The Miami Hurricanes and Florida International Panthers play in Marlins Park this Saturday Nov. 23. Many outside of the South Florida area may see this game and just think two local schools are playing a football game in a baseball stadium. That’s pretty cool.
It is, however, much, much more than just a football game in a baseball stadium. Marlins Park stands on the same hallowed grounds where the Hurricanes established an NCAA record of 58 straight wins at home, where they won six Orange Bowls, where Miami won their first national championship in 1983 and much more.
The difference in this matchup is that Miami will be the road team as FIU hosts the matchup. But to sophomore corner Al Blades Jr., son of former Miami Hurricane great Al Blades, this game is about those that came before him and protecting their house.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a special moment, not just for us, but for all the players of the past. It’s obviously where the OB [Orange Bowl] was ” Blades Jr. said after practice Tuesday. “It’s going to be a big moment so we got to go in there and protect it like it’s our home because it is our home. It was always our home, so we got to go out there and play like it.”
Al Blades Jr. on playing on the old Orange Bowl grounds. Says Miami needs to protect it like it’s their home pic.twitter.com/tPF31uKSWN— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) November 19, 2019
The reality is that this isn't the Orange Bowl and Marlins Park certainly isn't the perfect venue. Complaints have been made by fans and basically anybody that has seen videos of the field that the end zones abruptly meet a wall that certainly causes some concern.
“Where I grew up, man, we played anywhere,” sophomore wide receiver Dee Wiggins said. “Street football, whatever. We played on rocks, all types of stuff...if it’s there and we hit it we gotta get up and keep it moving.”
Wiggins is enjoying a streak of games in which he has caught seven passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns, the bets streak of his Miami Hurricanes career. It was emotional for the 6’3 receiver to catch his first career touchdown pass against Florida State, a 56-yarder, because of all the work he’s put in since he started playing football at five-years old.
“All the things I done been through, all the hard work I put in —late nights, early mornings. All my dreams came true in the big game,” Wiggins said.
Now, he has an opportunity to continue to produce in a cross-town matchup and against his cousin Tony Gaiter IV and former teammates.
Gaiter IV is second on the team in both receptions (34) and receiving yards (443) and also has two touchdowns on the year. In FIU’s last game, a 37-7 loss to rival FAU, Gaiter caught seven passes for 94 yards.
FIU has roughly 40 players from the tri-county area, so Wiggins surely isn’t going to be the only one that knows people in this game, but on the field it will be strictly business.
“When we’re on the field they’re just another opponent. After the game we can clap hands and everything, but when we’re on the field we don't know each other,” Wiggins said.