After losing to North Carolina on the road last week, the Miami Hurricanes will host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Saturday at the Orange Bowl.
The ‘Canes will look to avenge losses from the previous two seasons handed by the Yellow Jackets, who were ranked No. 12 to start the season but have struggled recently.
After a slow offensive start last week, Miami (4-2, 1-1 ACC) will look to get back on track. Head Coach Randy Shannon believes that it is a matter of intensity and trust.
“We have got to bounce back from what we did last week,” Shannon said. “There were positive things that happened in the second half, but we have got to start off fast and not just finish that way.”
The Yellow Jackets (3-3, 1-3) are a run-first team. Their running back, Tashard Choice, is on the short list of the nation’s best, and they will look to pound the middle against a banged-up Hurricane defense. Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon and linebackers Colin McCarthy and Romeo Davis will be out for the game.
“We have a rotation. We have Daryl [Sharpton], Tavares [Gooden], Spencer [Adkins], Eric Houston and Allen Bailey,” Shannon said. “They’re going to earn their scholarships. That’s all we got, and we can’t make excuses. I keep telling them, if they want rest, go three [plays] and out,” he said, referring to the act of punting on fourth down. “If you don’t, go eight and out.”
The injuries will leave the Hurricanes with only four linebackers who have game experience. One such linebacker, Houston, has mainly contributed on special teams. A fifth, Bailey, is a true freshman and can only play in the middle , according to Shannon. In the Miami defense, linebackers rotate among the three linebacker positions.
Shannon, however, does not see injuries as the main problem. He is quick to dispel any notion that the team is losing confidence or is hesitant to make mistakes. He points out that if the team had no confidence or was hesitant in any way, they would not have been able to come back against North Carolina to score 27 second-half points. Shannon believes, rather, that his players have to believe in the new coaching staff.
“They have got to believe that what we are calling is working,” Shannon said. “If you don’t change anything you do, and make the same calls and everything, and in the first half they score all those points and in the second half they only score six, then there’s got to be something going on.”
At the end of the day, the success of the Hurricanes will be contingent upon their ability to focus on the task at hand. They cannot come out of the game fast and then ease off, as they did against Duke and expect to win. Neither can they decide to turn it on in the second half. In order to win this game, they will have to play with focus and energy befitting their talent for the entire game against a dangerous opponent.
“We have got to keep working at it,” Shannon said. “We’re not going to give up and these players understand that. They’re not holding their head down, and they understand that what we need to get done is on them now.”
Dan Stein may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.