Hurricanes Spent Bye Week Honing Offense

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) – In the aftermath of Miami beating rival Florida earlier this month, Hurricanes coach Al Golden said he didn’t want his team to take on a celebratory mood for too long.

They apparently listened.

Miami’s bye week was a work week, Golden said on Monday, when the Hurricanes got back onto the practice field after a weekend off. No. 16 Miami (2-0) gets back to game action Saturday against lower-division Savannah State (1-2), which struggled to beat Division II foe Fort Valley State this past weekend.

“There’s a lot of young guys that stepped up and responded to the challenge and we got after them pretty good,” Golden said. “It was a very mature team. We practiced hard for three days. They lifted hard. A lot of them ran on Friday. Everyone was back on timeSunday, so it was a good mentality.”

Much of the work this past week centered on the offense, which has not been as sharp as it wanted. Even with a small sample size, the numbers don’t look great: The Hurricanes are down considerably from last year in yards per pass attempt (6.46 this year, opposed to 7.93 a year ago), and Miami’s third-down success rate is just 20 percent (5 for 25, tied for fourth-worst in the nation).

Then again, no one sounds worried, either.

“Our biggest thing, we just have to execute,” quarterback Stephen Morris said. “Obviously, there’s a lot more. … We’ve got to get good at the stuff that we run constantly.”

So far, Miami has been more than good enough, and the rest of the month isn’t exactly loaded with tough tests.

Savannah State was outscored 143-12 in its first two games of the year, and only led for the final 4:26 of its game against Fort Valley State. And South Florida – which plays host to Miami on Sept. 28 – is off to a winless start, including a 28-10 loss to an FAU club that the Hurricanes eased past 34-6 to open the season.

Golden insisted that his team isn’t looking past anyone, and his players echoed that sentiment. Running back Duke Johnson said Miami proved how seriously it was taking the next step on the schedule by getting over the Florida win so quickly.

“A couple years ago, if this would have happened, everybody would have been excited and overdone it,” Johnson said. “Coach made it very clear to us. It’s over. We go game by game and whether it’s a big win or a bad loss, we’re going to approach the next game the same way we did the last game and just move on.”

And given the physicality of the Florida game, combined with the areas that Miami wants to shore up, the bye seems to have come at a good time.

“The day after the Florida game, everything was very sore,” Johnson said. “My quad to my ankle to my foot, I had to get in there and take care of everything with my body and get ready for the next week.”

Hurricanes offensive coordinator James Coley said that when he brought up the importance of taking Savannah State seriously, many of his players just rolled their eyes.

They weren’t dismissing Savannah State, Coley said. They were just wondering why Coley felt compelled to stress the point, their way of telling him that they wouldn’t be letting down their guard. To Coley, that was the sign that Miami’s offense was ready to take the off week as a work week.

“This last week was all about communication with our players, just understanding what different things can happen on third down,” Coley said. “Third down, it’s a different defense than you see on first and second down and everybody early in the season has their wrinkles that they do. We do on offense.”

Not all of those wrinkles have been displayed, Coley said. That’s one of the many reasons he isn’t worried about whatever Miami’s offensive sputters have been to this point.

“There’s still a lot out there that we haven’t put on the field,” Coley said.