12:04 PM ET, September 1, 2007
12:04 PM ET, September 1, 2007
MIAMI (AP) -- Randy Shannon stood in a silent Miami locker room and uttered a simple pregame message: "This is still Miami."
His players got the point, too.
Graig Cooper and Javarris James combined to rush for 215 yards, plus the Hurricanes made four interceptions and recorded six sacks as they eased past Marshall 31-3 Saturday to make Shannon's debut as head coach of his alma mater a memorable one.
"It's just the first win," Shannon said. "We've got 11 more steps to go."
James ran for two touchdowns, Tavares Gooden and Calais Campbell had interceptions to set up easy scoring drives and Vegas Franklin and Eric Moncur combined for 3 1/2 sacks for the Hurricanes (1-0), who were playing a season-opener at the Orange Bowl for the final time.
"It was a nice win," offensive lineman Jason Fox said. "And now it's time to forget it."
Bernard Morris completed 16 of 27 passes for 162 yards for Marshall (0-1), but was intercepted three times.
"Their front seven took over," Marshall coach Mark Snyder said. "We looked like a very immature football team at the start of the game. We started and played some freshmen and they showed it. We had some new guys on the offensive line and they had to grow up fast. Today was their baptism."
Unranked at the start of a season for the first time since 1998, Miami -- which visits Oklahoma next week -- was determined to prove this isn't the same team that stumbled to a 7-6 record last season.
The Hurricanes didn't waste time, suggesting their new coach will change things around.
Shannon is a Miami native, was a star linebacker at the school and spent 14 years as a Hurricanes assistant. He was defensive coordinator the past six seasons under Larry Coker, who was fired in November and watched from the Orange Bowl's third floor as a TV analyst.
He is a proud alum; the brown belt he wore Saturday had a "U" insignia on the side, and he even mingled with the band during the postgame playing of the alma mater.
"We're going to have pride in going out on the field," Shannon said. "We're going to have pride in doing things the right way. When people take pride in something, they're going to work to do it the right way all the time."
The Hurricanes did plenty of things the right way Saturday.
Gooden caught Morris' deflected pass midway through the opening quarter and ran it back 35 yards to the Marshall 1. Morris hopped on his back inside the 5 and eventually wrestled him down to temporarily prevent the score.
"I wanted it bad," Gooden said. "But their quarterback, he's a big dude."
Campbell's interception came with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. The 6-foot-8 defensive end released from a blocker and made a one-handed snare of Morris' pass, getting taken down at the Marshall 24.
Even the Herd marveled at that play.
"We couldn't contain him," Marshall wide receiver Emmanuel Spann said. "Overall, that's probably the best defense we will see all year. Their team speed is tremendous. It's something they keep building on."
James scored on a 5-yard run three plays after Campbell's pick for a 17-0 edge, then pushed the lead to 24-0 with 7:06 left in the third with a 5-yard score. He had a 50-yard run nullified by a holding penalty, but Cooper took off on a 56-yard scamper one play later to set up the Hurricanes' third touchdown.
"It's a great feeling," James said. "We started off this year with a bang and hopefully we can continue."
Anthony Binswanger's 37-yard field goal with 13:37 remaining ensured Marshall would avoid the shutout. Tight end Chris Zellner recovered a fumble in the end zone with 1:51 left for Miami's final touchdown.
Afterward, back in the locker room, Shannon tried to address his team again. But he was drowned out this time by a screaming mob of players, who decided to award the game ball to their new coach.
Campbell said Shannon was shocked by the gesture.
"And man, it got loud," Campbell said.