Canes enter Homecoming weekend in good spirits

The Miami Hurricanes (5-3, 2-2 ACC) enter an emotional Homecoming weekend off one of the program’s more satisfying wins in recent memory: a 30-6 drubbing of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

While the pundits could have so much to argue against Miami – playing against a down Hokies team probably being the biggest bullet point – there are obviously a ton of positives to look at.

Everything seemed to go well for the Hurricanes last Thursday; their offense, especially on the ground, was lightning quick and spectacular. Duke Johnson caught and rushed for a touchdown and led the Canes in both rushing yards (a career-high 249 yards) and receiving yards (37).

Johnson’s performance led long-time Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer to say that Johnson may be the best running back he’s ever coached against. To add to those numbers, Johnson finally recorded the 1,000-yard season Canes fans have been waiting for, which is astounding considering the slow start he had, especially against Louisville in Week 1.

Meanwhile, the Canes defense preserved a shutout until the end of the game. Denzel Perryman, who earlier this week was announced as a Butkus Award semifinalist, led the team with 11 tackles.

Jermaine Grace and Anthony Chickillo each recorded a sack. Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said on the Saturday before the game that he was satisfied with a much-criticized defensive performance this season, but these looked more like the Canes that shut down Duke at home in September than the Canes that gave up 300 yards to Nebraska and Georgia Tech.

The Canes now take on their best friend in the ACC, North Carolina (4-4, 2-2 ACC.) The Tar Heels have made it much easier for Miami to stay in the running for an ACC Coastal division title and advance to the ACC Championship game for the first time. The Tar Heels have upset Georgia Tech and Virginia on successive Saturdays, but showed significant tackling problems against the Virginia Cavaliers.

Tim Scott was Carolina’s leading tackler last Saturday with nine tackles, but time and time again, a Cavalier slipped like butter through the arms of the Heels for extra yardage. Miami’s potent offense, one of the ACC’s best, should be able to take advantage of that.

Miami is undefeated at home, and this weekend will be even sweeter with the presence of former Hurricanes quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly as Grand Marshal of the Homecoming Parade on Friday night. All year long, the Hurricanes have promoted and supported the #KellyTough campaign during and after Kelly’s battle with sinus cancer. Kelly was declared cancer-free in August.

The Canes kick off against North Carolina at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 on ESPN3 and WVUM 90.5 FM.