UM’s Coker respects Blakeney, TSU

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Sports Editor

It’s a tale of two Larry’s.

While Larry Coker and the Miami Hurricanes, college football’s team of the 80s after winning three national titles in that decade, have the talent and the national prestige, TSU head coach Larry Blakeney does have an edge over his counterpart in some respects.

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This is Blakeney’s 11th year as head coach of the Trojans. For Coker, this is his first.

The 53-year-old was an invaluable assistant at many of the nation’s top programs for 22 years prior to accepting the head job at Miami, following the departure of Butch Davis during the offseason. Coker was hired by Davis in 1995 as offensive coordinator for the Hurricanes.

Blakeney said in his Monday press conference that Larry Coker has earned his opportunity to lead No. 1 Miami into Orange Bowl Stadium on Saturday.

"I’ve known Larry Coker since his days at Oklahoma State when I was at Auburn. He’s been some good places and was very deserving of the opportunity to take the reigns at Miami. He appears to have everything in tune down there."

Coker’s assessment of Blakeney and the Trojans is the same.

"Larry Blakeney is one of the most respected coaches around," Coker said. "If you’re a football buff, you know about Troy State football. They had the winningest program in the state of Alabama in the 90s. They’ve won conference and national titles and this is a big jump up for them."

Coker can also sympathize with Troy State’s situation; being the new team in Division 1-A and having to go on the road to face the No. 1 team in the land.

"I’ve been there before," he said. "When I was at Tulsa we had to play Oklahoma when they were No. 1 and they had players like Billy Sims. It’s normally the game of their (the team’s) life."

But Coker thinks the Trojans won’t be feeling any pressure.

"I don’t think they’ll be intimidated one bit about having to come down here and play in the Orange Bowl," he said. "They’ve got an athletic football team that plays physical football. It’s going to be a step up for them if they win and a challenge for our team to get ready for."

Miami comes into Saturday’s game 3-0 after last Thursday night’s 43-21 win over Pittsburgh. The ‘Canes had a commanding 43-7 lead going into the fourth quarter before the Panthers scored two late touchdowns.

In these days of BCS rankings, which take into account not just a team’s win-loss record, but also strength of schedule and margin of victory, Coker knows it isn’t enough to just win; you’ve got to win pretty.

"Sure it concerns me," Coker said about his team’s possibility of slipping in the rankings after a so-called "ugly" win. "But our job is to win every week. I’m more worried about this team right now then the rankings."

Next week the Hurricanes go on the road to play rival Florida State, but Coker doesn’t believe his team will overlook the Trojans this week.

"I don’t think they’ll overlook anybody," he said. "This is a mature football team. Maybe are fans are (overlooking). I’ve heard some of them say, ‘I’ll see you at Florida State,’ but we don’t just need them at Florida State, we need them against Troy State. If we lose to Troy State, Florida State doesn’t mean anything."

Quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Ken Dorsey echoes his coach’s statement.

"They (TSU) went up to Nebraska and played them tough," said Dorsey. "We can’t take a team like this lightly."