NORMAN — After the Oklahoma players watch Miami take on Virginia Tech in an ACC showdown on Saturday, the Sooners might want to slip on New York Mets hats. Miami plays in Land Shark Stadium, one of only two outdoor ballparks in America shared by pro baseball and football teams, as well as the Hurricanes. Until the Florida Marlins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and have no remaining home games, Land Shark Stadium will feature a dirt baseball infield, taking up a substantial portion of one end of the football field. The Marlins could be eliminated at home during a weekend series with the Mets, or next week when they travel to Atlanta and Philadelphia to play the Braves and Phillies. Their elimination would pave the way for Land Shark Stadium to be sodded and remove at least one variable of the Sooners Oct. 3 game against Miami. The field can be sodded overnight as soon as the Marlins are eliminated, but might not be ready for play immediately. As of Thursday, the Marlins were 4 1/2 games behind the Colorado Rockies for the National League wild card with nine games left in the season. The Marlins’ final home game is scheduled for this Sunday, barring a playoff run. The Land Shark Stadium grounds crew could not be reached for comment. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said on Tuesday he wasn’t worried about the prospect of playing on dirt. "I’m sure those are things that we’ll look at. But in the end, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. "That’s something that, at the stadium, that’s why you go early.” Not early enough, apparently. On Wednesday, Stoops had his kickers practicing on the dirt of OU’s baseball field. Junior cornerback Dominique Franks said he was 11 years old the last time he played tackle football on dirt. Several others couldn’t remember the last time. "A field’s a field. Football is still the same,” Franks said. "We still gotta go out there and play our game.” But those who spend early-season Saturdays and Sundays on the field disagree. Defensive end Jason Taylor spent the first 11 seasons of his career playing in Miami, before signing a contract with the Redskins before last season. But he returned to Miami this season, and was less than complimentary about the conditions for his first home game. "It’s a challenge," Taylor told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It’s not the funnest thing in the world. We put a man on the moon, we need to figure out a way to get the dirt off the football field.” While the dirt won’t necessarily favor either team, it affects much more than just the kicking game. The Dolphins No. 1 pick a year ago, Jake Long, spent Monday night keeping the Colts All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney away from his quarterback. Long contained Freeney for much of the game, but ended up on the ground several times after losing his footing while blocking in the dirt infield. "The grounds crew at Land Shark Stadium does a tremendous job, but hopefully a game as important as (OU vs. Miami) doesn’t have to be played on dirt,” said Mike Berardino, who covers the Dolphins for the Sun-Sentinel after spending more than a decade covering the Marlins. "It’s very hard to hold your footing in the dirt, but if the Marlins are eliminated as late as Thursday, they might have enough time. Every minute will count.” Last Thursday, several of Georgia Tech’s players left their loss to Miami with bloodied arms and legs, thanks to a week of sun drying out the infield dirt and making it harder than usual. And even though the field is renowned for its ability to drain quickly, too much rain can slow the speed more than it would on a grass field. The Dolphins played both of their preseason games in heavy rain, prompting players to shake their heads when they watched tape of the game the following day. "Both guys were running as fast as they could, and neither one of them were going anywhere," Dolphins offensive lineman Jake Grove told the Sun-Sentinel, of his teammates effort in the mud. Before coming to Miami, Grove spent his first five seasons with the Oakland Raiders, the only other team to share a stadium with a pro baseball team. "I haven’t really thought about it,” said sophomore receiver Ryan Broyles, a player known for his speed and quickness. "I just go play football. I know it’s not taking up the whole field.” Typically, drier fields mean shorter studs on the soles of players’ cleats, and a wet field would call for longer studs. Stoops said on Tuesday he had no plans to alter the Sooners’ cleat length, but did joke that he might consider outfitting his team with baseball cleats and when his team could change their cleats. "Do you change when you’re crossing over into (the dirt)?” he said. Text "Sooners” to 65360 for your chance to win a $100 gift card to O’Connell’s in Norman! OU news text alerts from NewsOK sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.
Miami at Virginia Tech→When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday →Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va. →TV: KOCO-5 (Cox 8) →Looking ahead: The Hurricanes host OU on Oct. 3 in Miami.