Troy State Coach Dissects the Rose Bowl

Dec 31, 2001

AP Sports Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – When Miami and Nebraska meet in the Rose Bowl onThursday, Larry Blakeney will have a unique view of the teams playing for theBCS national championship.

The Troy State coach is the only one with the dubious honor of having facedboth the Hurricanes and the Huskers this season.

“To me, it’s going be a fun game to watch, whether you’re a regular fanthat loves to watch college football or if you’re a coach and want try to watchstrategy and how it starts out and how they adjust on both sides,” Blakeneysaid.

The Trojans were treated rudely by both teams.

They were welcomed into Division I-A with a 42-14 loss to the Cornhuskers onSept. 1. Five weeks later, the Hurricanes overcame a sloppy first half to beatTroy State 38-7 – an unconvincing win that dropped Miami from the top spot inthe rankings.

Blakeney sees Nebraska as college football’s No. 1 program.

And Miami?

“They were probably the most talented team I’ve ever seen on a footballfield,” he said. “If Miami comes in there and is totally excited about beingthere and not just all pumped up about being No. 1, they’re going to be hard tostop.”

Blakeney thinks two factors could weigh in Nebraska’s favor: quarterbackEric Crouch and the option, and the fact that many critics believe Oregon orColorado should be in Pasadena instead.

“I think Miami is favored and probably should be the favorite and probablyshould win the game,” Blakeney said. “If I was coaching Nebraska in thisparticular year, I would sort of like my position, because I know with the typeof guys they are, they’re going to be excited. And they’ve been in a lot of biggames.

“There are so many human elements to deal with in this game.”

And plenty of football elements, too, starting with the quarterbacks, Crouchand Ken Dorsey.

“Miami wants their safeties to be able to lurk around back there and notplay a lot of run support,” Blakeney said. “I think if Nebraska can get Miamito have to defend the run out of the secondary, they’ve got a chance to makegood things happen with the play-action passing and the option.

“If Miami can stop Nebraska’s running game with the front seven, thenNebraska is in serious trouble.”

Dorsey has plenty of options, too.

“Offensively, the Hurricanes have got all the capabilities to do just aboutanything, but they are pretty simple,” Blakeney said. “They’re going to runpower football and use a play-action passing game after that.”

That means passing to tight end Jeremy Shockey and the running backs to setup throws downfield.

“Ken Dorsey is a big, tall quarterback and he can throw it downfield withthe best of them,” Blakeney said. “The thing about them is they’re so deep atrunning back and fullback and all the way across the board, they’ve always gotfresh troops in there and they can all make plays.

“Nebraska’s going to have to find a way to double-cover some and play sometwo-deep against the receivers. Then that opens things up for Shockey.”

Blakeney said special teams were about even, while noting that Miami is goodat winning field position.

“The kickoff cover people at Miami fly down the field,” he said. “Thatstarts the whole thing. They get you in a bad position and have to punt it andthey get it back in good shape.

“There’s a chess match going on in the kicking game all day.”

The Trojans jumped to a 7-0 lead against the Cornhuskers and trailed theHurricanes by 10 points at halftime after missing two field goals.

Crouch rushed for 48 yards on 15 carries and was 8-of-15 passing for 109yards. Dorsey was 18-of-30 for 299 yards and two touchdowns.

Blakeney declined to pick a winner in Thursday night’s game, but thinks theright teams are playing for the title.

“I’m one of the folks that thinks Nebraska belongs,” he said. “For thelack of a better system right now, the BCS did its job. It’s almost destiny inmy opinion for Nebraska and Miami to come together.”