Shannon has seen good and bad against Florida Print
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Wednesday, 03 September 2008 12:31
NCAAF Headline News

 CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -There's a handful of people in the Miami locker room, coach Randy Shannon among them, who have experienced the sort of joy that comes when the Hurricanes beat rival Florida.
Shannon also knows the opposite feeling.
He was a freshman linebacker in 1985, when the Gators came into the Orange Bowl and beat the Hurricanes 35-23 behind 248 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Kerwin Bell. The programs have met six times since and Miami has won them all, a streak that'll be seriously tested Saturday night when the three-touchdown-underdog Hurricanes (1-0) visit No. 5 Florida (1-0) at The Swamp - which will be filled with people longing to see Miami get beaten.
And whether Shannon will say it or not, it's almost certainly the biggest game of his coaching career at Miami so far.
``It's a big game for the program. For the program,'' Shannon said, walking off the field after practice. ``It's going to show where we're at as a football team. And I'm part of the program. It's going to show where we are as a coaching staff, where we are as a football team, how we compare to a top-five football team in the country.''
Maybe more than anything else, an upset - and it would be a major one - may also get Miami back into the national spotlight.
``It'd change a lot of perceptions, maybe the perception of me as a coach and the perception of our staff and the perception of our football players,'' said Shannon, who went 2-1 against Florida as a player and returned an interception for a touchdown against the Gators in a 1987 victory, one of his top college highlights. ``That's probably what you'd see.''
Shannon hasn't had much to celebrate since taking over before the 2007 season.
The Hurricanes were 5-7 in his inaugural campaign, their worst record in 30 years, and missed a bowl game. It's been nearly two full years since Miami has appeared in the national polls, and Shannon has gone only 1-3 so far against ranked teams, getting outscored 160-61.
Oddly, since that 1985 loss to Florida, the Hurricanes have outscored the Gators by the same margin - exactly 99 points - in their last six meetings. They've won in blowouts (31-4 in 1987, 41-16 at The Swamp in 2002), won in bowl games (27-10 in the Peach Bowl in 2004) and won in stirring comebacks (38-33 in Miami in 2003, a game Florida led by 23 points in the second half).
``It's the best gauge of the season, without a doubt,'' said Miami receivers coach Aubrey Hill, a former Gators star back in the Steve Spurrier era. ``They'll be throwing stuff at me. It won't be like a homecoming. They'll be trying to kick my tail, personally.''
There are some parallels between Florida's last win over Miami on Sept. 7, 1985 and Saturday night's matchup.
Florida was ranked No. 5 entering both games, and each contest had a Miami quarterback making his first career start; Vinny Testaverde did then, Robert Marve will on Saturday.
Shannon says he doesn't recall much in the way of specifics from that 35-23 defeat.
``It was a loss. It was a big game, they were stacked, they had two great running backs, Kerwin Bell was just coming along, they had some good tight ends, they had an unbelievable defense,'' Shannon said. ``You look at Florida back then, they were really rolling. But I don't worry about it.''
But the thing Shannon remembers most from that night?
``Oh, we were in all orange,'' Shannon said, even 23 years later still unable to shake the memory of the garish orange-jersey, orange-pant ensemble that Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson selected for that game. ``That's the last time we wore all orange. We never wore orange again ... and you won't get any orange (Saturday).''
Only three Miami players - Glenn Cook, Romeo Davis and Anthony Reddick - have ever faced the Gators before, so they're the ones in the locker room this week explaining to the rest of the Hurricanes what it's like to face a vaunted rival such as Florida.
``It's the Gators,'' Cook said. ``It's important we win this game, for a lot of reasons.''
For the better part of a decade, Miami was the measuring stick for teams in the Sunshine State.
The Hurricanes won the 2001 national title, felt they were robbed of the title in 2002, and were sending players into the first round of the NFL draft at a dizzying rate. But now, with a reigning Heisman winner in Tim Tebow, a 2006 national championship and a team that looks as if it can contend for another this season, it's the Gators who are atop the state football heap.
Shannon is embracing the challenge of knocking them off.
``We need to know where we're at,'' Shannon said. ``Playing Florida is a great opportunity to put our standards and our measures to where they're at right now.''
 

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