Joel Rodriguez, among the friendliest and brightest players to ever don a Hurricanes jersey, knows all about the University of Miami-Florida State rivalry.
Rodriguez, 33, who grew up in Miami, graduated from Monsignor Pace and returned to the Hurricanes family this season as the director of player development, was a UM center from 2000 through 2004 -- part of an era that had UM defeating FSU six consecutive times (including 2003, when the Canes beat the 'Noles at Tallahassee during the regular season and in the Orange Bowl in the postseason).
Rodriguez has the distinction of never having lost to Florida State or Florida during his career. "That was a great run,'' he said. "I'm very, very lucky.''
Rodriguez backed up Brett Romberg during the 2001 national championship season as a redshirt freshman, the year then-No. 2 Miami beat FSU 49-27 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
In 2002 the Canes beat FSU 28-27; in 2003, 22-14 on the road and 16-14 in the Orange Bowl; in 2004, 16-10 in overtime the home opener.
"That was by far my favorite Florida State game,'' Rodriguez said of the 2004 overtime game. "Art Kehoe -- that look in his eye,'' he said of his offensive line coach. "I've never been around a coach who got his players to play harder or longer than Art Kehoe. To this day, I'd run through a brick wall for him.
"In 2004, the play we called where Frankie [Gore] scored in overtime, was designed just to get Frank in the middle of the field so the ball could be downed and we could get a field goal. The first play got us on the left hash and that's a pretty sharp angle for a kicker. We called a stretch play to the right assuming Frank would get tackled in the middle of the field for a couple yards gain -- but obviously we scored [on an 18-yard run].
"It was the exact same play that Frank scored on to beat Florida in the '03 game for the game-winning touchdown.''
Rodriguez said he "can't remember ever hearing the crowd in the huddle" because he was "so blacked out and focused listening to the guys." He said he considers former FSU quarterback Chris Rix "the MVP of every Miami-Florida State game during those years. He had a snap on third down that hit him in the thigh. Any other player in the country would have caught that snap. He found ways to win games for us and I'm very appreciative.''
Rodriguez was the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for Fordham University in New York before returning to Miami. Now he describes his responsibilities as being "a member of the support staff that glues the players and coaching staff to all the other parts that touch the players' lives. It's being a liaison between the coaching staff and the equipment room, the coaching staff and community relations or campus affairs. and I spearhead initiatives that would help our players become better people, and in turn, better players.
"This place is different now in a lot of ways -- obviously the new buildings, new facilities, a lot of new faces, new coaching staff. But the principles of the team how we're supposed to win never change."
Rodriguez is married to Amanda, a Johnson & Wales Rhode Island graduate, and has an 11-year-old daughter. He said he has aspirations to coach one day, "and if the opportunity ever comes up I obviously would be humbled. But the best way [to get there] is to master and exceed the expectations of the role I'm in right now."
Would have liked to seen this unedited, but we'll take what we can get. Thanks to HurricaneSports.com.
*** Have you exhaled yet?
*** Did UM really almost lose that game?
*** How could the defense be so dominant the first three quarters, with spot-on tackling, an impressive third-and-8 sack by Trent Harris that forced Nebraska to punt, a crucial sack by cornerback Artie Burns late in the second quarter at the UM 1-yard line, another interception by Deon Bush to close the third quarter and put UM at the Nebraska 23 (which was ultimately squandered when Brad Kaaya threw his first pick of the season from the Nebraska 8), and force the Cornhuskers to punt six times (two other drives were ended by the picks) and come up with only 10 points -- then absolutely fall apart in an eight-minute span that saw the Huskers score 23 points?
*** Al Golden's 15-yard sideline penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct following Nebraska's "roughing the snapper" (punter?) penalty in the fourth quarter was too weird (and not prudent) -- especially after UM's sideline bench was warned in the first quarter and then actually was penalized and lost five yards in the third quarter (warning not heeded). Golden talked about some of the other penalties in his post-game press conference, but he refused to talk about his program's "bench control" when it was brought up by a reporter.
"I'm not discussing bench control,'' Golden said, shaking his head and furrowing his brow. "I mean, Come on. We haven't had bench-control issues at all in my tenure here.''
