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The Miami Hurricanes (3-1), riding their recent wave of momentum from a nationally televised victory over Texas A&M, will host the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the Duke Blue Devils (1-3) on Saturday.
Last year, the ‘Canes were heavily favored against winless Duke, but nearly blew an 18-point lead before a Willie Cooper interception held off the Blue Devils, 20-15. However, the ‘Canes were short-handed with 13 players suspended for taking part in the brawl with FIU.
This time, the ‘Canes hope for a similar ending to that of two years ago when they destroyed Duke 52-7 at the Orange Bowl.
“We will be fine. Guys understand what Duke is about and as a team that won’t quit on you,” Head Coach Randy Shannon said. “[We] got to play hard.”
The Hurricanes have been flawless at home this year having a 3-0 record, due in part to the ‘Canes defense holding all opponents scoreless in the first half and out-gaining their opponents 590-278 in total yards.
Miami is coming off a dominant performance in which they toppled the No. 20 Texas A&M squad (34-17).
The ‘Canes smothered the high-powered Aggie offense, holding Stephen McGee and company to only 38 yards in the first half. Although the Hurricane ground game struggled, quarterback Kyle Wright played one of the best games of his career, completing 21 of 26 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami holds a 3-1 series lead against a Duke team that hasn’t won a bowl game since 1960. Steve Spurrier was the last coach to bring Duke to a string of consecutive winning seasons, back in the late 1980s.
Earlier this season, the Blue Devils broke the nation’s longest losing streak of 22 games, with a win against Northwestern.
Last week, Duke was poised to win their second consecutive game for the first time since 2003, but blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead against Navy.
The ‘Canes haven’t won an ACC opener since 2004 when they beat Florida State in overtime.
“ACC games are always important because you go to win the conference. You go through the conference without losing a game then you win the conference,” Shannon said. “It’s very important.”
Shannon’s run offense should improve this week. The ‘Canes running game was held in check last week to 127 yards and only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James should spark the running attack against a Duke team, which is last in the ACC in total defense. Quarterback Kyle Wright is expected to follow up with another strong performance as well.
The ‘Canes are prepared to contain the blistering speed of the leading kickoff return man in the ACC, Jabari Mitchell, who is averaging almost 30 yards per return. Miami cornerbacks DeMarcus Van Dyke, Bruce Johnson- and Chavez Grant will have the task of covering wide receiver Eron Riley who caught four touchdowns last week. Cornerback true freshman Van Dyke has only allowed one catch this entire season, proving to be a true shut down corner.
Van Dyke made clear that the ‘Canes will not take Duke for granted.
“The whole thing this week is to get the job done,” he said. “Last year they came back on us. This year, we’re going to try to finish the job.”