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Don't mark down Saturday's home opener against Bethune-Cookman as an 'automatic W' for UM yet

It used to be a tradition.

Hurricanes fans -- full of confidence and swagger -- would take joy marking down the automatic wins they saw on the schedule. 

You remember those days back in the Big East? Rutgers. Temple. BC. Pitt. Even Syracuse (after Donovan McNabb left). All W's.

Bethune-Cookman probably looked like one of those 'automatic W's' before this season. If Saturday's manhandling in Manhattan didn't rattle your cage, I'm here to warn you again: don't take this Saturday's home opener to the bank just yet. 

After seeing just how young this Hurricanes team is and the scope of problems this defense is facing, nothing over the final 10 games is guaranteed. Not even Duke.

Normally, Hurricanes coaches have tried to talk up FCS (I-AA) schools before their teams went out and dismantled them on Saturday. But Al Golden really doesn't have to do that this week.

You've got last year's game versus the Wildcats as proof. The Canes led the Wildcats just 14-7 at halftime and were up just 21-14 with two minutes to play in the third quarter before finally pulling away, 45-14.

That was with Sean Spence leading the team with eight tackles, Marcus Robinson producing three sacks and Micanor Regis getting to the quarterback for another. That was with Lamar Miller running for 102 yards and two touchdowns and receivers Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter combining for eight catches 149 yards and two touchdowns. None of those guys -- by the way -- will play for Miami Saturday.

"They're very aggressive, very tough, came in here and gave us all we could handle a year ago. We expect much of the same," Golden said. "They outgained us and beat us in time of possession. They run the ball very well, got a trio of guys who rush the ball. Two running backs and a quarterback that do a great job and over 265 yards a game on the ground and over 33 points a game. It's going to be a challenge. They're very aggressive on defense and a very experienced group. But I know our guys are preparing hard."

Before you just shake your head and dismiss Golden's talk as non-sense, ask Colorado about Sacramento State. The Buffaloes, a Pac-12 school, lost at home to the Hornets (1-1) last Saturday 30-28. Sacramento State was 4-7 last year. Bethune-Cookman? They've won eight in a row dating back to last season's 8-3 campaign.

The Wildcats don't just have 11 players on their rosters who were at FBS schools (3 from Rutgers, 2 from Mississippi, 1 from Marshall, Iowa State, UCF, Minnesota and Louisiana Tech) they also maul people up front. Their offensive line from left to right: 6-6, 310; 6-5, 380; 6-4, 270; 6-7, 325; 6-5, 305. Four of those five are upperclassmen. 

That same offensive line paved the way for Bethune-Cookman to become the first FCS school since Georgia Southern in the 1999 national championship game to produce three ball carriers with over 100 yards. 

The Wildcats have also shown they won't just go away when they fall behind. In its opener versus Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman rallied from 21-0 down to win 38-28. Last week at South Carolina State, they scored 27 unanswered points after being down 14-0 after the first quarter.

"If we don't have their attention after last week," Golden said of his team. "... but the reality is they understand that [Bethune-Cookman could beat them]. We can talk about Sacramento State going into Colorado and winning, but the reality of it is we had our own experience with this team a year ago. They'll have our attention."

Truth is, it might take more than just attention to beat the Wildcats.  


> UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said of the five sacks UM allowed last week to Kansas State, three were the responsibility of quarterback Stephen Morris. To drive the point home to his offense that sacks are everyone's responsibility, Fisch said he put an article in the lockers of his players from the NFL preseason where Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was sacked five times and said the sacks 'were on all 11 of us."

"You can't scramble around backwards and you not make a decision," Fisch said of Morris. "Two sack fumbles never should have happened, both of which were in the quarterback's control. Then, you have to get open. One of [the sacks] happened when we couldn't get open down the field. The offensive line didn't play winning football; no one did when you lose the way we did. But those sacks were mostly on us."

> Fisch said he's counting on Rashawn Scott to take his game up a notch this week with receiver Allen Hurns out with a concussion. "He's going to have to have a good game for us -- I don't know how long. But a good game for sure," Fisch said. 

> Fisch said he will continue to monitor the number of touches freshman tailback Duke Johnson gets. "We'll monitor him kind of like you would a rookie in the NFL so in Week 11 or 12 they're season isn't over and you have another eight games," Fisch said. "We'll get him the appropriate amount of touches and will continue to use him in a lot of ways."

> Although UM is averaging 124 yards a game (90th out of 120 NCAA teams), Fisch said "it's hard to evaluate the running game when you break two 60 yarders" at Boston College. In other words, UM might not even be that good. Fisch said UM "has to have a physical presence." The Hurricanes pretty much abandoned the run when they got down big at Kansas State.

> Unlike defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, Fisch hasn't had to scale back his offense. "The key is formations for us," he said. "The concepts are the concepts. Now it's a matter of who do we want to run each concept. Whether we have Duke run an over route this past week rather than Phillip [Dorsett] might be more of a change than making necessarily a decision on `Wow, we found a new play somewhere in the annals.' That doesn't really happen." 

> Golden had high praise for tight end Clive Walford: "The reality is he's doing everything better, is blocking better, practicing better. Knock on wood he'll continue to improve. The tight ends were one of the position groups that played really well Saturday, graded out well, finished and made some plays."

> One might imagine with Bethune-Cookman on tap, Hurricanes coaches would maybe take a sneak peek ahead at the complicated offense Georgia Tech is running. Not so said Golden.

"Honestly for us right now we're just trying to get better today and play well in this game," he said. "There is no preparing for next week right now."

> Golden liked what he saw from freshman defensive tackle Earl Moore and said he's earned more reps. "He's tough," Golden said. "Earl didn't get pushed around, knocked it back."

> Golden said freshman cornerback Tracy Howard, who was beaten one-on-one for a 30-yard gain at Kansas State, couldn't defend that play "any better."

"That's a hard position to play," Golden offered. "It's really Thomas Finnie's first opportunity to play out there too. [Antonio] Crawford earned more reps in the game, will play more this week. I think Tracy, he's a competitor. He prepares. The throw and catch they made over him, I don't know how you can defend any better. The kid made a great catch right on the sideline. I think he learned a lot. We are investing in a lot of guys that are going to be around for a long time. What Deon [Bush] did in the game, he grew up in that game. Maybe Tracy will see it a little better this week. Eddie Johnson saw it really well in that game. That's his first start and then he saw it really well. That's the value they gain from that game because there really is no other value from that other than the experience of being in that environment, that competition."

> Freshman right tackle Ereck Flowers said he graded out at 78 percent in his second straight start. Golden said Seantrel Henderson is closing the gap on him and left tackle Malcolm Bunche.