Springtime is traditionally a time of rebirth and reawakening. For South Florida, it’s a reinvigoration of Hurricane Pride.
Fans were out in full force at Saturday’s spring game held at Sun Life Stadium. Despite ominous clouds an early torrential rain, the skies cleared for kickoff around 3 p.m.
The first team orange squad, led by senior quarterback Stephen Morris, emerged the victors 35-20, over the hardnosed second team squad dressed in stark white jerseys.
The orange squad was the first on the scoreboard with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Morris to sophomore wide receiver Herb Waters, recipient of the Special Teams Most Improved award for 2013 spring football.
Just minutes later the white squad answered in the end zone. Junior Ryan Williams, fighting for the spot of second-strong quarterback, connected with sophomore receiver Garrett Kidd for a 13-yard touchdown pass to even the score at 7.
The highlight of the half came from a 75-yard touchdown reception for sophomore receiver Malcolm Lewis in his first game appearance since his broken and dislocated ankle injury back in the fall against Georgia Tech. Both orange and white squads stormed the field to embrace the return of Lewis, a touchingly candid moment that resulted from a bit of crafty play-calling from the sidelines.
“It felt real good, I appreciated the moment that Coach Golden gave me, I appreciate him for it. It just feel good to be on the field again,” said Lewis. “They [Golden] told me to play and I just ran on the field, it happened just like that.”
His return to the field was a moment of physical and emotional redemption.
“It was a touching moment for me, shows how much my team really cares for me, and I really appreciate the guys for that and I love ‘em,” said Lewis.
“I thought it was great for him, to see what happened to him at Georgia Tech and they way he’s rehabbed and gone through surgery and done everything right from the doctor’s perspective,” said Morris.
“For him to have the opportunity to just come out here and catch the ball and go for the touchdown means a lot to him and means a lot for us because we know he’s going to be a big part of our offense come the fall.”
Spectators arrived hoping for a glimpse of the 2013 season. What they didn’t expect was a blast from the past. The white squad was graced with the appearance of Heisman winner Gino Torreta who, on a snap from center and recent UM Sports Hall of Fame inductee Brett Romberg, connected with Houston Texans-All Pro receiver Andre Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown.
The surprises just kept coming as sophomore running back Dallas Crawford, a starter for the white team, recorded the last touchdown of the day with a 2-yard carry for the orange squad upping the lead to 35-17. Crawford was traded at halftime.
The excitement and energy on the field was matched by the buzz of the fans, from pregame tailgates and ticket events to autograph signings.
First time season-ticket buyer David Trujillo of Pembroke Pines decided 2013 was going to be his year, purchasing front row seats in section 402.
“I’ve been watching the recruiting, been watching what Coach Golden has been doing, and I think he’s leading the team in the right direction and so the season looks promising, maybe make it to a national championship, I think we have a pretty good chance of making it to a pretty good bowl.”
Self-proclaimed diehard fan and lead electrician for the UM Schwartz center project, Derek Coe of Fort Lauderdale has high hopes for 2013.
“I get to see a lot behind the scenes obviously working on the building…and they’re flying around, they’re excited, they’re motivated they’re pumping each other up, they’re lifting each other up,” said Coe.
“There’s a lot of competition this year, where we didn’t have that over the last couple years, a lot of depth. Younger guys challenging the older guys, it’s been really exciting to see. The coaches are really excited, coaches are being fired up, it’s a process, but it’s a work in progress.”
Fans like 18-year-old Christopher Gonzalez of Miami and 15-year-old Andrew Ferrelli of Cooper City had the chance to get up close and personal with the Hurricanes.
Gonzalez had his Hello Kitty umbrella signed by the team, including his favorite ‘Cane, Anthony Chickillo.
Ferrelli, a lifelong fan, has been attending UM games with his family since the days of the Orange Bowl and Saturday marked his fourth year at the spring. Ferrelli got his customized neon orange Nikes signed by Duke Johnson, sneakers that will only be worn on very select occasions.
From both on and off the field, the spring game is a pulse point for the upcoming season.
“It’s a long way away,” said head coach Al Golden, “I think we came out here healthy today, we’re fortunate and blessed that we did that, now we’ve got to finish up school, get ourselves in good condition and back and ready to play.”
“We’ll be as good as we want to be over the next four months, we’re coming together as a team, we’re starting to understand the little things and how they impact our team… we’ve just got to go back to work, grow up a lot, experience, mature, and we’ll go from there.”
For Morris, this year is the year, and the excitement is already rising.
“It’s going to be hard to control it, man I’m getting goosebumps right now talking about it. Just having the end in mind, meaning we were so close to a championship last year, we gotta keep pushing forward, whatever we did last year wasn’t good enough, so we gotta keep on going forward,” said Morris.
“It’s unbelievable seeing the amount of focus that every guy brings, every position group has guys in their group just pounding the other guys, making sure that we’re always doing the right thing, and you know, we weren’t there a year ago. I’m very happy with the leadership of this team and I’m very happy with the ability we have to continue to move forward.”
words and photo_kristen spillane.