After Miami got back on the winning track last weekend with a win at Virginia, the Hurricanes will try to continue their winning ways when they host Wake Forest Saturday at the Orange Bowl.
Wake Forest enters the Orange Bowl with a 4-5 record, but it is just 1-5 in the ACC. Its only conference win came against Duke. Yet, the Demon Deacons can still make a bowl game if they defeat Miami and Maryland.
Despite a losing record, Wake Forest does have some talented players. As a matter of fact, the Demon Deacon offense features a standout backfield with Eric Barclay, who has over 700 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and Micah Andrews, who has only 206 rushing yards but has six touchdowns and an amazing 7.1 yard per carry mark. Barclay leads the conference with a 94.4 yards per game average.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes’ run defense has proved to be susceptible at times, especially in the loss to UNC. If the Hurricanes want to win, they are going to have to shut down the Wake Forest running attack, which averages 218 yards per game.
“They have the conference leading rusher for one and they have a very complex package that they do a great job of executing,” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “Defensively, they really get off blocks and play hard and chase the ball well.”
After two straight losses, the Hurricanes were looking for some confidence last weekend against Virginia. A 31-21 victory on the road definitely bolstered the team’s hopes as Miami, playing the underdog role for the first time all season, stepped up to the plate. Offensively, the Hurricanes rediscovered their running game, as Frank Gore ran well throughout the game. After struggling against Clemson, Brock Berlin turned in a strong effort against Virginia. Miami did allow 21 points, but it got the key stops when they needed to, allowing the ‘Canes to get in front early and protect their lead throughout the game.
“I was confident before winning that game and winning makes you more confident. I feel good about this week, and if we prepare well and practice well, that really helps everybody’s confidence,” Coker said.
If the Hurricanes can win out, they are in the driver’s seat for the ACC crown. However, after Wake Forest, the Hurricanes stay in the Orange Bowl to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies defeated the Hurricanes in Blacksburg last year for their first loss of the season. With that said, it is important for Miami not to overlook the Demon Deacons, who have glaring similarities to North Carolina and Clemson.
For one, Wake Forest is 4-5 while Clemson and North Carolina sit at 5-5. Wake Forest’s strength is its running game and North Carolina’s strength was also its ability to pound the football.
“The only thing we are looking at is Wake Forest because if we don’t get the job done there, then the other game doesn’t matter,” Coker said.
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.