Nebraska and Miami meet again, renewing classic rivalry
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Neither team is ranked, neither program is what it once was.
Yet for Nebraska and Miami, it'll feel like old times.
The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes - who have met four times in bowl games that decided national championships - renew acquaintances Saturday, in the first regular-season trip Nebraska (1-1) has made to Miami (2-0) since 1951. The teams played last year in Lincoln, where Nebraska's 41-31 win drew a record crowd.
''I understand the great history of this game and some of the historical ramifications of the game against Miami being played for national championships,'' first-year Huskers coach Mike Riley said. ''That's pretty good stuff.''
Miami beat Nebraska in three Orange Bowls, two of those being national-title-clinchers for the Hurricanes. Miami also topped Nebraska in a BCS title game to cap a perfect 2001 season, and the Huskers won one of their national championships by downing the Hurricanes in an Orange Bowl to close the 1994 season.
All that was a generation or two ago - yet to the players of today, it still resonates. For proof, consider what top Nebraska wide receiver and punt returner De'Mornay Pierson-El told Riley when he got hurt last month and learned he would have to miss a few games.
''The first thing De'Mornay said to me when he got hurt is, `I really want to play in that Miami game,''' Riley said. ''So I've been getting a feel for what this means to this team and program.''
It means plenty to the Hurricanes as well.
Miami should get wide receiver Stacy Coley back for this game, which would be a plus against an inconsistent Nebraska secondary. This game starts a very rough stretch for the Hurricanes - after this, Miami's next five opponents are Cincinnati, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Duke - so a win Saturday could be a springboard.
''The guys that were there (last year) know and understand the tradition of it, but none of that is going to help us prepare,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. ''I think for us, this team has been very consistent right now in terms of its preparation and just staying consistent and methodical in just trying to get better every day.''
Here's some of what to know going into Nebraska-Miami:
KAAYA AT HOME: Saturday will be Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya's ninth career game at Sun Life Stadium. He's passed for at least two touchdowns in all eight of his previous games on the Hurricanes' home turf, and will be facing a Nebraska defense that has allowed 692 passing yards in its first two outings this season. ''Wouldn't trade him for anybody,'' Golden said.
HUSKER OPTIONS: Remember when Nebraska was a program that never seemed to throw? No more. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has plenty of receiving weapons to choose from, with nine players who've gotten at least one catch of 10 yards in the season's first two games. And new starting RB Terrell Newby - a teammate of Kaaya's from preschool to high school - has 241 yards on 38 carries.
CHIP AWAY: Nebraska came into the weekend as one of eight FBS teams without a 35-yard gain so far in 2015, but that's more than a little misleading. Moving the ball has been no problem for Nebraska, which had 18 runs of at least 10 yards and eight passes of at least 20 yards in its first two games. Miami has allowed nine runs of 10-plus yards, and no passes of longer than 17 yards.
KICK GAME: Nebraska-Miami is an all-Adidas matchup on national television, and the three-stripe types will take advantage of the marketing opportunity. Both teams will wear custom-painted cleats for the game, replete with fancy designs and in Miami's case some individual messages of thanks to past Hurricane players. (Read more about this here, http://bit.ly/1KkzCrw )
ACC VS. BIG TEN: There's an ACC-Big Ten challenge in basketball, and this weekend there seems to be one in football as well. Nebraska-Miami is among five matchups pitting the conferences head-to-head Saturday, joining Illinois-North Carolina, Northwestern-Duke, Virginia Tech-Purdue and Pittsburgh-Iowa. Out of those 10 teams, only No. 23 Northwestern comes into the weekend ranked in the Top 25.