That is, until last night.
*** UM will miss hard-hitting, intense-playing safeties Jamal Carter and senior star Deon Bush after they were thrown out of the game in the final quarter for targeting.
*****************READ THIS BY NCAA.ORG FOR MORE ON TARGETING
Last Updated - Oct 23, 2013
A new football rule going into effect requires that players who target and contact defenseless opponents above the shoulders will be ejected. The change increases the on-field penalty for targeting by adding the automatic ejection to the existing 15-yard penalty.
The rule, passed by the Football Rules Committee in February and approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel in March, addresses the committee’s concern about player safety by taking more measures to remove targeting, or above the shoulder hits on defenseless players, out of the game.
The rule in football means that discipline for players flagged for violations will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.
In an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called on the field, the ejection portion of the penalty will be reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field.
Additionally, a post-game conference review remains part of the rule, and conferences retain their ability to add to a sanction.
The action by the committee continues a progression to address dangerous contact through its rules. Targeting, initially approved by the committee as a separate foul in 2008, has been generally successful in terms of its application by officials, which made the committee feel comfortable in adding to the penalty.
*** If Jermaine Grace(shoulder) has a problem with stingers, that is not good. I've seen too many players over the years endure seemingly endless pain with them, only to miss a lot of playing time before having to resort to surgery. Jermaine Grace is one UM lb you don't want to lose. He's a play-maker who has a bright future. The Canes already lost Darrion Owens last week to a season-ending knee injury. Thankfully, Juwon Young returned to action Saturday. Grace came out of the game for good at 9:28 of the third quarter, and he looked really disoriented. (Actually, hope that had nothing to do with any other type of injury). Look for Marques Gayot to get more playing time in that case.
***Back to penalties: Are you kidding me? Nebraska owned the penalty situation in the first half, but UM made the Huskers look like amateurs by the end of the game. The Canes ended with 13 penalties for 114 yards. Epic fail.
In the third quarter, UM was flagged three times (only two counted because an illegal formation was declined), including a holding call by Sunny Odogwu that negated a Mark Walton touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, UM was flagged six times for 65 yards. Walton had another touchdown negated with a holding call by Standish Dobard.
*** The good includes Joe Yearby, who ran for 125 yards and a touchdown for a 7.4-yard-per-carry average. He's looking mighty good.
***WR Rashawn Scott, please stay healthy. After bad injuries and bad behavior marred much of his career, he has blossomed in his fifth-year senior season. Against Nebraska he gained 151 yards on nine catches.
*** Some other receivers came out of the woodwork, including Tyre Brady, who had his first career catches (2) and first touchdown. Tight end Chris Herndon had three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. Herb Waters continued his progress with four catches for 82 yards. David Njoku got into the action with two catches for 23 yards. And former four-star recruit Lawrence Cager had his first collegiate catches (2) for 16 yards. In all, nine players caught passes. Very good.
*** Brad Kaaya continues his journey to stardom, with a career-high 379 yards and two touchdowns, but his first interception of the season, which Golden blamed on himself for the play-calling. But no doubt the Hurricanes need to improve in the red zone, only scoring two touchdowns (and five field goals) from the red zone against Nebraska.
*** Cornerback Corn Elder is a beast and has a great name. Elder saved the day and the game with his pick in overtime. He is third in the country in passes defended, 12th in punt returns, second in punt returns for touchdowns, 10th in fumbles recovered.
*** Michael Badgley's kicks are getting stronger -- and he loves pressure, which is a good thing. Badgley leads the country in field goals per game and is 10th nationally in scoring. He has made 9 of 10 field-goal attempts.
In closing, I do think the Canes will get better from here, and will use their second-half deficiencies to drive them harder this open week as they prepare for that crazy October, starting with a Thursday-night ESPN game Oct. 1 at Cincinnati.
Let's just hope for their sake that the injury situation is not as bleak as it seems, and that receiver Stacy Coley (looks like he reinjured his hamstring/knee area) isn't out for long, and Jermaine Grace avoids contact this week -- and whomever else is banged up gets healed.
