Hurricanes blow into Virginia with swagger back
Miami looks like it has its swagger back.
The No. 22 Hurricanes are coming off their biggest victory of the season, a 33-10 romp over North Carolina, and coming to Virginia with designs on doing something big this season.
At 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC, the Hurricanes are a game behind No. 21 Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division and eyeing a Nov. 20 date with the Hokies.
But coach Randy Shannon won't allow his team to look past Virginia (3-4, 0-3), which hasn't won a league game in over a year but is coming off a confidence-building victory.
Shannon's team appears to be listening, too.
''We're focused now,'' wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said. ''We're getting on each other in practice, then take the same into the game and that's why we're pumped up now. And their pass defense, it's legit. They'll give us their 'A' game and we'll need to respond.''
In the victory over the Tar Heels, the Hurricanes scored 30 unanswered points and resembled the teams of the 1980s that dominated college football. Following an often-heated players-only meeting designed to bring emotion into their game, they drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for celebration, and the defense even danced on the field during a timeout.
Shannon, a player in those bad-boy days, wants to see more of that emotion Saturday.
''What is our mindset going to be? That's what we'll talk about,'' Shannon said. ''We'll talk about where we need to be as the University of Miami football team. And then we'll talk about how Virginia has moved the ball on opponents. It's just turnovers that's keeping them from where they want to be. And they've got two cornerbacks that are really good.''
The Cavaliers have felt all season that they are just a few plays from turning the corner under first-year coach Mike London, but stopping big plays would help, too.
Even in handing Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference its 19th loss in 20 games, 45-21 last week, they allowed the Eagles to run for 209 yards by halftime, and needed a kickoff return touchdown and a fake punt that produced another to finally pull away.
But the bottom line, wide receiver Matt Snyder said, is that they won, putting the bad taste of three lopsided losses in conference games out of their heads. In each of those, against Florida State, Georgia Tech and the Tar Heels, they were well behind by halftime.
''I think a fast start is always critical, and that's something after the first couple of weeks that we realized we need to focus on,'' said Snyder, the team's third-leading receiver.
London hopes the positives of a 31-7 second half a week ago carry over this week. It was Virginia's first victory against a Bowl Subdivision team since it beat Maryland last Oct. 17.
They have played nine league games since then, and come up short every time.
The Hurricanes would like nothing more than to extend that streak to 10, and hope to bring the same kind of emotion and swagger that helped carry them past the Tar Heels.
''When we're doing that, we get the sideline into the game and then home or away, you feel like you're not letting your teammates down,'' defensive tackle Marcus Forston said.
''We did the same thing in high school. Brings back a lot of memories.''