Hurricanes getting strong performance out of big group of linebackers

CORAL GABLES — Hurricanes sophomore Wesley Bissainthe had one of the most electric plays in Miami’s 38-3 season-opening victory over Miami (Ohio) on Friday.

The second-year linebacker burst through a gap in the RedHawks’ offensive line, sacking Miami (OH) quarterback Brett Gabbert on third-and-3. Although the sophomore was not a starter in the game, he was one of several who saw meaningful playing time and played a role in UM’s win.

“That position is one in particular that has a lot of competition, and those guys have demonstrated the ability to run our systems at a higher level and play,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. “And for the most part, they played really well, and they played hard, which is really important. They got us lined up the right way.”

Francisco Mauigoa, who transferred from Washington State to Miami, was a standout in his first game at Hard Rock Stadium. He started and had a team-best five tackles and had half a tackle for loss. The team named him the defensive player of the game.

“He’s relentless. He plays fearless, throws his body around,” Cristobal said. “He’s reckless with his body, but he’s pinpoint accurate and detailed in his assignments, alignments and all that kind of stuff. Tremendous nose for the ball. He gets it, and he’s a great leader. He’s unfazed. Good play, bad play, he’s onto the next one. I think guys feed off of that, and they know he’s as good of a person as he is a football player.”

Another transfer, K.J. Cloyd, got the start in his first game with the Hurricanes. He had three tackles. Bissainthe had two tackles, as did freshman Bobby Washington Jr. and backup Ryan Ragone. Keontra Smith and Corey Flagg Jr. each had one tackle.

“It’s good to have those guys playing different combinations with each other,” Cristobal said. “God forbid, any injuries occur, we can mix and match a little bit better.”

Hurricanes coaches plan to keep mixing the linebackers up going forward. Cristobal said: “If guys earn playing time, they’re going to play.”

The hope is they keep improving as they get ready for Texas A&M on Saturday.

“I liked the way they all played,” defensive coordinator Lance Guidry said. “They’ll have to improve this week, of course. They’ll be challenged a little bit more, but we continue to play a bunch of guys because we’re going to need them down the stretch.

Backup QBs likely to be redshirted

When asked about sophomore quarterback Jacurri Brown, UM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson indicated that the plan would likely be to redshirt Brown and freshman Emory Williams.

“Ultimately, I have four games to play with both of them,” Dawson said. “So I’m going to be very strategic with what I do with both of those guys. So people can read into whatever they want to read into, but I’ve got four games.”

Players who participate in four games or fewer can redshirt and get another year of eligibility.

Brown burned his redshirt last year, playing in eight games and starting two. He threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions as a freshman. Brown also ran for 223 yards.

Williams made his college debut on Friday night, coming into the game to relieve starter Tyler Van Dyke as the Hurricanes pulled away from the RedHawks. He completed all three of his pass attempts for 42 yards.

Cristobal on ACC expansion

Cristobal is familiar with the Hurricanes’ future conference foes.

The ACC added Cal, Stanford and SMU on Friday morning, turning the conference into a bi-coastal league with 17 football teams. Before coming to Miami, Cristobal was the coach at Oregon and faced Cal and Stanford each season he coached the Ducks.

“I spent a lot of time out there, playing against those teams,” Cristobal said. “Really good teams, really good schools, great fan bases, great places to play. I trust the leadership of not only our university but our conference and certainly excited to have those teams a part of it, as well.”

Cristobal went 2-2 against Stanford and 3-1 against Cal. He has never faced SMU in his head coaching career.

Honoring 1983 team Saturday

The Hurricanes will honor the first of its five national-title-winning teams during halftime of the Texas A&M-UM game on Saturday.

The 1983 squad won the program’s first national title under late coach Howard Schnellenberger. That year’s team went 11-1, losing to Florida on the road to start the year before reeling off 11 straight victories.

The Hurricanes beat No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, earning the top spots in the AP and Coaches poll.

The 1983 Hurricanes featured quarterback Bernie Kosar, running back Alonzo Highsmith, running back Mel Bratton and defensive tackle Jerome Brown, among others.

“I remember a black and white TV in my grandfather’s house; I remember that,” said Cristobal, who was a kid living in Miami when the Hurricanes won the title. “It’s iconic, historic. Name anything super and positive that you can because I think it changed the community down here. It changed what the Miami Hurricanes were to be and the future and the brand, the label.

“I think it made Hurricanes fans out of all of us because of the way they played the game — and then, of course, they won the game — but the way they played the game just inspired so many after that to become Miami Hurricanes, as well. And then it inspired fans across, not only the community, but across the entire country. So obviously, a tremendous honor to have those guys in-house.”