Coach AL Golden spoke on the ACC Teleconference this morning, and the first question involved the pre-winter blast of extremely cold weather forecast for Pittsburgh. It's snowing there today, I'm told, and it will be clear for the game with temperatures that start at about 31 and head into the high teens at night. The sun will set early into the game, and any wind converging with the three rivers toward the open end of the stadium will undoubtedly make it brutally cold conditions for both teams, but especially daunting, obviouslly, for the Hurricanes.
Here's Golden's transcription:
COACH GOLDEN: We're in the middle of our preparation, getting ready to go to Pittsburgh, first time seeing them as a coastal opponent. Great challenge for us, great opportunity. With that I'll open it up to any questions that you have.
Q. Obviously major weather issues on the East Coast today. I know it's 48 hours before you play. I know the Miami Dolphins were famous for not performing well in cold weather. Have you seen your team in adverse weather conditions before? Probably going to be cold Friday. Is that a concern going up there in these conditions?
COACH GOLDEN: I think more than a concern, I think it's a challenge. It's a challenge to the way we want to operate. It's a challenge to our
mindset. I don't think there's any question. It's a challenge to everything that we want to be as a football program. We want to be a team that's process-oriented. We want to be a team that focuses on two-acres and a ball and blocks out everything externally. In this case the weather is one of those external challenges. It's going to be a great challenge to our team's mindset, mentality and their commitment to each other for four hours on Friday.
Q. I know the passing game is very important to you guys. If it's tough conditions like that, how big an adjustment do you have to make offensively to perform?
COACH GOLDEN: Well, again, I think we all know it's going to be tough conditions. It's going to be tough conditions for both sides. We just cannot allow any excuses to come into the game. We got to make sure we're throwing the ball well. We got to make sure we're catching the ball well. We have to protect the ball when we're running it. I don't think there's any question that we cannot allow an excuse mentality to creep in here because at the end of the day it's going to come down to protecting the ball well and finding a running game against obviously the great Pitt defensive front and connecting on the passes that you throw. We can't have a lot of incomplete balls because it's cold, windy, whatever the case may be.
We know there's going to be elements that are going to be a challenge on Friday. We have to accept the challenge and execute regardless.
Q. You started out 7-0, ranked 7. Things haven't gone well since then. Has it been a product of better competition or things you're not doing now that you were doing earlier?
COACH GOLDEN: Again, it's always a function of us. Some of the things perhaps we were doing better earlier in the year, like taking the ball away, playing better red zone defense. Certainly we did that better against Virginia this past week. Hopefully we'll be able to continue to do those things. It can't be about the opponent ever. It's got to be about the things that we're doing and what we're not doing. We haven't converted as well as we needed to on offense or third down. That's really hurt our time of possession and left our defense out there. All three units are responsible. We have to continue to play better. Hopefully we'll play better than we played last week, as well.
Q. Last week there was talk about Dorsett possibly playing. Are you still holding out hope he'll be able to play Friday?
COACH GOLDEN: I still am holding out hope. Can I say right now definitively? I can't. I wish I could. He'll be practicing today. I think the biggest thing is that he feels comfortable and confident. If we see that today, we'll move forward. Ultimately it will be the young man's decision because medically he's cleared.
Q. Their guy Aaron Donald is one of the best. Can you talk about the problem he presents.
COACH GOLDEN: Again, when you see players like this, you admire them. Obviously you have to deal with them on game day, which you have to find ways to do that. You just admire players like this because he's just not a talented kid, he's a skilled kid. He's a young man that knows how to play double-teams really well and he plays with a motor, of course. They move him around to get him in the right position to rush the passer. He's got excellent pass-rush skills, as well. Again, I think this young man has really worked hard at his craft. I think that's the thing I admire about him. He's taken his talent and cultivated it into skill. The result is a heck of a football player, one that's going to be a great challenge for our offensive line.
Q. Tell me about your guys. Make a case for a couple of your guys.
COACH GOLDEN: Again, you always hear about who you leave out. I think I'm on record as saying that [Brandon]Linder is playing at a really, really high level right now. I'll leave it at that. The rest of it, you guys have to sort it out and evaluate it. I'm record on that one, so I stand behind that one. I think Brandon Linder is playing an elite level of football right now at offensive line.
