October 17, 2006
Coral Gables, FL (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Just when you thought they were back on the right track, the Miami Hurricanes football team managed to make a mess of a good situation.
On Saturday, the 'Canes were involved in a brawl that cleared the sidelines during their 35-0 win over Florida International. The melee resulted in 13 players being ejected, including five from Miami.
With nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, a few linemen began shoving at one another following a PAT by Miami. Those shoves turned into punches, and multiple players from both teams became involved. As fists began to fly, the benches cleared and the fight turned into an all-out brawl. Players could be seen punching, kicking, swinging their helmets and even attempting to body slam each other. Injured players were also seen trying to get involved, with crutches being used as weapons. After the players were finally settled back on their benches, fights began to break out in the stands, with police having to escort fans out of the stadium.
Miami Head Coach Larry Coker was disappointed in the team's behavior.
"I was shocked and angered," Coker said. "College football doesn't need it, FIU doesn't need it, and it's not the way you want this game to unfold. We [won], but we did not need the altercation."
The fight lasted for about five minutes, and it took a 24-minute game delay for the officials to figure out how to handle the situation. Their final decision included multiple calls of unsportsmanlike conduct and the ejection of 13 players initially. After reviewing game tapes, the teams' conferences suspended 31 players in total, 13 of which were from UM.
"I think the officials did a good job," Coker said. "They let us know that if there were any more altercations that the game would have canceled. I didn't want that for our team."
It's fortunate for the Hurricanes that the game was not canceled, because they seemed more inspired after the incident occurred. After going into halftime with a score of 7-0, the 'Canes picked up in the second half, scoring three additional touchdowns while keeping the Golden Panthers scoreless.
Although FIU had been playing on the same level as Miami in the first half, it is possible that the ejections played a part in their sudden lack of focus, since seven of their eight ejected players were starters. The Panthers were also coming off of a seven overtime loss to North Texas the previous week.
"It changed the momentum of the game," said FIU center Xavier Shannon. "When the backups came in to the huddle, it felt different than when the score was 7-0. It didn't determine the game, because we still have to come out and play, but it changed things."
The Hurricanes finished their third consecutive win with 279 total yards compared to FIU's 114 yards. Quarterback Kyle Wright completed 14 of 22 passes with 117 passing yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Lance Leggett scored two of those touchdowns, and recorded 77 yards on seven receptions. The defense also played its part, with safeties Kenny Phillips and Lovon Ponder each picking off interceptions and defensive end Calais Campbell recovering a fumble that led to a scoring drive.
Fullback James Bryant also recorded his second touchdown of the season off of a five yard reception from Wright. Following his touchdown, Bryant appeared to point to the FIU bench, and then gave a bow to the stands. After drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct call for his antics, the PAT was good for Miami. A player from FIU continued to shove against Miami's offensive line after the kick, which led to the huge fight.
Considering the negative attention that has surrounded the Miami football program and Coker all season, this is clearly not the ideal situation for the team. However, Coker believes that if the image of the team is affected, it will be positively.
"I think that it will affect the image of our program greatly, but in a positive way," Coker said. "I think that when they see the video and they see how it was handled, they will be impressed with our players."
Despite the emotion shown on Saturday, Miami quarterback Kyle Wright said that the most important thing is that the team seems to be back on a winning track.
"They're going home with a 35-0 loss and they're 0-7," Wright said. "We've won three straight and we're moving in a positive direction."
(C) 2006 The Miami Hurricane via CSTV U-WIRE