AP TOP 25 FOOTBALL
Miami (1-0) at No. 5 Oklahoma (1-0)
11 a.m. (ABC) — Gaylord Memorial Stadium
By Murray Evans — Associated Press Writer
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Back in the 1980s, Miami-Oklahoma games meant trash talking, brash boasting and national title implications.
As the teams prepare to meet Saturday for the first time since the 1988 Orange Bowl, the Sooners and Hurricanes have had nothing but nice things to say about each other — and Miami is in rebuilding mode.
“They look tough … they’re fast, they’re strong. Oklahoma, they’re a different animal,” Miami offensive tackle Derrick Morse said. “They’re a great team and we’re looking forward to playing them.”
What in the name of Michael Irvin and Brian Bosworth has gotten into these guys?
Miami (1-0) and Oklahoma (1-0) have met five previous times. In 1973 and 1975, Oklahoma prevailed, with the Sooners winning the national title in ’75. During the 1985, ’86 and ’87 seasons, the Hurricanes swept three meetings —Oklahoma’s only three losses during that stretch. The Sooners and Hurricanes each won one national title in those three years.
A generation later, the coaches seem to be taking different approaches in addressing the history between the teams.
“It’s just a game,” said first-year Miami coach Randy Shannon, who played for the Hurricanes from 1985 to 1988. “It’s not just Oklahoma. Every game is going to be big. Every game we play is going to be big. If we played Oklahoma, if we played Portland State, if we played McNeese State, whoever the opponent is, it’s a big game.
“We can’t worry about the past. You have to let those times go. It’s a new team, new generation, new start, fresh faces. It ain’t Barry Switzer, it ain’t Jimmy Johnson. It’s Randy Shannon and Bob Stoops.”
Stoops, conversely, has embraced — to an extent at least — the hype surrounding the game, choosing to spend time briefing his players on the history of the series.
“I explained to them the ’70s games, which people tend to want to not talk about, and then the ’80s games,” Stoops said. “… We talked about all of it. In the end, I said, ‘How long ago was that?’ A lot of these guys weren’t even born. Does it have anything to do with now? No. But it’s good for them to know. They appreciate the history of it and all the great players.”
Oklahoma tuned up for the Hurricanes with a 79-10 victory over North Texas last week. Oklahoma receiver Juaquin Iglesias, breaking from the standard one-game-at-a-time mantra, admitted the Sooners have been thinking about Miami for a while.
“Even in the summertime, we’ve talked about the season opener, and then, the next week, Miami is coming in,” he said. “We broke the rule a little bit. We did focus on the first game, but (Miami) is here and now, so we can talk about it now.”
What the Sooners have been talking about is Miami’s speed, particularly on defense, where the Hurricanes feature 6-foot-8, 285-pound defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Kenny Phillips. Last season, under then-defensive coordinator Shannon, the Hurricanes ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing 255.5 yards per game.
In a 31-3 win last Saturday over Marshall, the Hurricanes also nearly had a pair of 100-yard rushers in freshman Graig Cooper (116 yards) and sophomore Javarris James (99 yards).
Oklahoma’s backfield will be bolstered by the return of its two top running backs, Allen Patrick and Chris Brown. Patrick sat out the North Texas game with a lingering sprained ankle, while Brown served a one-game suspension. In their absence, freshman DeMarco Murray rushed for five touchdowns.
Miami struggled on the road last season en route to a 7-6 finish, but a win over the Sooners would offer proof that the Hurricanes are on the fast track back to elite status. The ’Canes haven’t been 2-0 since 2004.
“This is what we live for, man,” Miami linebacker Tavares Gooden said. “This is a big game. It’s top 10. We might not be ranked, but all that’s on paper. We’re going to play like we’re ranked. That’s how we play. University of Miami football, that’s how we play. They’ve got great players. We’ve just got to match up with them. It’s going to be a fun game.”