The Orange Bowl was the home of most of the best moments in Miami Hurricanes football history. The Miami Orange Bowl, which opened in 1937, was the home of the Miami Dolphins and the Orange Bowl game, but it will always be known as the home of the Miami Hurricanes. The “OB” saw so many legendary Hurricane moments, including the Canes first and second national championships, an NCAA record 58-game home winning streak, Wide Right II and III, and so much more. The Canes may play at Hard Rock Stadium now, but their heart and soul will always belong with the Orange Bowl. Miami will get the closest it has gotten to the Orange Bowl since 2007 on Saturday night, when they take on crosstown rival FIU at Marlins Park, which sits on the sight of the demolished “OB.”
The Canes sent off the fabled stadium with a whimper, as they got blasted by Virginia 48-0 in the OB’s last game in 2007. While Miami can’t go back in time, they can certainly right some of the wrongs of that dreary November evening.
This game is a home* game for the Panthers, who enter Saturday with a record of 5-5, as well as a 3-4 record in Conference USA play. The Panthers and Canes last met a season ago, when Miami came away with a 31-17 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. FIU’s last game came against FAU in Week 11, where they got drubbed by their rival, 37-7.
Meanwhile, the Canes enter Saturday’s game with a lot of positive momentum. Miami, after starting the season 3-4, have won three games in a row, and are playing by far the best football they’ve played all season. The Canes soundly defeated Louisville 52-27 in their last game, which was back in Week 11 before their bye last weekend.
The Canes are clicking on all cylinders, and QB Jarren Williams has spearheaded this winning streak for UM. First, Williams came off the bench against Pitt to lead a game-winning drive and help the Canes win 16-12 in Week 9. Then, Williams threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns in a convincing 27-10 win over archrival FSU. Williams progression certainly continued into next week, as he went 15-22 for 253 yards and a school record six touchdowns against Louisville. On the season, Williams has completed 67% of his passes for 1,702 yards and 16 touchdowns. Additionally, the redshirt-freshman has only thrown three interceptions this season, all of which came in the first quarter against Virginia Tech.
Miami seems to have found its quarterback, but Williams might not need to be the focal point on Saturday night. FIU’s rushing defense has proven to be porous this year, as they rank 114th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing defense. The Panthers have allowed a staggering 208.6 rushing yards per game this season, which means RB’s Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris could have a field day. Dallas has rushed for 643 yards (6.1 yards per attempt) and eight touchdowns this year. Harris has been very solid as Dallas’s backup, as the sophomore has tallied 415 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Some players to watch on FIU’s defense are linebackers Jamal Gates and Sage Lewis, who are the two leading tacklers on the team with 66 and 53 tackles respectively. Additionally, DB Rishard Dames has been FIU’s ballhawk this year, as he leads the Panthers in interceptions with three. In terms of FIU’s offense, they are quarterbacked by redshirt senior James Morgan. Morgan has completed 58.7% of his passes for 1,852 yards and ten touchdowns, while also throwing only two interceptions. Morgan is supported by a very solid backfield, led by Anthony Jones. Jones has rushed for 638 yards and seven touchdowns this season, while his backfield mate Napoleon Maxwell has added 554 yards and seven more touchdowns to form a dynamic running back tandem. Morgan’s top weapon through the air has been WR Shemar Thornton, who has posted 497 yards (12.7 yards per catch) and four touchdowns this season. FIU’s offensive line has held up pretty well this year, as they are tied for 15th in the country in sacks allowed, and they’ve only allowed 13 sacks.
FIU’s offensive line will be in for more of a challenge on Saturday, as redshirt freshman DE Greg Rousseau has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Canes defense this year. Rousseau has 12 sacks (fourth most in the country) this year, and he didn’t even start until October. Miami’s defense is tied for fourth in the nation in sacks, and they rank 16th in total defense. In theory, Miami should be able to handle an FIU team that currently has a winning percentage of .500, and with all those wins coming against teams with a combined record of just 13-38.
However, Miami has learned their lesson to not take any opponent lightly, as they flirted with disaster after narrowly beating Central Michigan earlier in the season. It will remain to be seen if the Canes can carry the momentum they’ve gathered over the last month into this week. However, the Miami Hurricanes are back on the sacred Orange Bowl grounds, and a special night hopefully awaits the Canes on Saturday evening.