MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Savannah State has no delusions coming into this week.
The Tigers are not likely going to beat No. 22 Miami. They’re probably not going to come even remotely close. They’re coming to Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday for two things — an experience, and a check for their trouble.
“If it wasn’t for the financial need, we definitely wouldn’t do it,” Savannah State coach Erik Raeburn said.
Savannah State lost its opener last weekend, Miami lost its opener last weekend, and the similarities end there. The only other time the teams played was in 2013, when the Hurricanes won 77-7 in a game that could have been even more lopsided if Miami desired.
Miami insists it is taking this game seriously. That’s probably not what the Tigers — a Football Championship Subdivision team that is dropping down to Division II next season — wanted to hear.
“Here’s what I say: Their record is the same as our record,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “We both lost. That’s how I see it. We’ve got two teams trying to win. And all I can tell you is, our goal is to get our guys to do the right assignment, with energy and attitude and physicality and all that. … If everyone does that on every play, then we’ll have success and we’ll win a bunch of games.”
Miami lost to then-No. 25 LSU 33-17, which might have mildly surprised some.
Savannah State lost to UAB 52-0, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone. In fact, a 52-point spread is the early norm for the Tigers.
They’ve started 0-2 in each of the last eight seasons — with losses including 83-0, 77-7, 77-9, 66-3 and 63-3 on their resume in that span. Add up their Week 1 and Week 2 scores since the start of the 2010 season, and the average defeat is 59-7.
And the Tigers’ opponent this week is angry.
“We have something to prove,” Hurricanes offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier said. “Every game means a lot. You can’t be losing a lot of games out here. Especially after last week, we want to go out there and prove to the world we’re still the team we’re supposed to be, because we are. I mean, it doesn’t matter what team we’re playing. We’re going to prepare for them the same.”
Either way, the payday will be worth it for Savannah State.
The 31 highest-paid employees at Savannah State in the last fiscal year combined to make ,036,694 in salaries — less than what Richt made in 2016, the most recent year in which his salary has been disclosed on Miami federal tax records. So this game will help fill the checkbook, and more importantly to Raeburn it should make the Tigers’ regular-season foes in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference not seem as daunting.
“This is a tough task for us,” Raeburn said.
Miami quarterback Malik Rosier was criticized after the loss to LSU, a game where he completed 15 of 35 passes. His struggles were nothing compared to Savannah State’s problems through the air last week. The Tigers played two quarterbacks against UAB and they combined for one completion (to a teammate, that is) — D’Vonn Gibbons was 1 for 9 with one interception, and TJ Bell was 0 for 8 with an interception.
Miami started the season ranked No. 8, and fell to No. 22 this week. That’s the largest one-week drop the program has ever experienced, but the run of 19 consecutive appearances in the AP Top 25 remains the sixth-longest in program history.
This is a chance for Miami to start moving in the right direction again — the Hurricanes lost four straight games in 2016, then won 15 in a row spanning the end of the 2016 and start of the 2017 seasons, and are 0-4 since.
Richt was amused this week to find out that opponents have made 57 consecutive kicks against Miami, when counting both field goals and point-after attempts. The streak goes back to November 2016. “That’s got to be leading the nation in that category,” Richt said.
There are players on the Savannah State team who have never seen the program have a winning season — not since they’ve been there, but since they’ve been born. The Tigers were 7-4 in 1998, and haven’t had a winning season since.