Q. I know you play Friday, your fate in the Coastal Division will be up in the air. If you win the game, you still have a chance. I guess you become a UNC and Virginia fan on Saturday.
COACH GOLDEN: Again, we're just trying to prepare and execute today and get better tomorrow, obviously play well against Pitt. The rest of it will take care of itself, will sort itself out. It's really important for us to play well this week and try to get win number nine, then we'll move forward as a program. If we have the good fortune on Saturday, we'll go forward from there. For us to speculate on any of that is just premature. It's really about playing better this week than we did last week and getting ready for a Pitt team on the road.
Q. If Duke wins, that game is at noon, are you worried your kids might drop off a little bit, put their heads down a little bit because they can't win the coastal?
COACH GOLDEN: Duke's game is Saturday.
Q. I apologize.
COACH GOLDEN: We'll be there Friday, too. You're good. I thought I was going to play a doubleheader (laughter).
The Hurricanes just released their newest depth chart for the USF game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Sun Life Stadium -- the final home game of the season, which will honor the seniors.
It's too bad some of the underclassmen haven't been disciplined enough, or done the right things, to help make it a more pleasant experience for the few seniors.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Eddie Johnson's status "is yet to be determined,'' UM coach Al Golden said Sunday evening. Eddie Johnson, a former starter and second-leading tackler on defense, wasn't allowed to make the trip because of something football-related, the coach said. Whether they say the word "suspended'' or not, if you did something wrong and you aren't allowed to travel and you're one of the most productive players on defense, you're suspended.
Starting safety Deon Bush, a freshman with stingers that usually affect the neck/shoulder area, is not on the depth chart and "doubtful'' for USF, according to Golden, who said that nonetheless he was still "hopeful'' that Deon could return. Kacy Rodgers and A.J. Highsmith are listed as the starting safeties.
Denzel Perryman is expected to practice at some point this week.
The new depth chart has sophomore Thurston Armbrister as a starting outside linebacker, Jimmy Gaines in the middle and Gionni Paul OR Denzel on the outside.
Davon Johnson now joins Phillip Dorsett and Allen Hurns as a starting receiver, with walk-on redshirt freshman Garrett Kidd as Johnson's backup.
And Curtis Porter, who made his first start of the season at Virginia, is now a first-team defensive tackle, along with Olsen Pierre.
So, as of Thursday, we still don't have a clear picture -- or even fuzzy one -- of who the starting quarterback will be for the Hurricanes.
I asked Coach Al Golden, "Are you hoping to wait until after the second scrimmage to decide the starter at quarterback?"
Golden: "Sure. Yeah. Again, we’ve had five practices now and you look at the stats, you look at the completion percentages, you look at the touchdowns, you look at all that and it’s like a dead heat right now. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved before that time."
Is that good?
Golden: "Yeah, it’s good. If they’re going to keep competing that’s great. I think that’s awesome. Neither one is backing down and the team is rallying around both of them. So all those things are important right now.''
Since we don't see the qbs competing against each other in practice I'm not sure how good it really is. Are they both doing great? Are they both so-so? Or not-so-great?
So if you were the coach, and the two were truly in a dead heat after the second scrimmage (Aug. 22), would you
1. Wait to make your decision and announcement until closer to the Sept. 5 opener?
2. Make your decision and stick to it.
And if you had to make the decision right now, knowing both are in a "dead heat,'' who would you pick and why? Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris.
I have my thoughts but am a bit hesitant to throw it out there (I am not a columnist, though the lines sure are blurred these days with this new media stuff).
What do you guys think?
> Blake Ayles is injured and sat out again Thursday. For the record, Coach Golden said the reason he came out of practice earlier this week was not heat-related.
"Blake is dealing with a little injury right now,'' Golden said. "Hopefully it will be day to day with him. But he’s good on his assignments. Obviously at his age, from a technical standpoint, he’s solid so he’ll get back soon."
> Former defensive lineman Dyron Dye has been moved to tight end.
In closing, FAU has called a press conference for 4 p.m. Word is that Howard Schnellenberger will announce he is retiring after this season. I have a soft spot for Howard. How can you not? The man brought UM its first national title. I know he bolted, but what a great figure and representative for UM. Let's face it, he might be the FAU coach, but he'll always be a Hurricane.