The focus must continue for the Miami Hurricanes.
With one more opponent before returning back to Atlantic Coast Conference play, the No. 9 Hurricanes will look to avoid a letdown when they travel to Bright House Networks Stadium to square off with Central Florida Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday night will mark the second meeting between Miami and UCF and the Canes’ first game in Orlando since 1936.
Head coach Randy Shannon and the Canes (4-1, 2-1 ACC) know UCF (3-2) will come out motivated in front of a sell out crowd.
“This is their bowl game,” Shannon said, whose team handled Florida A&M 48-16 last week. “This is their opportunity to put themselves on the map. Last year we had a tough game against them. For us, as a team, we have to get back to starting fast like we did last week and finishing the game strong. Coach [George] O’Leary has done a great job getting that program where it needs to be.”
UCF is coming off a bye week and are 0-19 against Top 25 teams since becoming a Division I program in 1996.
However, Central Florida gave Miami a scare last year at Land Shark Stadium.
Despite holding Central Florida to 78 total yards last year, the Hurricanes squeaked by the Knights 20-14. It took a fourth-down pass deflect from senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton to preserve a win for the Canes.
But sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris was not the starter and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was a part of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I know that Central Florida’s going to be a sold out game in Orlando,” Harris said, who has four 200-yards passing games this season and has 1,225 in five games. “We’re going to go up there to just have fun.”
This season, the Hurricanes’ defensive line has been hit hard due to injuries. Each week the list of injured players has fluctuated from freshman Olivier Vernon to senior Eric Moncur.
Defensive line coach Clint Hurtt believes if one player goes down, he another player will fill the void.
“There’s not one guy that’s more important than the other,” Hurtt said. “They all have to play. Everyone is talking about the injuries and being beat up, but D-line is a physical position. I told them ‘If you want to play this game 100 percent healthy and not have a nick or bang, retire.’ It’s a man’s position.”
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jordan Futch is out for season with a torn ACL. For the entire season, Futch was the fourth linebacker and the first one off the bench. Redshirt freshman Ramon Buchanan and sophomore Arthur Brown have to make up for his absence on defense and special teams.
As announced before the season, Miami will take the bus to UCF and USF later next month. This is part of an effort to save money due to the hard economic times.
Shannon actually sees positives by taking a team bus.
“No difference, it’s the same thing,” Shannon remarked. “We’ll probably make it faster because after the game you don’t have to go through the security gates, you don’t have to wait on the plane. You just get on the bus and go. It’ll probably save us an hour.”
Miami will look to go 5-1 for the first time since opening 8-1 in 2005 but they will be tested by UCF.
“They are a tough football team,” Shannon said. “We have to go out there and try to win all four quarters of this football game.”
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.