Canes Set for Road Test at Temple

Canes Set for Road Test at Temple

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The approach, every week, has been the same.

Even while enjoying the comforts of playing their first three games at home, the Hurricanes have done their best to stay laser-focused and execute at a high level no matter the opponent.

They’ve been business-like, have worked to consistently improve and as a result, have opened the season with three straight victories, victories that have helped make them a Top 25 team.

The plan now as they prepare for their road test of the season is to keep that same mindset, even as they travel to Philadelphia to face an upset-minded Temple team on what is expected to be a rainy Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

“You’ve heard it for a hundred years, about how all road trips should be a business trip,” said Miami head coach Mario Cristobal. “You know, home games are business trips [that] are just local business trips. That’s the mentality for this, that we need to go play our best football. We see progress. We’re getting better. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Said linebacker Wesley Bissainthe, “It’s just a different atmosphere. … Going to be their home field, their fans. You’ve just got to lock in, really lock in mentally, and just do what you do. Don’t really think about it. Just know what you have to do and execute. That’s really it.”

While the 20th-ranked Hurricanes and Owls haven’t met on a regular basis since they were old Big East foes, the two programs aren’t completely unfamiliar with one another or their personnel.

During his four seasons at Houston, Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson faced Temple twice, with last year’s matchup proving a close, hard-fought matchup.

The Cougars scored with 40 seconds left in the game to secure a 43-36 win and Dawson said this week he believes the Owls’ defense has only gotten stronger since.

“I think they’re a much-improved defense from last year. We had to score at the end to beat them and I thought, this year, watching them on tape, they’re more athletic and they get after the passer,” Dawson said of the Owls, who have four sacks on the year and have totaled 16 tackles for loss in their first three games. “I think they were top-10 last year in sacks, [eleventh] in tackles for loss, so chaotic up front. A lot of movement, a lot of subtle d-line movement, twists, and stuff like that, that give you issues. And they’re explosive on the edge. … They’re much more aggressive in the back end than what we played [last] Saturday. They’re going to challenge us and get in our faces a little bit. We know what’s out there. They’re a very well-coached defense. Very well coached.”

The Hurricanes (3-0) will try to counter that defense with a balanced scoring attack that has been consistently productive through Miami’s first three games.

Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke – who grew up not far from Philadelphia in Glastonbury, Connecticut and said this week he’s watched more than his fair share of Eagles games at Lincoln Financial Field – has completed 76 percent of his passes this season, a number that ranks first in the ACC.

He has also thrown for 822 yards and eight touchdowns, while rushing for another score.

Against Texas A&M, he became the first Miami quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 and last week against Bethune-Cookman, Van Dyke became the first Hurricane to record multiple passing touchdowns, a rush touchdown and complete 80 percent of his passes in a single game over the past 25 seasons.

And while receiver Xavier Restrepo leads the Hurricanes with 17 catches for 314 yards, two more receivers – Colbie Young and Jacolby George – each have double-digit catches and more than 200 receiving yards.

In all, 12 different Hurricanes have caught passes so far this season, while five different running backs, led by Henry Parrish, Jr. ., have logged carries.

Miami enters Saturday’s matchup against Temple averaging 8.0 yards per play, which ranks fourth among all FBS programs, while its average of 511.0 yards per game ranks 15th among FBS programs.

The Owls (2-1) will try to counter that offensive firepower with a strong quarterback of their own, E.J. Warner, last year’s American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner.

In Temple’s first three games this season, E.J. Warner has completed 52.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for 760 yards with four touchdowns.

As a freshman last year, Warner set Temple’s single-game passing records for both yards (527) and completions (45) in the Owls’ season-finale against East Carolina. He also became just the first quarterback in program history to throw for more than 500 yards, the first to post two 400-yard games in a season and the first to post three 300-yard games in one season.

“He’s very smart. He knows what to do with the ball [and] gets it out fast,” said Hurricanes defensive coordinator Lance Guidry of Warner. “We’re going to have to knock down some balls, especially on early downs to get them in third-and-long, but he’s good. He’s the son of a former NFL great. I had the chance to play against Kurt when we were in college. He played at Northern Iowa, and I was at McNeese [State]. Actually, his first start he ever started was against us at McNeese. We got the better end of it.”

Now, the Hurricanes will look to get the better of it when they face Warner’s son and the rest of the Owls.

It will be Miami’s final non-conference game of the regular season and the Hurricanes know another win would go a long way to helping them continue to become the team they want to be, especially with ACC play looming next month.

“All in all, just all the focus, the entire focus, is on getting better and progressing as a program with our players, both academically, and on the football field and [in] the community,” Cristobal said. “Just getting better at just playing harder, playing smarter, working hard to eliminate penalties and keep lifting up our grades. Again, just progress.”