Despite struggles, Miami sitting atop ACC
Miami has given up more first downs than any team in the nation
this season, has been beaten by at least 38 points on two separate
occasions already and is on pace to obliterate school records for
points and yardage allowed.
Those defensive numbers – beyond dreadful.
There is, however, one stat that doesn’t make Mark D’Onofrio
”We’re 3-0 in the ACC,” the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator
said Monday, ”so that keeps me positive.”
Go figure. Among all the numbers that spell disaster, the ones
that matters most are the ones in the standings.
Widely picked to finish toward the bottom of the Atlantic Coast
Conference, Miami (4-2, 3-0) is one of only three remaining
unbeatens in league play, along with Duke (2-0 ACC) and Maryland
(1-0 ACC). And while a pair of blowout losses – a 52-13 debacle at
Kansas State last month, followed by a 41-3 embarrassment this past
weekend against Notre Dame – show that while the Hurricanes have
their problems, the ACC race may be an elixir of sorts.
”We’re in the tournament right now,” Miami coach Al Golden
The tournament – a phrase Golden used last year as well, but
still fits – starts in earnest on Saturday, when the Hurricanes
open a stretch of three home games by facing North Carolina (4-2,
1-1). What happens over that homestand, which also includes
prime-time rivalry matchups with Florida State and Virginia Tech,
will almost certainly decide Miami’s fate in the Coastal Division
”It’s there for the taking,” Miami running back Mike James
said. ”But it goes to show you, it’s not about what people write
down or who’s writing the books. Look where they wrote us to be.
It’s all about who’s the best team on that day.”
That’s been proven time and again in the ACC already this
Miami was tabbed to finish fifth in the Coastal, ahead of only
Duke – and combined, those teams are 5-0 in league play so far. Two
weeks ago, the Hurricanes enjoyed a smorgasbord of offensive
success in a 44-37 win over North Carolina State. Miami followed up
that win by getting rolled by Notre Dame; the Wolfpack followed up
that loss by knocking off then-No. 3 Florida State, 17-16.
”N.C. State showed up and played,” James said. ”They’re a
good ball team, a good ball club, a lot of people overlooked that
And after getting beat by 38 points, on national television,
Miami might just be a team some people are overlooking as well.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora insists that he’s not among
”They got talent,” Fedora said. ”They’re as talented as any
team in the league, really. … They’ve got the players
What Miami hasn’t had is enough plays. The Hurricanes have
allowed 158 first downs in six games – by comparison, Florida State
has allowed 75 in six games – and have allowed opponents to convert
45 percent of their third-down chances. Miami has given up 208
points already; the school record is 314, set during 13-game
seasons in 1984 and 2008. At this rate, if the Hurricanes play 13
games this season, they would allow 451 points.
In fairness, Miami’s two losses have come against teams
currently ranked No. 6 and No. 7 in the country. Also in fairness,
the Hurricanes are simply giving up tons of yards against everybody
– 510 per game so far, which means they’re on pace to yield more
than 6,000 by the end of the regular season alone.
The Hurricanes’ record for yards allowed: 4,369 in 1997, school
Unless Ray Lewis and Ed Reed get eligibility restored and return
to college, that number would seem to be a lock to get topped soon
”We have a month here at home where we’ve got an opportunity to
get better, and I don’t think you can discount … playing 26 or 28
guys in a game,” said D’Onofrio, whose defensive two-deep is
almost entirely composed of freshmen and sophomores. ”I don’t
think anybody can really understand what that entails and the
commitment that that takes, not only in the short-term but in the
No matter what the numbers say, the chance is there for
The Hurricanes aren’t the only team in the ACC that controls
their own destiny – at this point, just about everybody does – but
there’s a hope in Coral Gables that having the best league record
at this point means something as they head into this stretch.
”We need our fans, we need our students, we need to have a
home-field advantage,” Golden said. ”It should be a lot of
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