a great day for UM freshmen on defense.

With Spence in the middle, Perryman made his first career start and finished second on the team with seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a three tackles for loss. "Denzel gave us some evidence today he deserves to play more," Golden said.

Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, making his fourth career start, had two tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Olsen Pierre, who played sparingly in his first five games, made two tackles in the most action he had seen all year at defensive tackle. Cornerback Thomas Finnie also saw a lot of action at cornerback once McGee went down. Finnie had a tackle.

"Before the game, me and Chick talked like 'Let's go out there and play ball," Perryman said. "Coach D [defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio] said at the beginning of the week he needed the freshmen to play like juniors. We went out there and dominated."


Running back Mike James, who forced the fumble on the punt that JoJo Nicolas recovered for UM's second touchdown, didn't have a whole lot of experience on the Canes' punt coverage team. It was actually his first tackle on punt coverage in just his second game (Maryland was the other) on the unit.

"I just saw him bobbling the ball and hit him in the ribs," James said.

> Olivier Vernon, back from his six-game NCAA mandated suspension for accepting gifts from former booster Nevin Shapiro, said he got in for about 20 snaps Saturday. He finished with one tackle.

> Punter Dalton Botts, who nearly lost his job this week after his worst performance of the season at North Carolina, responded Saturday with his second-best game of the season. He had four punts for a 46.5 yard average including a long of 58.

"It was a great feeling to get back in the game," Vernon said. "I didn't have to go against Brandon Washington so it was nice."

> After saying earlier this week he wanted to see more from his left tackle, Golden praised the play of Washington after the game.

"I thought B-Wash's play on the 4th-and-1 on the pitch in the fourth quarter where he chased that guy out and made the block, that's what we're trying to get from him," Golden said. "He played better this week and it carried over into the game. I know I'm excited about him and excited about the way he played today."