Miami faculty senate satisfied with punishments

At a meeting of Miami's faculty senate Wednesday, university president Donna Shalala and athletic director Paul Dee explained in detail the severity of the punishments to players involved in a brawl with Florida International. After the meeting, senate chairman Dr. Stephen Sapp said his group was "comfortable with" the explanations, which they found "acceptable," ESPN's Joe Schad reported.

Earlier in the day, Sapp had said that the punishments were "not adequate" and that there "should have been further thought given here."

"We're not going to vote on anything or recommend anything," Sapp said after the meeting. "After hearing some things that will not be made public about the disciplinary measures, we're satisfied."

Attention remains focused on last Saturday's brawl, a melee in which fists, feet and helmets became weapons. In all, 31 players were punished, including 13 Hurricanes -- all of whom will miss this week's game at Duke.

Yet now, Miami's players say they need their focus on football, not on what went so wrong against FIU.

"Yeah, we're missing some guys," center Anthony Wollschlager said. "But we still have to go out and perform on the field. That's the bottom line. Got to go out and play football. That's it."

It won't exactly be a patchwork team that Miami (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will send out against the Blue Devils (0-6, 0-4) Saturday in Durham, N.C.

But there are some holes that need filling.

The Hurricanes will be without their best offensive lineman in right guard Derrick Morse, top defensive back Brandon Meriweather, running back Charlie Jones, emerging H-back James Bryant, punter Brian Monroe and kick returner Bruce Johnson -- a half-dozen guys who have played key roles for Miami all season long.

They're all suspended, as are seven others. Plus, the Hurricanes could be without their best linebacker, Jon Beason (knee) and tight
end Greg Olsen (concussion) -- both of whom were injured in the FIU
game but not in the brawl.

"We're going to be fine," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "We're going to have a good football team on the field."

The biggest issue for Miami could be the offensive line, where three players -- starter Morse, Tyrone Byrd and Chris Barney -- will sit out for their part in the brawl. Hurricanes offensive line coach Mario Cristobal said Alex Pou and A.J. Trump will compete for the starting right guard spot this week.

Miami's depth problems up front look more serious when considering that run defense is one of Duke's strengths. The Blue Devils' defense has yielded 20 touchdowns this season, but only seven of those were on the ground.

"We've got people who can come in and do the same job," said freshman running back Javarris James, who'll likely make his fourth straight start. Miami is 3-0 since he took over as the featured runner.

This game starts a big season-ending stretch for Miami, which has six ACC foes still on its schedule.

If the Hurricanes were to win out, they'll wind up in Jacksonville for the conference title game and the opportunity to play for a Bowl Championship Series berth. Yet one more loss -- particularly one coming in the next three weeks against Duke, Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech -- would likely guarantee the Hurricanes would miss the conference championship for the third time in as many years since joining the ACC.

There's no need to tell the Hurricanes how critical this Duke game really is.

"The biggest thing for us is putting all this garbage behind us and going out and having a good week of practice," quarterback Kyle Wright said. "I think we'll be able to do that. We're going to have some guys who are going to have to step up and play more than they're accustomed to playing, but we've got to go out and get another win."

Joe Schad is ESPN TV's national college football reporter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.