University of Miami starting linebacker Francisco Mauigoa, generally mild-mannered and on the serious side during media interviews, was visibly hyped Friday night.
And why wouldn’t he be? The Hurricanes had just dominated Miami of Ohio 38-3 in the season opener at Hard Rock Stadium, and Mauigoa helped lead a defense that held the RedHawks to 215 yards — only 51 of those rushing. It became clearer with each play that new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry is doing something right, Mid-American opponent or not. The defensive Canes seemed to do little wrong. They appeared poised and confident, and they held the other Miami to 2-of-12 third-down conversion attempts and 0-of-3 on fourth down.
The RedHawks had nine first downs to Miami’s 27.
“Next week you have Texas A&M,’’ Mauigoa was told. “How pumped are you?”
“I’m excited, Man. I’m super excited for this game, man,’’ a beaming Mauigoa boomed. “Every game, man, I’m excited. I love being out there on the field, man. Just playing football. It’s what I do.’’
The Hurricanes said they’d celebrate the victory before almost immediately — perhaps, even quicker — beginning to prepare for the 3:30 p.m. Saturday home game (ABC) against No. 23 Texas A&M. The Aggies pummeled New Mexico 52-10 in their opener late Saturday night, as quarterback Conner Weigman was 18-of-23 (78.3 percent) for 236 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
“How quickly do you start thinking about Texas A&M?” All-American safety Kamren Kinchens was asked.
Kinchens snapped his fingers.
“Already on it,’’ he said. “Real good team. We’re going to take this win and enjoy it. But we know who we got next and we know what our mental state has got to be.’’
The Hurricanes lost 17-9 to the Aggies last Sept. 17 at College Station, Texas, and Friday’s victory, though against the 16-point underdog RedHawks, fueled enough hope and energy to keep the Canes supercharged.
“We’re going to need the energy,’’ said sophomore linebacker Wesley Bissainthe, who had his first career sack after UM quarterback Tyler Van Dyke threw an interception early in the second quarter. The RedHawks took over at their own 40, but Bissainthe’s third-down sack forced the punt.
“It felt amazing,’’ he said. “Ready to get more.’’
Bissainthe said he “could feel the shift with everything’’ this season compared to last, when the Hurricanes finished 5-7 for their worst record in 15 years. “Just the energy, the mindset going into the game. These guys are hungry and we’re eager to win.’’
Said Kinchens: “Coach Guidry is a great coach and he’s been putting us in a scheme that fits.’’
Kinchens said the defensive coaches “kept it as simple as possible’’ and made sure the Canes played fast. He said “all fall camp’’ the players were “going after each other’’ in practice. “We’ve always got to make the practice harder than the game,’’ he said.
Coach Mario Cristobal lauded the defensive line for putting “a ton of pressure on their guys.’’
New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson also made his mark, alternating four running backs (Henry Parrish Jr., Mark Fletcher Jr., Ajay Allen and Donald Chaney Jr.), who split their carries almost exactly evenly and generated 250 rushing yards, with three of them scoring touchdowns.
The Canes had the 250 rushing and 243 through the air.
“Coach Harris harps on it everyday,’’ Parrish said of new running backs coach Tim Harris Jr. “You get your opportunity, go in and make plays.’’
And those plays were made possible by a significantly improved offensive line, who kept Van Dyke clean and only gave up one fourth-quarter sack of true freshman backup Emory Williams. How much more open were the holes for the runners?
“Way bigger,’’ Parrish said.
The Canes were flagged for one holding penalty and four false starts among their eight penalties for 60 yards.
“We executed well for the most part,’’ said quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who was 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) for 201 yards and a touchdown, with the interception. “I made a mistake and some crucial situations — false starts — which can’t happen next week. We’re going to have to clean that up.’’
Van Dyke, who wore a black splint/covering on his right index finger, acknowledged that he sustained a bruise a week-and-a-half ago. He was replaced by Williams with about nine minutes left in the game, signaling that Williams, as many inside the program have said, had a great fall camp and is likely the go-to backup. Williams completed all three of his passes for 42 yards, with a long of 18. He was sacked once.
“He deserved it,’’ said Cristobal of Williams playing.
Finally, UM’s special teams were dominated by junior kicker Andres Borregales, who was three-for-three on field goals from 34, 32 and a clutch 43-yarder as time ran out in the first half. He also had six touchbacks in seven kickoffs.
“He’s a clutch kicker, makes big-time kicks,’’ Van Dyke said. “Glad he’s on our team.’’
Freshman punter Dylan Joyce of Australia punted twice, with a long of 47 yards and 41.5-yard average.
Xavier Restrepo returned two punts, Jacolby George returned one and Brashard Smith took the opening kickoff 40 yards.