Miami-Clemson Preview

Miami bounced back from its first loss with a thoroughly

impressive victory, something Clemson hopes to do after spending an

off week getting over a crushing overtime defeat.

Recent history suggests the Tigers might again find themselves

working more than 60 minutes.

All three of the 16th-ranked Hurricanes’ games against Clemson

since joining the ACC have gone to overtime, and another close

contest could be in store in Saturday afternoon’s

conference-opening clash at Memorial Stadium.

Turnovers and missed opportunities plagued Miami (2-1) in a

36-24 loss at No. 2 Ohio State on Sept. 11, but a few extra days

off greatly benefited the Hurricanes before their Sept. 23 visit to

Pittsburgh.

Jacory Harris bounced back from throwing four interceptions

against the Buckeyes with two touchdowns against the Panthers,

combining with a defense that forced three turnovers in a 31-3

win.

“Best we’ve played in a while,” defensive lineman Allen Bailey

said. “Everybody’s flying around, everybody sees the ball, tackles

for losses, sacks, interceptions. Pretty good.”

Harris has six picks to go with six touchdowns thus far, but his

team might be awfully difficult to beat if he cut down on his

mistakes. The Hurricanes are eighth in the nation in total defense,

allowing 252.0 yards per game, and two of the three touchdown

drives they’ve yielded came on drives of 19 yards or less.

“I believe in the guy next to me and the guy next to me believes

in me,” linebacker Sean Spence said. “We have a lot of great

players on this defense, we have great depth and when we execute, I

think we have a championship defense.”

That’s a far cry from what the Hurricanes’ defense looked like

last Oct. 24 when it hosted Clemson (2-1). Quarterback Kyle Parker

threw for a career-high 326 yards and three touchdowns in

engineering a 40-37 overtime upset of then-No. 8 Miami, which saw

Harris toss three interceptions.

All three meetings between the schools since the Hurricanes

joined the ACC in 2004 have gone to overtime. The road team has won

each game, with Clemson holding a 2-1 edge.

The Tigers weren’t quite as fortunate in their latest attempt to

pull off a road upset. Clemson led 17-0 just before halftime at

then-No. 16 Auburn on Sept. 18, but lost 27-24 in overtime.

“It was tough to deal with,” left tackle Chris Hairston said.

“But it was something where we learned what we needed to do to

improve.”

Parker threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns as he played

through bruised ribs, an injury that isn’t expected to limit him

this week.

With the tough loss and Parker’s soreness, Clemson’s players

said their early open date came at a perfect time.

That certainly proved to be the case last season. The Tigers

lost three of their first five games by a combined 10 points before

reeling off a six-game winning streak that helped them win the ACC

Atlantic Division.

“I’m more encouraged than discouraged right now,” coach Dabo

Swinney said. “I do think we have the personnel and the chemistry

on this team to really be a good football team. What we got to do

know is try and create some momentum.”

Clemson will have an easier time doing that if Andre Ellington

can keep running well. The sophomore tailback is averaging 7.4

yards per carry and has four touchdowns, more than making up for

the production lost by the graduation of star C.J. Spiller.

Miami will certainly have its sights set on Ellington – it held

Pitt star Dion Lewis to 41 yards on 12 carries – but on offense,

the Hurricanes may want to concentrate on improving their own

struggling running game.

Miami is 85th in the nation in rushing (125.0 ypg) with senior

Damien Berry getting the bulk of the carries, though facing Clemson

could provide the ideal opportunity to break through. The Tigers

have allowed 184.7 yards per game on the ground, 96th in the

nation.

Rushing success has typically equaled a victory for the

Hurricanes under coach Randy Shannon. Miami is 17-4 when it runs

for 125 yards or more since Shannon took over in 2007 and 6-14 when

it doesn’t.