September 05, 2014

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Florida A&M has traditionally been a cure-all opponent for Miami.

The Hurricanes hope that rings true again this year.

Still smarting from a season-opening loss at Louisville, the Hurricanes (0-1) open their home schedule Saturday night against the lower-division Rattlers (0-1) in a matchup that typically has ended up as a rout.

The last meeting between the schools was in 2010, a 45-0 Miami victory. But given all that went wrong in Monday night's opener against the Cardinals, Miami is not taking any aspect of this matchup lightly.

''Anytime we play a school like FAMU there is going to be that extra motivation and adrenaline and ambition and all that, no question about it,'' said Miami coach Al Golden, who raved about the Rattlers' athleticism on both sides of the ball. ''We have to be ready for that. But the reality is what I'm trying to teach our guys is we have to take care of ourselves.''

That's why this week was perhaps as much about improving Miami as it was about getting ready for Florida A&M.

The Hurricanes weren't sharp offensively in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Louisville, getting only three points out of two possessions that started inside the Cardinals 10, and having another goal-to-go situation nullified by a penalty.

''There are always things to get better at,'' Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya said after his debut. ''I did some good things. I did some bad things. But I just feel like there are always places to improve.''

Miami was obviously disappointed after its season-opening loss at Louisville. Florida A&M's pain might have been worse.

The Rattlers took the lead in their opener against Jackson State with 46 seconds remaining, only to lose the game on a tipped Hail Mary pass that became a touchdown as time expired.

''I thought we played an excellent game,'' Florida A&M coach Earl Holmes said, ''for 59 minutes and 50 seconds.''

Holmes knows his team is facing long odds, though any chance for Florida A&M to play Miami is a very big deal for the Rattlers nonetheless.

''I think it's a good challenge for us,'' Holmes said.

Miami has won the last eight games in the series, all those wins coming by at least 32 points.

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Here's what to watch when Miami hosts Florida A&M:

DUKE WATCH: Miami RB Duke Johnson enters this week 43 yards shy of eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark for his career. He would become the ninth player in Hurricane history to reach that plateau. Only one other active ACC player - Virginia's Kevin Parks - has more than 2,000 career rushing yards.

KAAYA'S PROGRESSION: True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya had plenty of good moments in his debut, completing 17 of 29 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. He also had two interceptions, one on the final play of the loss at Louisville, but Miami overall seemed pleased with Kaaya's debut.

DUAL THREAT: Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming had erratic numbers as a junior (6 TD, 13 INT), but his senior debut was strong. Fleming passed for 188 yards and two scores against Jackson State, plus picked up 59 yards on 10 carries.

THIRD DOWNS: Miami has struggled on third downs going back to late last season, with one conversion in its last 27 attempts. The Hurricanes should do much better against Florida A&M, which allowed Jackson State to go 11-for-18 on third downs in their opener.

HALFTIME: Seriously, the best show of the night might come when all the players are in the locker room at halftime. Florida A&M's storied band is scheduled to make the trip; the ''Marching 100'' is a big hit everywhere they go, and the Miami game is their debut appearance for the 2014 season.

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Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

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