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19 October 2010

Canes prepare to take on the Tar Heels

UM running back Graig Cooper gets tackled by Florida State University players. Steven Stuts//The Miami Hurricane

For head coach Randy Shannon, the top priority was not for the No. 25 Miami Hurricanes to climb back in the Top 25. Instead, Shannon has been preaching that they play Miami Hurricane football.

Now, it’s time for the Hurricanes to finally stick it back to their former friend, who is now a foe.

Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium, Shannon and the Canes will need to play sound football as they face North Carolina, coached by former Head Coach Butch Davis.

It will be the fourth match-up between the coaches with Davis’ team winning every game.

Shannon did not deny the Tar Heels have gotten the best of the Hurricanes the past three meetings.

“The last couple of years have not been good for me or the University of Miami playing North Carolina,” Shannon said. “We’re 0-3. We’ve had some games come down to the wire. We talked about it as a staff, as a football team, they have our number right now.”

Davis took over Miami in 1995 and inherited a program hindered by NCAA sanctions that limited scholarships for his three seasons. Gradually, Davis brought the Canes back to prominence; he was 51-20 over six seasons, had won three Big East Conference titles and four bowl games.

Davis is also known for recruiting one of the greatest college football team ever in the top-tier 2001 Hurricanes national championship team.

Ever since Davis took over UNC in 2007, his Tar Heels have always defeated the Canes.

Last season, North Carolina intercepted quarterback Jacory Harris four times and returned two for touchdowns as they won, 33-24.

Still, the Hurricanes had a chance to win the game, and didn’t have a problem moving the ball against the Tar Heels tallying 435 total yards.

The last time two times they squared off at Sun Life Stadium, the Tar Heels stole a victory from the Hurricanes. Miami was up by 10 points with 10 minutes remaining in the game and blew the lead, losing 28-24 in the final minute.

The Hurricanes are looking forward to the challenge against the Tar Heels.

“It’s going to be a fight,” said sophomore guard Brandon Washington, who was awarded ACC Player of the Week honors after he recorded seven pancake blocks against Duke. “Those guys have been holding it down for the past three years but it’s not about North Carolina, it’s about Miami Hurricanes football. We are going to go out there and fight for 60 minutes.”

The Hurricanes have to start focusing in on their penalties. Hurricanes are ranked 115th out of 120 teams in penalties per game averaging 9.17 for 72 yards.

Miami has forced 18 turnovers this season and are plus five in the turnover margin. North Carolina is just as good, forcing 16 and having a plus seven in the turnover margin.

The Canes have been motivated all week to win this game for Shannon.

“I don’t see any player out their lollygagging,” said redshirt sophomore safety Vaughn Telemaque, who has three interceptions in the last two games. “I don’t see anyone out there second-guessing. I don’t see anybody out there jogging. It’s that type of level of we have to play with in order to beat this team.”

Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at lledoux@themiamihurricane.com.