No. 8 Miami opens Richt’s 3rd year by facing No. 25 LSU
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Malik Rosier and the Miami Hurricanes had quite a breakout in coach Mark Richt’s second season with a 10-0 start.
The finish wasn’t all that good.
The No. 8 Hurricanes have their highest preseason ranking in 14 seasons despite ending 2017 with a three-game losing streak. They won’t be easing into Richt’s third season, as they open Sunday night against No. 25 LSU in a neutral-site stadium where the Tigers have gone 3-0 — all against Top 25 opponents.
“You’re going to find some of the greatest athletes in America on that team,” said Richt, who coached in the SEC for 15 seasons at Georgia before taking over at his alma mater. “They can go toe to toe with anybody in America physically.”
LSU is undefeated at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The Tigers beat Texas A&M in the 2011 Cotton Bowl, opened the 2011 season with a win over Oregon and beat TCU in the season kickoff game there five years ago.
Rosier set a Hurricanes record last season when he was responsible for 31 TDs (26 passing, five rushing), one more than Vinny Testaverde in his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 1986. Rosier’s 3,588 total yards (3,120 passing, 468 passing) were a school record in his first year as the starter.
But Rosier had three TDs and five interceptions in the three losses — at Pittsburgh, 38-3 to Clemson in the ACC championship game and then to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.
LSU is the fourth-highest ranked team from the SEC West behind top-ranked defending national champion Alabama, No. 9 Auburn and No. 18 Mississippi State. The Tigers have a senior quarterback in line to make his first college start with graduate transfer Joe Burrow.
Burrow appeared in 10 games for Ohio State the past two seasons. He competed for LSU’s starting spot with Myles Brennan, one of prized 2017 recruits for the Tigers.
“It was a very, very tight race,” coach Ed Orgeron said. “If (Burrow) does not perform well, we have no problem putting in the second-team quarterback.”
Some of the other things to know about the Top 25 opener:
THE SERIES: Miami and LSU last played at the 2005 Peach Bowl, a game the Tigers won 40-3. The only competitive part of the night was the postgame brawl between about a half-dozen players from each team in one of the tunnels leading away from the field. All the last four meetings between the schools have been lopsided — the bowl game in 2005, a 44-3 win by Miami in 1988, a 20-0 LSU win in 1969 and a 30-0 Miami victory in 1968.
SUNDAY, SUNDAY: Miami’s last game on a Sunday was the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho against Nevada — Larry Coker’s last game as coach of the Hurricanes. LSU last played on Sunday in the national championship game against Oklahoma on Jan. 4, 2004, when the Tigers won 21-14.
TIES THAT BIND: Richt is 4-4 against LSU. Orgeron has two national championship rings from Miami (1989, 1991) during his time as a Hurricanes’ assistant. “I felt like that’s where I learned how to coach,” Orgeron said. “Coaching defense with Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Butch Davis, Tommy Tuberville and Dave Campo, I understood the tempo of practice and how to prepare for practice — and what a real practice looked like. And from then on, I wanted to become that type of coach.” Miami offensive line coach Stacy Searles once held the same job at LSU, and LSU running backs coach Tommie Robinson once coached that position group at Miami.
OFFENSIVE OVERHAUL: The game essentially marks the second debut of Steve Ensminger as LSU’s offensive coordinator. Ensminger, a former LSU quarterback, held the job on an interim basis in 2016 after Les Miles and his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, were fired and Orgeron was appointed as interim head coach. LSU’s offense put up some big numbers under Ensminger late that season, but when Orgeron got the job on a permanent basis, he hired Matt Canada to run a distinctive offense defined by pre-snap shifts and misdirection. Orgeron went back to Ensminger after losing confidence in how Canada’s approach fit LSU’s personnel.
REINSTATED TIGER: LSU’s secondary got a boost when cornerback Kristian Fulton was reinstated to the team Aug. 23. His two-year NCAA ban for tampering with a drug test was reclassified as a testing sample substitution. That reduced the penalty to one year. Fulton already had sat out his sophomore year after playing sparingly as a freshman in 2016. He was always allowed to practice and is listed as a top reserve on LSU’s depth chart.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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