Seventeen Miami seniors will try to complete a perfect home career against Syracuse in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night, but only 16 of them will play.
Running back Leonard Conley was suspended indefinitely Friday by coach Dennis Erickson. Erickson would say only that Conley violated team rules and would sit out the Syracuse game.Erickson didn't indicate whether Conley, the team's No. 2 rusher with 464 yards on 78 carries this season, would be reinstated for the game at San Diego State next week or Miami's Cotton Bowl appearance. A starter for most of his four seasons and the team's leading rusher in 1989, Conley has been rotating with three other running backs this year.
The seniors are the focus of this week's game, and their parents will be recognized at halftime. All 17 are on track to earn their degrees, the school has emphasized.
"They've never lost here ... It's big in my mind that they go out the right way," Erickson said.
The coach, whose team is contending for a second straight national championship, has been warning about a letdown against Syracuse (6-3-2). The Orangemen beat West Virginia 31-7 last week and earned an Aloha Bowl bid. But the second-ranked Hurricanes are 20-point favorites.
Offensive tackle Mike Sullivan, a senior, said the Orange Bowl success has given the seniors' careers added luster.
"I love the place," Sullivan said. "I might get married there or something."
Luis Cristobal, senior offensive lineman, said the Orange Bowl atmosphere is a great boost.
"There is a crazy aura. Electricity fills the air," he said. "You get so pumped up you feel you're going to run through a brick wall."