Miami trying for 1st win ever at North Carolina

BY foxsports • November 11, 2009

Makes sense, really: Both have five national championships in those respective sports.

So how, then, is it possible that the Hurricanes' basketball team has won at Chapel Hill, but the football program never has? Miami coach Randy Shannon can't figure it out either, and he's challenging the 12th-ranked Hurricanes to snap the hex Saturday when they visit the Tar Heels in a game that might mean everything - or nothing - to the Atlantic Coast Conference race.

"I've won at Carolina before," said tight end Jimmy Graham, a converted basketball player who scored two points in Miami's 81-70 hoops upset of the Heels on Jan. 14, 2006. "But the seniors here haven't. It's a big part of the mindset we have going into this week. It's a big game for us. It's going to be a big game for them. We know it's going to be sold out and a good atmosphere. That's what we like."

Here's something else Miami (7-2, 4-2) would like: A Duke win Saturday.

Duke hosts Georgia Tech at noon Saturday. If Tech wins, it captures the ACC Coastal Division title and eliminates Miami, which faces the Tar Heels a few miles away at 3:30 p.m. If Duke wins, Miami is very much alive in the conference race.

All that is irrelevant, Shannon insists. He's telling his team its focus should be on doing something Miami failed to do in 1963, 2004 and 2007 - win at Chapel Hill.

"It doesn't make a difference," Shannon said, when asked if the Duke-Georgia Tech outcome could affect his team before it takes the field to face former Miami coach Butch Davis and the Tar Heels. "You've got to take care of yours."

There's more to this than just getting Miami's first win at North Carolina. Shannon is 0-2 as a head coach against Davis, his former boss at Miami when they revived the program out of the probation era more than a decade ago.

Both of those losses have lingered.

Miami got into a 27-0 halftime hole before losing 33-27 at Chapel Hill in 2007. Last year's defeat in Miami - where former quarterback Robert Marve threw what would have been the gamewinning touchdown pass an inch too high for Kayne Farquharson on the final play, allowing the Tar Heels to escape with a 28-24 win - wound up playing a big role in Miami not winning the division title.

"We need to focus on this game completely," Shannon said. "And nothing else."

For his part, Davis doesn't sound the tiniest bit surprised that Miami, which has already matched last season's win total and is assured of a bowl appearance, is turning things around again.

He left Miami after the 2000 season. The next year, Larry Coker debuted as Davis' replacement and Miami won its fifth national title.

"They're always going to have terrific athletes," Davis said. "That's the nature of the backyard where they live. There's so many gifted players in the southern Florida area. You're always going to have good players."

Shannon's message - focus on Carolina, not Duke, whom Miami faces next weekend - seems to be getting through. It's unlikely there will be an announcement of the Georgia Tech result in the Miami locker room pregame, but quarterback Jacory Harris knows it's also unlikely that the Hurricanes will be able to go all day without knowing the outcome.

"We just got to stay focused and play our game, because if Duke does win and we lose, we still don't go," Harris said. "We just need to stay focused and not worry about everything on the side. Sometimes, they put the scores up inside the stadium, but we just need to focus on our game."

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