College Football Preview: Duke vs. Miami
MIAMI ó For Miami, this might have shaped up as one of those trap weeks that coaches loathe. Last-place Duke is on a three-game losing streak and coming to town for a matchup that immediately precedes the annual showdown with Florida State, the Hurricanes’ biggest rival.
No matter. There was nary a peep out of the Miami camp about the team from Tallahassee this week.
“The way Duke is playing right now, they have our attention,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “So it’s going to be quite a challenge for us.”
Miami (4-4, 2-3 ACC) plays its next-to-last home game of the season today, hosting the Blue Devils (3-5, 1-3) in the latest installment of a series that isn’t as one-sided as it looks. Yes, the Hurricanes are 6-0 against Duke since joining the ACC, but Miami had to scramble for no fewer than four of those wins, either needing second-half rallies or some big plays late to prevail.
The Hurricanes are bracing for more of the same this time around.
“Those days of Duke being a pushover, those days are long gone,” Miami linebacker Sean Spence said.
Wake and Virginia Tech would attest to that.
Two weeks ago, the Demon Deacons needed a 66-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes to pull out a 24-23 win. Last week, Duke missed three field goals ó including ones of 29 and 38 yards ó and ended up falling 14-10 to the Hokies.
“Discouraged, we’re not. We’re not going to be,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We have nothing to be discouraged about. We’re playing well. To get over the hump, I have simply told our squad, our coaches, everybody here, I think it starts with each individual, finding the thing in you that can make you better. That’s the fastest way to make a team better.”
Optimists in the Duke camp can point to one thing as a reason for hope this week. The Blue Devils are on a one-game winning streak in South Florida.
Duke came down to Miami a month ago and scrambled for a 31-27 win over FIU. Cutcliffe’s team is 0-3 since, getting beaten decisively by Florida State before the close calls against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. For this trip, Duke ó which has a number of Florida players, including seven from the greater Miami area alone ó is using the same hotel as it did for the FIU game, hoping familiarity means something.
“I think it’s important for us. I think our players realize that,” Cutcliffe said. “But that’s not at the forefront of their minds. I think the Florida kids get excited just because there’s people from home there.”
While hopes in the ACC are essentially gone for both teams, there’s still much to play for on both sides.
Duke is still trying to make its first bowl game since 1995, and a win over the Hurricanes could make the quest to finish the regular season with at least six wins far more realistic. And Miami’s players have been talking up a need to finish Golden’s first season strongly over the final four games.
“It’s a new season for us,” said Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who has thrown for seven touchdowns in his career against Duke, beating the Blue Devils all three times. “We’ve got to go 4-0. … And (Duke) is not no easy team. They gave Virginia Tech a run for their money and they’ve been doing good this whole year.”
There might be a reason Harris is complimentary about Duke this week. He’s been watching plenty of Matt Daniels highlights.
Daniels has been a clear bright spot for the Blue Devils. The senior safety had 13 tackles against Virginia Tech, the third time this season he’s reached double digits. And he thinks facing Virginia Tech’s David Wilson ó the league’s top rusher so far ó last weekend can only serve as great preparation for having to deal with Miami’s Lamar Miller on Saturday.
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