Duke moves on from Miami loss, focuses on No. 21 UNC
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke has good reason to move past the Miami Miracle - or, as it's referred to here, the Debacle in Durham.
That game-ending play could wind up being completely meaningless in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.
For the Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1), the path to first place in the Coastal Division is exactly the same as it was a week ago.
To get there, they must win their next two games, starting Saturday against their top rival - No. 21 North Carolina (7-1, 4-0).
''Even if we (had beaten Miami), we would still need to beat UNC to make it to (first place in) the Coastal,'' defensive lineman A.J. Wolf said Tuesday. ''That helps us refocus up and say, `Guys, this game's huge.' We still need to beat them to make it there. We're still in the driver's seat.''
A lot the college football talk the past few days has been about the wacky finish to the Miami-Duke game, which ended when Cole Elder returned the last in a series of eight laterals after a kickoff for the winning touchdown.
The ACC later suspended the officiating crew and replay official for two games, saying the TD shouldn't have counted because a review should have found that a previous Miami player was down before he pitched the ball, that the decision to pick up one penalty flag was improperly explained and that two other penalties should have been called during the return.
But the final score - Miami 30, Duke 27 - stands, and there's nothing the Blue Devils can do about that now except keep that one loss from becoming two.
They insist focus won't be a problem this week because they've been a bit miffed at the Tar Heels for the past year.
North Carolina kept Duke from a second straight ACC championship game with a 45-20 victory last November. It's customary for the winning team in the rivalry to spray-paint the Victory Bell in its specific shade of blue when the traveling trophy changes hands, but the celebration irked the Blue Devils because the carpet and inside and outside walls of the visitors' locker room at Wallace Wade Stadium were damaged by paint.
''I think we're over (the Miami game), and hopefully it will fuel us for this North Carolina game because we're going to need it,'' Duke center Matt Skura said. ''The rivalry in itself fuels us already, and we have a lot of energy going forward.''
They'll need it, because the winner claims the upper hand in the Coastal race.
With a win, North Carolina will have the inside track to a spot in the ACC title game. A Duke victory creates a three-way tie for first with the Tar Heels and Pittsburgh - and the Blue Devils face the Panthers next week.
Coach David Cutcliffe says he's ''not even going there yet'' with regard to those Coastal scenarios.
''We've got November left to play,'' he said. ''What our goal is, is to play November the best we've played any month this year. ... You start trying to pile more on a group of athletes than that, you start running into restricting people. It's fun to be a part of any competitive opportunity for winning championships in November.''
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