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State football previews: Mountaineers will have their work cut against No. 22 Miami

By Tim Reynolds

AP Sports Writer

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Barely a few minutes removed from Miami’s lopsided loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season-opener for both teams last weekend, Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz was looking ahead.

And he made a prediction of sorts.

“This team’s story is not even close to being written yet,” Diaz said. “And we’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of pride to make sure it goes the way they want it to.”

That process for the 22nd-ranked Hurricanes (0-1) starts Saturday night, when they play host to Appalachian State (1-0). It’ll be Miami’s home opener and the first time about half the roster — quarterback D’Eriq King included — plays at Hard Rock Stadium with a real crowd in attendance, as opposed to the smattering that was allowed last season.

Miami lost 44-13 to the Crimson Tide in Atlanta last weekend.

“You have to give credit Alabama there,” Diaz said. “In the six years that I’ve been here they’ve by far the best football team that we’ve played, the most complete football team that we’ve played in my time here.”

It was 27-0 Alabama early, putting the outcome in no doubt, and raised tons of questions if Miami can truly contend for Atlantic Coast Conference honors this season. And Week 2 isn’t exactly a cupcake; Miami rolled past Appalachian State in the schools’ lone other meeting five years ago, but the Mountaineers — winners over East Carolina in Week 1 — have more wins since 2015 than any other FBS team other than Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

“They’re used to winning,” Diaz said. “They expect to win.”

Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark described the difference between the Mountaineers and the Hurricanes this way: He considers his team fast, and Miami as faster.

“When you put this videotape on for Miami it’s a lot different team speed than what we’ve seen from some other Power 5 programs,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup, and one that our team is looking forward to, but I go back to the team speed … and again, it’s going to be tough.”

Any instance of the Mountaineers facing a big-time program still brings back memories of the win at Michigan in 2007, the 34-32 thriller over the fifth-ranked Wolverines. Appalachian State is 0-9 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 since, including a 45-10 home loss to Miami in 2016.

And Miami’s lopsided loss to Alabama didn’t seem to change Clark’s opinion of the Hurricanes.

“They’ve got great running backs, great receivers, quarterback is outstanding, kicking game was great,” Clark said. “There’s really no holes that I see on the team — except they played Alabama.”

Appalachian State QB Chase Brice — formerly of Clemson and Duke — will be facing Miami for the second time in his last four games. He completed 20 of 25 passes against the Hurricanes on Dec. 5, but that added up to just 94 yards and the Blue Devils lost 48-0. There hasn’t been any other game in the last 20 years where a quarterback threw at least 25 passes, completed at least 80% of them, and didn’t reach 100 yards.

Going back to last season Miami has allowed at least 37 points in three consecutive games. It’s the third time since World War II and the fourth time overall the Hurricanes have endured such a stretch, with the others coming in 2013, 1984 and 1944. The 143 points allowed in the last three games is the second-most in any three-game run in Hurricane history, behind only the 156 yielded in the final three games of the 1944 season.

POWER CHANCES

Appalachian State — which beat North Carolina and South Carolina in 2019 — will continue facing at least one Power 5 school in each of the next four seasons. It opens at home against North Carolina before going to Texas A&M in Week 2 next season, visits the Tar Heels in 2023, goes to Clemson in 2024 and is set to play host to South Carolina in 2025. There are also three games against Wake Forest that are agreed upon but remain unscheduled.

AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE

For the second consecutive game, Miami and its opponent will both feature an Australian punter. The Hurricanes have Lou Hedley, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season and a favorite for the award this year. Appalachian State counters with Xavier Subotsch. Hedley, Subotsch and Alabama’s James Burnip — who the Hurricanes saw last week — are all products of the Prokick Australia school run by coach Nathan Chapman.

No. 4 Oklahoma takes on Western Carolina

By Cliff Brunt

AP Sports Writer

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma players became increasingly worried about the score last weekend as Tulane rallied in the second half.

Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said that mindset nearly cost his team.

Oklahoma held on to beat Tulane 40-35, but the close call led to a two-spot drop in the  AP Top 25. Riley wants his fourth-ranked squad focused on performance and execution when it hosts Western Carolina on Saturday.

“We were too circumstantial the other day,” Riley said. “We were worried about the scoreboard, all the other circumstances, as opposed to our brand of ball, our standard of ball — regardless of any of those outside factors.”

Western Carolina (0-1) is a Championship Subdivision program that hasn’t beaten an Football Bowl Subdivision team in 59 tries. Riley said just like the scoreboard, the level a team comes from shouldn’t be a concern.

“If we’ve got any chance of being a good football team, we’ve got to figure out how to play four quarters and our mentality not being affected by the scoreboard, our opponent, anything else,” he said.

Western Carolina is coming off a 31-28 loss to Eastern Kentucky. The Catamounts missed a 56-yard field goal that would have tied the game as time expired.

Now, things get much tougher. Western Carolina coach Kerwin Bell called the matchup against Oklahoma the “ultimate test.”

“They are a really good football team,” Bell said. “A lot of talented football players. We’re going to go up there and give it our best shot. That’s the only way we can go about things.”

Western Carolina gained 501 yards against Eastern Kentucky. T.J. Jones had 115 yards rushing, 31 yards receiving and two total touchdowns, Rogan Wells passed for 275 yards and ran for 67 and Raphael Williams caught eight passes for 122 yards.

Western Carolina offensive line coach Jon Cooper was a star center for Oklahoma who was Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2008. Cooper stepped in for John Peacock, who died in August of complications from COVID-19. Bell said Cooper has done well under the circumstances.

“I think he’s a perfect fit for what we needed,” Bell said. “A guy who has a lot of knowledge. A guy who has really helped us in the run game and get some things cleaned up that we were looking to do with coach Peacock. But he’s just sort of added to that and come in and done a good job.”

South Carolina vs. East Carolina

By Aaron Beard

AP Sports Writer

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer savored his team earning a shutout victory to start his tenure. He’s also focused on improving smaller details, like cutting down on penalties.

The Gamecocks visit East Carolina on Saturday after committing eight penalties for 61 yards in the 46-0 win against Eastern Illinois. Those penalties bugged Beamer in a performance that otherwise checked all the boxes on their weekly goals, from stopping the run (31 yards) to protecting the football (one turnover).

Beamer said the penalties were “even worse than I thought” after watching game film afterward, even if they offered no stumbling block in Week 1. That included five penalties in the second quarter alone.

“We talked about playing smart football and we didn’t do a great job of that,” Beamer said. “We hit all of our goals that we go into each and every week … except the penalty part of it. So we’ve got to be a lot better there or it’ll cost us on Saturday in Greenville.”

South Carolina (1-0) has won four straight meetings in the series between neighboring-state programs, though this will be the Gamecocks’ first trip to Greenville since 1997. The Pirates (0-1) lost to Appalachian State in their opener, and penalties were a problem for the American Athletic Conference program, too. East Carolina committed seven penalties for 90 yards, including on that called back a touchdown, while the Holton Ahlers-led offense didn’t follow an early touchdown with a second until trailing 33-9.

“I do feel like those issues are fixable and I think most teams have some mistakes there in Game 1, and you see them fixed from Week 1 to Week 2,” ECU coach Mike Houston said. “That’s where you see improvement.”

Luke Doty, South Carolina’s expected starting quarterback, didn’t play last week as he works his way back from a preseason foot injury. Zeb Noland, a former graduate assistant, started last week. Beamer wouldn’t publicly name a starter for the ECU game.

Doty said he felt good at practice this week and believes he’ll be 100% this weekend.

The Gamecocks are also set to have running back Kevin Harris. He missed all of spring camp and most of the summer due to a back surgery after running for 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns last year as the SEC’s leading rusher (113.8 yards per game).

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