GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Robert Marve's master plan was to come into Florida Field on Saturday night, his very first college game, and find a way to lead Miami to what would have been the most stunning victories the Hurricanes ever put together.
Didn't happen.
Not Marve's fault, though. And now it's clear: For the first time in a while, the Hurricanes have some legitimate reason to believe that they're on the right track in what has seemed like an marathon rebuilding project.
Miami went into The Swamp - where what was believed to be the largest crowd ever to see a college game in the Sunshine State, a blue-and-orange-clad gathering of 90,833, most of them clamoring to see a Florida rout - and got beaten, falling 26-3 to the fifth-ranked Gators.
Florida pulled away with 17 points in the fourth quarter and celebrated a win over the Hurricanes for the first time since 1985.
Florida coach Urban Meyer clearly wanted to send a message about where his team is, and where the Hurricanes aren't. Up by 20 in the final two minutes, after a punt return deep into Miami territory, Heisman winner Tim Tebow was still in the game throwing passes, as many of the state's top recruits looked on.
That won't sit well with The U.
But if there was good news for Miami, it was Marve.
His numbers? Blah. The redshirt freshman quarterback completed 10 of 18 passes for a paltry 69 yards.
But this wasn't about numbers. This was about Marve's moments, his potential, his promise.
A perfect pass to a well-covered Leonard Hankerson with 12 minutes left as he tried to keep Miami close. The fearless way he ran bootlegs and took hits. The way he slapped players on the helmet on the sideline in encouraging fashion. The poise he showed after his first three passes - all easily catchable - went for naught as that record crowd roared with delight.
OK, so it was a loss.
And there's no moral victories.
M, including a handful of botched special-teams plays that handed Florida its first nine points.
There's plenty of reasons for Miami to be encouraged, too.
The Hurricanes' defense - the foundation of the team for so many years - held the Gators and Tebow largely in check, falling apart in the final 15 minutes. In home games with Tebow starting under center, the Gators usually flirt with the 50-point mark.
But most importantly, at least from the Miami perspective, Marve showed he can handle pressure.
That was one of the absolute biggest questions coming into this game: Can a kid who hadn't played a game since high school come into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where only two unranked teams since 1989 have emerged victorious, and do anything right?
Answer: Yes.
He didn't do enough to win. Yet in the Atlantic Coast Conference - which is not on par with the Southeastern Conference, not even close - the Hurricanes have to think that the quarterback duo of Marve and Jacory Harris (a true freshman who'll get spot usage in every game, coach Randy Shannon insists, in an effort to build depth at the position) is good enough to compete for a league title.
Put it this way: There's not another Florida on Miami's schedule. It gets easier from here, and Marve will likely get better, too.
There's a reason why so many schools - including Florida - wanted Marve.
Numbers-wise, he was relatively ordinary as a sophomore and junior at Tampa Plant High, but progressed so quickly that his coach, Robert Weiner, boldly suggested that Marve would be the state's best as a senior.
Weiner turned out to be exactly right. Marve set state single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns - marks that were held by none other than Tebow - and beat Tebow's alma mater for the state Class 4A title in his final high school game.
Then came a car crash that ended his freshman season before it began, and many people around the Hurricanes' program believe Marve - who suffered serious hand and wrist injuries in the rollover wreck - would have taken at least some time away from Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman last season, when the Hurricanes sputtered to a 5-7 record, their worst record in 30 years.
His time started Saturday.
So, perhaps, did Miami's revival.
No, the Hurricanes aren't all the way back. But with Marve, it's possible to think that they're getting much closer.
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