1. Contain Thomas Sirk
Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk, once a goal line only option, has evolved into the focal point of the Blue Devil offense. He does it all for Duke, leading the team in both passing and rushing yards. Standing at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, the junior is accurate through the air and a bruiser on the ground. If Miami stops Sirk, Miami stops Duke. It will truly take a group effort on defense to do so.
Miami’s already thin linebacker group will have to be extremely prepared to handle Sirk’s short passing game (6.7 yards per attempt) and his ability to run the ball. It will be up to the Hurricanes’ defensive line to keep Sirk inside the pocket and set the linebackers up for group tackles. Finally, Miami’s experienced secondary will have to be on its toes all game long, because Sirk utilizes all of his weapons. He has three receivers in the top 20 in the ACC in yards per game, so it’s imperative that Miami has sound coverage all over the field.
2. Get the offensive mojo back
Easier said than done, that’s for sure. Assuming sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya will not be available, redshirt freshman quarterback Malik Rosier will face the No. 6 scoring defense nationally (14.1 points per game allowed) on the road in his first career start. Miami’s young offensive line will need to accelerate the learning curve and be solid in pass protection as well as run blocking.
With a week to prepare, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Hurricanes deviated from their typical pro style attack in favor of an offense more suitable for the elusive Rosier: the option. Getting Rosier, Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton outside in space could give Miami an advantage and open up the stingy Duke defense for the big play. Once again, all of this is easier said than done without Kaaya, but something has to change to avoid what happened last week.
3. Force turnovers
Last week, Clemson ran all over Miami’s defense with ease and had no problem scoring. As Miami heads up to Durham this week, the defense definitely has something to prove. Slowing one of the best offenses in the ACC will be no easy task, but Miami has the athletes to do it.
One thing the defense will have to make a habit of once again is forcing turnovers. The Hurricanes still lead the ACC in turnover margin and without Kaaya to lead the team offensively, the defense will have to step up and make plays. Duke has been fairly careful with the football, only coughing it up eight times in seven games, but five of these turnovers have been lost fumbles, so look for the Hurricanes to go after the football whenever they can.
4. Rally around each other and bounce back
This has not been an easy week for the football team. After having to endure a brutal loss Saturday, players had to witness the departure of their head coach. Whatever readers may think about Al Golden, it was certain that the players loved him and it hurt them to see him go. Former tight ends coach Larry Scott has since replaced Golden on an interim basis, and will lead the Hurricanes for the rest of the season.
On top of this, Dana Smith, mother of junior cornerback Artie Burns, passed away due to a heart attack early Tuesday morning. Burns, who will be a team captain this weekend, has since returned to practice, and has admirably vowed that Saturday will be his “greatest effort.” The Hurricanes will certainly be playing with heavy hearts against Duke, but if they can rally around each other and play as a team, we may witness something special.
Feature photo courtesy HurricaneSports.com.