Miami kicks off their home opener Saturday against the FAMU Rattlers; a match-up that could have came in handy a week ago. Mama always said that when life gets tough play a team in the MEAC. It's the perfect opportunity to find out what true freshman QB Brad Kaaya can and cannot handle. Miami showed flashes against Louisville, but ultimately the now nationally ranked Cards were too much for a Miami team struggling to find their offensive identity.
Playing a team that Miami has beaten by an average of 50 to 6 in its last eight meetings should help with that.
MIami and Florida A&M have played nine times, with UM taking eight of the nine. FAMU's lone victory came in the team's first meeting back in 1979. Since then Miami has separated itself - scoring at least 38 points in their wins.
FAMU comes in after a heartbreaking 22-17 loss last week to Jackson St. After pulling ahead in the final minute of the game, the Rattlers were beat by a Hail Mary on the last play of the game. They are looking to regain the form they had in the 2012 season, where they averaged 359 yards of total offense (nearly 140 yards more a game than last season's average).
Quarterback Damien Flemming (6-3, 210lbs) comes off of a season marred by injury, in which his passing yardage went from about 2,000 to about 1,000. His touchdowns took a dive as well - going from sixteen in 2012 to just six last season. Last week he put up good numbers: going 16 for 27 for 188 yards and 2TDs. Having the ability to run when needed, Flemming rushed for 56 yards last week. Running back Gerald Hearns also had 56 yards rushing last week and was the team's leading pass catcher, so Miami will need to keep track of him coming out of the backfield.
His offensive line has some size to it, with it's starters averaging 6-3, 309lbs. While not as big or as deep as say - FSU, they do have a pair of tackles that stand 6-6, that will make Miami work for what they get. As with all programs like this, depth is the issue; yes they have a few FBS sized lineman but they are still an FCS team.
Flemming also has a big target to throw to Saturday in Casey Glines. Glines is a 6-6, 210lb WR who is coming off of a season where he pulled in 5TDs. He is listed behind Brandon Norwood, but his unique size should be a good test for the Miami secondary.
The FAMU defense gave up 439 yards last week - they gave up two TDS - one being the last second Hail Mary. The defense gave up yardage, but once JSU got into the red zone, they stepped up and held them to field goals. Now Miami is a different animal than Jacksonville State, but you clicked on a preview, so you're getting a preview.
Some names on the defense may stand out for those who follow South Florida high school football. The roster is littered with kids from the Tri-County area including Booker T. Washington's Darren Parker. Parker was teammates with Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson last year and has made the jump to starting corner at Florida A&M.
Miami has a ton to prove this week. While I saw some things to like week one, it was widely thought of as a train wreck - so this week Miami will be playing against expectations as well as FAMU.
Brad Kaaya should be given way more rope this week. Since it's against a team with a big drop off in talent, he will need to not only do well, but amaze. He should have way more time to work so that should help. Things like stepping into his throws and finding the open man will be areas to watch. If you missed the last drive, he did well in the two minute offense, finding Herb Waters six times; and while the game was decided, a QB needs to build a rapport with his WRs. At the end of the year no one will look to FAMU as a defining game, but if Kaaya can get in sync with his receivers, the game will be a success.
Running didn't go too hot last week either. That should change this week (unless the staff blows the play calling again, BRO!) Duke Johnson should see some early carries; wow the crowd, and hopefully call it a night injury free. That will leave Gus Edwards and Joseph Yearby to see a good amount of carries. They were both shut down on their limited attempts, so live action will do both some good. This kind of game usually gets out of hand by the third quarter, so you may see guys a bit deeper down on the depth chart. But maybe, just maybe if you guys are nice - running back Trayone "Chocolate" Gray will get a few touches. He played special teams last week so there's a chance.
Defense looked good last week. I know people still hate the "soft zone", but with all the things that did go wrong last week, I'm baffled that the defense caught so much heat. Again - the face weaker competition so they will need to look dominant. Look for things like: how the young linebackers play, if the new faces on the defensive line continue to impress, and how Chad Thomas looks getting a good amount of playing time. I can't see Denzel playing too far into the game, Miami has talented youth that should be on display for most of the game.
It's what should be a growth game. Staying healthy and getting Brad Kaaya some more experience will be the biggest goals, after winning of course. Last season Miami beat Savannah State seventy something to not a lot; the take away from that game was an injured starting quarterback. This year our QB needs the playing time, but the other essential personnel like Duke and Denzel shouldn't see much time. Coach Golden said there are starting roles on the line, so look for potential changes - tweaks to the offensive line is the first spot that comes to mind.
Miami came out of Louisville healthy, only WR Rashawn Scott is expected to miss this weeks game. We will pass along any news when it is released.
Where to Watch and listen:
Watch Espn/ ESPN3 (internet)
SOTU will have have you covered before, during, and post game as well.