Last week against Central Florida, the focus was getting back to winning ways. The Miami Hurricanes barely accomplished that task.
This week the Hurricanes, who are in search of their first ACC win, will look to carry over whatever momentum was garnered to the road to play the Duke Blue Devils.
“It’s another ACC team that is doing very well,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “They play very well at home. They had a week off for preparation for us, so we have to expect the unexpected.”
Miami (3-3, 0-2 ACC) holds a 4-1 series lead against a Duke (3-2, 1-1 ACC) team that hasn’t won a bowl game since 1960.
The last time Duke could even put together consecutive winning seasons was when Steve Spurrier was their head coach back in the 1980s.
Despite the struggles Duke has faced, they have played Miami well.
Last year the Canes escaped the Blue Devils, 24-14, at the Orange Bowl. Running back Graig Cooper had 101 yards on 12 carries. The year before, the Hurricanes narrowly defeated Duke 20-15, with Miami sealing the game with an interception.
“The last two times they played us tough,” Shannon said. “They had an opportunity last year but we got a turnover. The year before [it was] an interception at the goal line and we won the game. We’re going to talk about those things, not to get lulled to sleep by ‘It’s Duke.'”
Coach Shannon hit the nail on the head.
The Hurricanes cannot sleep on the Blue Devils, as first-year head coach David Cutcliffe has led them to a 3-2 mark.
“They’ve come a long ways for some of their football players in [terms of] development,” Shannon said.
But Duke is coming off a loss against Georgia Tech two weeks ago during which they were blanked, 27-0. The Blue Devils only had 154 total yards in the game, while the Yellow Jackets piled up 454 total yards.
Against Central Florida, the Canes defense limited the Knights to 78 total yards on 64 plays. After its strong performance, Miami is 20th nationally in overall defense and 16th in rushing defense.
The best thing for the Hurricanes to do is to control the clock and keep the defense fresh. Georgia Tech controlled the ball for 39 minutes two weeks ago against Duke and the Canes should try to follow that approach with Cooper and Javarris James running the ball, especially since Duke is allowing 161 rushing yards per game.
“We are not going to take them lightly,” James said. “They’re Duke, but we understand that we must play them hard every play.”
Once again, the defense must prepare for another mobile quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis, and his main target Eron Riley. Lewis is able to make the offense move with his legs and his ability to sit in the pocket. Riley is a home-run hitter every time he catches the ball.
“They’re a good team,” linebacker Sean Spence said. “We know it’s going to be a hostile environment. It’s going to be their homecoming game against us.”
Miami knows they must win this game to keep their hopes of an ACC title alive.
“It’s a big ACC game,” quarterback Robert Marve said. “We’re trying to get that first ACC win under our belts. They’ll throw their best shot at it. We’re going to be prepared for everything, take it as a serious game. Duke’s a very good team. We have to go in and play our ‘A’ game.”