The Miami Hurricanes (5-4) look to avenge their loss to N.C. State as they host No. 23 Virginia Cavaliers (8-2) in their very last home game at the Orange Bowl.
The Hurricanes have dropped the previous two home games by a combined six points, after beginning the season 3-0 at home. The Canes now possess a 2-3 record against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
“It’s the last game we are going to play in the Orange Bowl and our last home game of the season for us,” Coach Randy Shannon said. “There is going to be a lot of enthusiasm in the stadium and we are excited about it.”
Virginia got the better of Miami last year, winning 17-7 in Charlottesville, Va. Quarterback Kirby Freeman and company couldn’t muster a single point until three minutes remained in the final quarter.
However, under the helm of quarterback Kyle Wright in 2005, the Hurricanes defeated the Cavaliers in their final home game of the season, 25-17. Wright was efficient, as he went 23-for-30 for 248 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Wright will serve as starting quarterback. He is coming off an injury that prevented him from playing against N.C. State.
Going into last week’s game against the Wolfpack, the Canes were motivated to compete for the ACC championship. To be considered a conference championship contender, the Hurricanes needed to win the remainder of games this season.
But the Hurricanes were defeated in overtime, 19-16, due primarily to subpar performances by Freeman and kicker Darren Daly. Freeman only completed one pass and Daly made two out of five field goals, including a miss of the go-ahead field goal in overtime.
Miami’s run offense was impressive last week, rushing for more than 300 yards.
Running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper proved late in the game that they could handle the load and will look to carry over their performance against Virginia.
Last week, Cooper moved into third place on the list of most freshman rushing yards in Hurricane history, passing Frank Gore.
“We are trying to concentrate and work hard on this game,” Cooper said. “We are going to go out there and try and get a win.”
The Virginia Cavaliers squeezed by Wake Forest last week, 17-16, giving the Cavaliers their third single-point victory of the season.
The Cavaliers’ run defense, led by First Team All-American Chris Long, has been stellar throughout the season. Long has racked up 12 sacks, making him third in the nation and first in the ACC with 1.22 per game.
The Hurricane defensive line must get pressure on the Cavaliers to force them into making mistakes. Getting the ball to Darnell Jenkins will be vital for the Canes to win this game.
“It is the last game at the OB, but it is more than a game because all the tradition that has [occurred],” James said. “It is another chance for us to go out there and play a great team.”
In the midst of the celebration surrounding the farewell game, the Hurricanes will remember Bryan Pata, who was killed a year ago this week.
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at email@example.com.