Sunday, September 26, 2004

Safety offers security for Miami

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - First career start. Hostile environment. Motivated opponent. National TV. Four extra days to contemplate it.

That's not exactly the ideal scenario for Miami free safety Joey Card going into Wednesday night's game at Marshall (7 p.m., ESPN2). His way of dealing with it? Not thinking about it - or trying not to, anyway. He can't help it when reminded by reporters.

"I'm trying not to think about everything else right now," Card said. "I'm just trying to focus on my assignments."

"We won't lose one step with Joey Card," said Joe Palcic, Miami's defensive backs coach.

The sophomore will start in place of senior Steve Burke, who had made 18 consecutive starts, including last Saturday's win over Ohio. He broke his thumb in that game, and the 6-foot, 196-pound Card came in to make a team-high seven tackles.

Card made an acrobatic interception of a deflected pass that an official ruled had touched the ground before he made the catch. Replays, however, indicated he had made a clean catch.

If anybody knows anything about making catches, Card should. He set school records with nine catches in a game, 42 in a season and 80 in a career at Canton Glenoak High School. His 1,301 yards and 15 touchdowns also are school receiving records.

He also played defensive back for the Golden Eagles, and when Miami coaches asked him to focus full time on defense, he looked at the team's deep corps of receivers and said, "OK."

"We have lots of depth at receiver and not as much at safety," Card said.

Card played in every game as a redshirt freshman last season, and Palcic said experience was the only edge the 6-foot, 188-pound Burke had over Card this season.

"With Burke being a solid performer, Joey had to come in and take the job if he wanted to play," Palcic said. "Card's been in the program a few years, and he knows what he's doing He's a little bigger, a little faster and a little stronger than Burke. He's a little more physical than Burke.

"I don't want to hurt Burke's confidence, but Joey's physically better. He's better in coverage, and he's better at tackling."

Palcic welcomed the extra time between games.

"It was a well-deserved break for these guys," he said. "Joey would have played against (Cincinnati), but he sprained his ankle in the first quarter, and he was only 90 percent against Ohio. With that extra three days, he was able to get some treatment, and he's pretty much back to normal now."

"I've gotten a chance to get some (repetitions) in practice," Card said. "I'm just going to try to go in and play like I did against Ohio. I'm just trying to focus and not get caught up in everything."

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