Miami now facing an uphill ACC climb

BY foxsports • October 25, 2009

Good-bye, fledgling national championship hopes.

Farewell, top-10 Bowl Championship Series ranking.

Adios, plans to control the Atlantic Coast Conference race.

All doomed Saturday when the Hurricanes lost 40-37 in overtime to Clemson, a game where Miami took the lead on seven occasions and somehow managed to give it away every time. The plan was not to let C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford control the game; Spiller set a Clemson record with 310 all-purpose yards and had two long touchdowns, and Ford caught the gamewinner in overtime.

"It was just bad," Miami coach Randy Shannon said Sunday morning, after a largely sleepless night. "Just bad for special teams, offense, defense, just bad football. We probably played our worst game. ... That was the sloppiest game I've seen us play this year."

The Hurricanes fell 10 spots in the AP Top 25 poll to No. 18, but it was the freefall in the Atlantic Coast Conference that damaged Miami most. The team gathered Sunday to watch the Clemson tape, followed by the start of preparations for Wake Forest would begin in the afternoon, the first step toward moving on.

"This one hurt. I think this loss hurt the team more than anything. This was a big-time hurt loss, because of the way we lost and all the things that happened in the game," Shannon said. "So now, they've got to come on back. We've got to get them out of it. We'll see. I think we'll be fine."

In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech is 5-1, Virginia Tech 3-1, Duke and Virginia are both 2-1, so the Hurricanes (5-2, 2-2) now face a serious uphill climb in their quest to make the ACC title game.

Consider: Georgia Tech only has Wake Forest and Duke left in conference play. Unless the Yellow Jackets lose both, Miami must win its final four in ACC play to have any hope of getting into a tiebreaker for the division crown.

"It wasn't until the second- or third-to-last game of the season last year before the ACC was decided, so the ACC is still wide-open for us," Miami safety Randy Phillips said. "We can win out and be, what, 10-2? We still may make a BCS bowl at 10-2. We had the toughest schedule in the country, so we're going to keep our heads up. If we win out, we'll be able to smile at the end of the season."

Another effort like Saturday's won't lead to many Miami smiles.

A season-high four turnovers, the second kickoff return for a touchdown allowed by Miami in the last 11 years - Alex Uribe defied the play call and kicked deep to Spiller late in the first half, only to have the Tigers' star go 90 yards untouched into the end zone - and costly breakdowns in the passing game all were too much for the Hurricanes to overcome against Clemson.

Matt Bosher replaced Uribe on kickoffs in the second half, and Shannon indicated Bosher, who also placekicks and punts, would keep the job. Alas, kickoffs were but one of many Miami issues against the Tigers.

"Nowhere else to go but up," said quarterback Jacory Harris, who threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times and lost as a first-string quarterback in his hometown for the first time in years; he was unbeaten as a varsity high school starter, and 4-0 as a collegiate starter in Miami. "Now two ACC losses, that's kind of big."

It's not that they lost to Clemson - the Hurricanes were leery of the Tigers all week - but how they lost that was baffling.

Miami lost leads three times in the season-opener against Florida State, and still won that game. In every game since before Saturday, whenever the Hurricanes took the lead, they held it until the final whistle.

"All we can do is move on, move past this tough, tough loss, win out and do what we can do," left tackle Jason Fox said. "Whatever happens happens."

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