Miami takes on first ACC opponent

Heading into their first Atlantic Coast Conference game at Death Valley, N.C., No. 16 Miami will concentrate on getting their revenge against the Clemson Tigers who upset the then 10th-ranked Hurricanes last season. The game is at noon on Saturday and will be aired on ESPN2.

The past three times the Hurricanes have matched up with the Tigers, all the games have gone into overtime and the road team has won each time.

Head coach Randy Shannon is eager to start conference play.

“I’m kind of excited about it, to see where we’re at,” said Shannon, whose team beat Clemson in Tiger town in 2005 when he was the defensive coordinator. “[We have had] some great games, great competition, thrillers at the end and that’s what you want. It’s another opportunity to be on national television, to go out there and perform at a high level.”

Last year, the Tigers clawed their way to a 40-37 victory. During the heartbreaking loss for Miami, there were 12 lead changes, two ties, a 90-yard kickoff return, a fumble recovery and interception for a touchdown and a game-winning touchdown in overtime on third and 12.

The Hurricanes had an opportunity to seal a win in regulation after an interception but failed to convert a first down to kill the clock.

C.J. Spiller, a 2010 first round draft pick running back, set a school-record 310 all-purpose yards including the 90-yard kickoff return right before halftime.

Miami players still feel bitter about the loss.

“It was a tough loss,” junior cornerback Brandon Harris said. “It was one of those games we felt we had a win, just let it slip through our hands. It was unacceptable. We came in, looked at film from last year’s game. It kind of hurt watching the film.”

The Hurricanes felt like they gave the game away last season.

“We let them hang with us,” said sophomore defensive end Olivier Vernon, who leads the Hurricanes with 3.5 sacks. “This game we’re trying to knock them out.”

There will be some top-terrier defensive lines on the field come Saturday afternoon. Miami ranks second in the nation in sacks per game with 4.67 and first in tackles for loss per game with 11.33.

On the opposite side, Clemson ranks 10th nationally in sacks with 3.33 and fourth in tackles for loss with 8.67. They are lead by junior defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Andre Branch who both have three sacks.

It will be up to the Hurricanes offensive line to keep junior quarterback Jacory Harris upright. Senior tackle Orlando Franklin earned ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week after he graded out 96 percent against Pittsburgh.

Even though this season the right tackle has been stronger than last years, Miami still has concerns and is struggling.

The Canes have been rotating between tackles with senior Joel Figueroa and redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson. Both gave up sacks against Pitt last week.

Look for the nation’s top recruit, true freshman Seantrel Henderson, to get more playing time. This week Henderson was practicing with the first team and has been used in goal-line and short-yardages situations in the past three games.

This will be Clemson’s homecoming weekend and the Tigers have only lost two games since 1971.

Miami knows how important it is start the ACC on the right note.

“Its obvious we have to go strong into our conference,” redshirt sophomore safety Vaughn Telemaque said. “It’s a big deal to us. We want to go or there in our first ACC matchup and get a victory.”

Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at