Bettors Say Coker Can Lead Miami Past Nevada in MPC Computers Bowl
More than a month after he was fired as Miami’s coach, Coker will be on the sidelines when the Hurricanes face Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl at Boise, Idaho on Dec. 31.
Coker was fired on Nov. 24 after six years as Miami’s coach. The Hurricanes stumbled to a 6-6 record this season, their most losses since going 5-6 in 1997.
“I don’t know the direction they’re going to go here,” said Coker, who spent six years as a Miami assistant before replacing Butch Davis. “I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be a part of it. But I just really believe some great things will happen to this program.”
Miami named former Hurricanes linebacker Randy Shannon as the new coach on Dec. 8. Shannon, Miami’s defensive coordinator since 2001, was a popular choice among both current and former players.
“I couldn’t be more overwhelmed,” quarterback Kirby Freeman said. “I was pulling for Randy. This is what we need.”
Coker went 59-15 as Miami’s coach and led the team to an undefeated season and a national championship in 2001, his first season. However, the team has been plagued by controversy and tragedy this year.
Senior defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment complex on Nov. 7, and the Hurricanes were involved in a sideline-clearing brawl with Florida International on Oct. 14 that led to the suspensions of 18 FIU players and 13 Hurricanes players.
Miami entered the season as a favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and a potential national title contender, but fell out of the race with losses to Florida State and Louisville in its first three games. The team later matched its longest losing streak since 1997, dropping four straight before wrapping up the regular season with a 17-14 win over Boston College to become bowl eligible.
The Hurricanes also dropped out of the national rankings for the first time since 1999.
“We have a lot of young players, and I think a bowl experience will be very good for them,” Coker said.
While Shannon is taking over recruiting duties and beginning his search for a coaching staff, Coker will be on the sidelines in Boise.
“This team is still coach Coker’s team,” said Shannon, whose defense ranked in the top 10 five times in six years, including this season. “He has done a lot of good things at the University of Miami.”
Miami managed just 19.5 points per game this season, eighth in the 12-team ACC. However, the Hurricanes salvaged their season with the win over the Eagles, rallying back from a 14-3 deficit.
“The future is very bright at the University of Miami,” Coker said after the win. “We’ve been a little down. We won’t be down long here, and you can print that.”
The Hurricanes are making their first appearance in the MPC Computers Bowl. They will be playing in a city where the average high temperature on New Year’s Eve is 35 degrees, with a low of 22 – figures about 40 degrees below the norms in South Florida on the same date.
“It really doesn’t matter,” center Anthony Wollschlager said. “What matters is we’ve got another game to play.”
Nevada is a little more familiar with Boise State’s blue turf, as the Wolf Pack play in the Western Athletic Conference with the Broncos.
Senior cornerback Joe Garcia said it will be “a little weird playing on Boise State’s field since we have a rivalry with them.”
“But all we are thinking about is Miami and we are looking forward to playing them,” he said.
Nevada (8-4) lost its last game of the season 38-7 on Nov. 25 to the undefeated Broncos, who are playing in the Fiesta Bowl as part of the Bowl Championship Series. The defeat ended a five-game winning streak during which the Wolf Pack outscored their opponents by an average of 40-7.
Nevada’s only points came when Nick Hawthrone intercepted a screen pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to keep alive the Wolf Pack’s streak of 316 games without being shutout, the longest in NCAA Division I.
Nevada ranks 19th in the nation with 30.9 points per game.
“To get a chance to have another game after (the Boise State) game makes a lot of our seniors happy because that isn’t the way we wanted to go out,” said Tim DeRuyter, Nevada’s defensive coordinator and assistant coach.
Nevada and Miami are meeting for the first time.
“We’ve never played a team of that caliber. It is a good challenge for us and we are going to be up for it,” said Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe, who completed 64.7 percent of his passes while throwing 16 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
“I can’t wait to see what a team like (Miami) is like,” added senior tight end Anthony Pudewell. “All I have seen is when they play on television.”
Nevada is appearing in a bowl game for consecutive seasons for just the second time in its history. The Wolf Pack beat Central Florida 49-48 in overtime in the Hawaii Bowl last year.
by: Anthony White – theSpread.com – Email Us
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