It’s been a tough week to be a Miami Hurricane and it doesn’t get any easier as the ‘Canes prepare for their final road trip against the University of Virginia.
Just days after defensive lineman Bryan Pata was murdered, the Miami Hurricanes fell 14-13 on the road to the University of Maryland. The loss, Miami’s third straight, dropped the Hurricanes to a meager 5-5 for just the second time since 1980.
“Last week was a tough week and I don’t know that this week will be any easier,” Coker said. “Our guys are a little bit sore, a little beat up, but we’ve got to fill our tanks back up and get ready to play our best on Saturday. We’re trying.”
The Hurricanes have no other choice. If Miami looks to be bowl eligible, they must win one of their next two games. The Virginia Cavaliers (4-6) are coming off a bye week and are still recovering from getting shut out by Florida State 33-0.
Still, Coker knows a victory this weekend at Scott Stadium will be no easy task.
“Virginia has a terrific quarterback and a big running back,” Coker said. “The quarterback can really make some things happen.”
Virginia’s quarterback, James Sewell, has had a stellar freshman season. He has completed 110 of 193 passes for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns. UVA’s defense is currently No. 21 in the nation.
Both schools have faced each other three times before, with the Hurricanes winning every contest.
Last season, Miami defeated the Cavaliers 25-17 at the Orange Bowl during a game in which quarterback Kyle Wright threw for 248 yards, completing 23 of 30 passes.
But this Saturday, Wright, who suffered a thumb injury against Virginia Tech and might require surgery, will not be suiting up. Instead, back-up quarterback Kirby Freeman will make his second career start for UM.
Against Maryland, many wondered whether Freeman was capable of leading Miami’s offense against the plucky Terrapins. Freeman silenced the critics by completing 14 of 27 passes for 140 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Freeman also rushed for 51 yards.
“Everybody’s saying they were surprised with how I performed [against Maryland],” Freeman said. “I knew I could do it all along. I just needed a chance to prove it. We saw what I could do on the run. I just have to get more comfortable in the pocket.”
Senior receiver Ryan Moore, who led the Hurricanes in receiving yards against Maryland with five receptions for 50 yards, believes Freeman is capable of improving Miami’s chances on offense against Virginia despite the 14-13 loss to Maryland last week.
“Kirby did a very job in his first start-better than most people expected,” Moore said. “He can do a lot of things moving around. He’s another offensive playmaker, which we’ll need against a big, muscular bunch like Virginia. Even though we lost to Maryland, it was a vast improvement, especially on offense. We got a little momentum from our performance this past Saturday.”
Indeed. Against Maryland, the Hurricanes trailed 14-0 early on. But the team battled back, limiting the Terrapins to only six first downs and 56 rushing yards.
Freeman agrees the ‘Canes have some momentum heading into this Saturday.
“Virginia has an excellent defense, but we’re concentrating on getting back to the basics,” Freeman said. “We need to win this game to be bowl eligible. Last time we saw Miami not in a bowl game was a long time ago and we’re not trying to bring that to the surface at all.”
Victor R. Rodriguez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.