CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Brad Kaaya is expected to play this weekend for No. 16 Miami, though the standout quarterback’s shoulder injury remains a concern for the Hurricanes as they prepare for their matchup with North Carolina.
The specifics of Kaaya’s injury aren’t known, other than the shoulder issue started when he was sacked on the first play of the Hurricanes’ 20-19 loss to Florida State this past Saturday. Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said Kaaya was shut down from throwing earlier this week, though that restriction was no longer in place when the team practiced Tuesday morning.
“He zipped the ball well,” Richt said. “I really don’t think there was an issue. He practiced the whole way.”
Running back Mark Walton suggested otherwise, though said he believes Kaaya will be out there Saturday.
“He was shut down a little bit today in practice,” Walton said. “When he was throwing the ball, I think he was very accurate at times. He’s just coming on slowly but surely on getting his shoulder back together.”
Kaaya — who had a tooth broken on one of the multiple hits to the head he took in last weekend’s loss — was not available Tuesday to clear the confusion and discuss his status. Richt is not allowing him to meet with media this week, an unusual move given Kaaya’s team-leader status and Miami’s long tradition of having its starting quarterback speak during game week.
“I’ll be in there,” Kaaya said last weekend, referring to the North Carolina game.
The Tar Heels expect the same, especially given the stakes.
Miami (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) and North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) are both looking up at Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0) and Virginia (2-3, 1-0) in the Coastal Division race. And though it’s early, the loser of the Hurricanes-Tar Heels game Saturday would already have two losses in league play and little margin for error the rest of the way.
“I would imagine he’ll play, so we’ll prepare that way,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said.
Kaaya won’t have right tackle Sunny Odogwu to help protect him this week, and probably not for the rest of the season. Odogwu is having surgery Wednesday to repair a lower leg injury.
Miami kicker Michael Badgley, whose potentially game-tying extra point with 1:38 left was blocked by Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker, seems unfazed by the miss.
Asked what went wrong on the extra point — snap, hold or kick — Badgley said it was “an execution thing on all parts of the field.”
“All parts of the offense, defense, it’s a lot of things,” Badgley said. “To blame it all on one play, or go in on something like that, it’s kind of ridiculous. Football’s a team sport. It’s how it always has been.”
Badgley had a PAT blocked and missed a short field goal in Miami’s 2014 loss to Florida State at home as well — a game the Hurricanes lost by four points.
“You could look back in the past all you want,” Badgley said. “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games, I guess.”
Miami had a surprise guest at practice Tuesday. University President Dr. Julio Frenk addressed the team, something that even Richt didn’t know was going to happen.
Richt said Frenk wanted to talk about how much he “appreciated the moment” Saturday night.
“He saw the big picture,” Richt said. “He saw the fans. He saw the students. He saw the band. He saw the excitement and the passion. He saw the best of what we can be and he just wanted to tell the guys he appreciated it.”
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina contributed to this report.