August 30, 2000 - by
Football Ready To Roll Against McNeese State.

Aug. 30, 2000



By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) – After almost a year of watching, waiting and working out,
Najeh
Davenport unleashed most of his frustration on his teammates.
He also saved some for the McNeese State Cowboys.
Davenport, a Miami Hurricanes running back who missed the majority of
last
season with a knee injury, ran roughshod over the defense in fall practice.
Tough to catch and even tougher to tackle, Davenport showed the No. 5
Hurricanes what they missed while he recovered from a torn ligament in his
right knee.

“It’s like you’re standing on the tracks and he’s the train – and it’s
coming. There’s nothing you can do to stop him,” safety Al Blades said.
“When
he’s back there, you’re just hoping for a pass play.”

McNeese State won’t be so lucky. The Hurricanes plan to get Davenport –
a
6-foot-2, 248-pound junior who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds this
summer
– plenty of playing time in Thursday night’s season opener against the
Division
I-AA Cowboys.

“I want him to have success. It’s important for him psychologically and
emotionally,” Miami coach Butch Davis said. “He’s been romping and stomping
in practice. But once he gets in the game, gets hit and gets tackled and
gets
this game behind him, he’s going be fine.”

Davenport carried 13 times for 83 yards before injuring his knee late
in the
fourth quarter of last year’s opener against Ohio State. He missed the rest
of
the season and did not participate in full-contact drills during spring
practice.
In the meantime, Davenport added 15 pounds, lowered his body fat and
increased his strength and speed.

He did it all while counting down the days until the season opener.
“I thought about it every day,” said Davenport, who led the Hurricanes
with a 7.0 yards-per-carry average in 1998. “It’s a hunger inside of me that
grew and it’s still growing. Thinking about playing kept me going.
“I think my first snap the defense will have to be scared because I’m
going
to unload all this frustration from the last year.”

Davenport rushed for 387 yards on 55 carries as a freshman, playing
behind
Edgerrin James and James Jackson. He will share time again this season, part
of
a crowded backfield that includes Jackson, Clinton Portis and Jarrett
Payton.

“When they get their shot, they better be ready,” running backs coach
Don
Soldinger said. “It’s just like coming out of the bullpen or off the bench.
They better get the strikeout or hit the home run when they’re in there.
They
have to make their reps count.”

That shouldn’t be too difficult against McNeese State, which finished
6-5
last season and is playing its first Division I-A team since 1990. The
Hurricanes have outscored its last five Division I-AA opponents 280-29, an
average score of 56-6.

“We understand that coach Davis and his staff have done a great job of
getting the program back to competing for national championships every
year,”
said first-year McNeese State coach Tommy Tate, who replaced Kirby Bruchhaus
after Bruchhaus resigned in June following an investigation that he gambled
on
professional football.

“It’s pretty well documented how good they are,” Tate said.
Especially with Davenport healthy.
“I’m ready for a big debut,” Davenport said.

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