Defensive continues leading the way for the No. 7 Miami Hurricanes this season.
The Miami Hurricanes (6-0) are coming off a thrilling comeback win, having rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter at North Carolina last Thursday night. The Tar Heels brought a spirited effort, with a packed house, black uniforms and a "Zero Dark Thursday" theme, but the Canes found the light with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 27-23 victory.
Miami lost Duke Johnson in the first quarter after the running back took a knee to the helmet and saw Phillip Dorsett suffer a partial MCL tear, sidelining him for what should be the rest of the regular season.
Safety Kacy Rodgers II also was dinged up, but like Johnson, he is expected back this week. The Hurricanes will also return wide receiver Rashawn Scott back from a shoulder injury that knocked him out in the season opener.
The upside for Miami is that the Hurricanes found a budding star in second-string running back Dallas Crawford who carried 33 times for 137 yards and two scores—including the game-winner with 16 seconds remaining.
The downside came in a four-interception performance from quarterback Stephen Morris, who needs to get his turnover issues corrected as the second half of the season gets underway. Morris had two interceptions the first four games of the season but has thrown six over the past eight quarters.
Wake Forest (4-3) heads to Sun Life Stadium riding a two-game winning streak and are taking on Miami for the first time since the 2009 season, where the Hurricanes rallied for a 28-27 comeback victory in Winston-Salem. The squads last met in South Florida in 2008, where Miami pulled out the 16-10 win.
Miami, ranked No. 7 in the AP/BCS looks to stay undefeated, avoiding a late October trap game with Florida State on the horizon. The Hurricanes head to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles on November 2.
Time: Noon ET
Place: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
TV: ESPN U/WatchESPN
Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami) - WBRF 98.1 (Wake Forest)
Spread: DSOpen has Miami a 23-point favorite.
While the Miami Hurricanes remain focused on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, there's no getting away from the week's biggest story—the NCAA's investigation and case against the University of Miami finally coming to a close.
The span between Charles Robinson's Yahoo! Sports expose and today's announcement took a whopping 798 days. In the end, time served in a sense, with the NCAA giving Miami much credit for two self-imposed bowl bans, as well as sitting out last year's ACC Championship Game.
During that time, the University of Miami was also said to have been "incredibly cooperative" in the process, per NCAA president Mark Emmert, despite corrupt behavior by NCAA investigators that turned the entire case upside down.
The above video shows how far this story has evolved over the past 26 months—beginning with professional journalists and media members calling for the "death penalty" days after the Robinson piece was released in August 2011.
All the while, head coach Al Golden and his players stayed the course. The punches kept coming, in the form of heartbreaking losses, players being removed from the program and negative recruiting by rivals that cost the Hurricanes on the recruiting front.
Despite all the finger pointing, corruption and he said/she said involved with this intricate case, a true testament to the current coaching staff and players who never flinched during the process.
News of this story broke weeks before Golden coached his first game at Miami, and now 30 showdowns later, the Canes will play their first game of the Golden era without this constant distraction.
Whatever side of the ledger an individual is on in the wake of this groundbreaking case, it's impossible to not be happy for Golden and his kids—none of which were involved in any improprieties.
These current players and coaches forfeited two bowl games and a shot at a conference crown and BCS game last year. The result: poetic justice as Miami now sits undefeated at 6-0 and No. 7 (AP/BCS) going into this weekend's home showdown with Wake Forest.
Safe to say Sun Life Stadium will be rocking a little bit harder than expected this Saturday come noon, and with good reason. The city of Miami can finally exhale after holding its collective breath for way too long.
Shayon Green and Miami were flying high after a comeback against North Carolina, but the Canes have a lot of clean up to do.
Shake Off Distractions, Play with Passion
A very topsy-turvy six-day run for the Miami Hurricanes. Key players injured at North Carolina, yet a late 10-point deficit overcome in a comeback win. Since then, "Upset Saturday" shot Miami up the rankings, and come BCS announcement time, the Hurricanes were the No. 7 team in the nation.
A day later, the announcement that the NCAA was ready to rule and this morning, a sigh of relief as future punishment is relatively tame, in comparison to the waiting game.
Al Golden has his players off limits to the media all week, in order to limit distractions. A wise move by Golden as there are a lot of issues to fix after last week's win, most notably the erratic play of quarterback Stephen Morris.
Miami must find balance this this week regarding the comeback win, a rise in the polls, punishment handed down and this potential trap game with Florida State on the horizon.
Clean Up Mistakes in Final Pre-FSU Tune-Up
No disrespect to Wake Forest, but Miami's focus this week is getting errors corrected before back-to-back games with Florida State and Virginia Tech. This game is less about the opponent and more about the Hurricanes getting their groove back.
With Phillip Dorsett sidelined for the rest of the regular season, Morris needs to work on timing with his other receivers—especially Rashawn Scott, who is back for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener.
Duke Johnson also needs to shake off the cobwebs after taking a knee to the head in Chapel Hill last week, forced to exit the game in the first quarter.
Between blowout victories, rested starters, bye weeks and injuries, Miami hasn't had much of a chance to operate with it's offensive starting lineup on the field all at once. Like the final scrimmage of spring, it's time for guys to shine in order to earn playing time down the stretch. How will the Canes respond?
Jump on the Demon Deacons Early, Set the Tone
Wake Forest started out 2-3, including a demoralizing 56-7 loss at Clemson. Since then, back-to-back wins over North Carolina State and Maryland have them headed to Miami with an upset on the agenda.
With a balanced offense and proper execution, Miami shouldn't have any issues getting up on Wake Forest. That said, if the Hurricanes' turnover woes continue and the Demon Deacons are left hanging around, that could make for a stickier afternoon than necessary. Look no further than last Thursday night for proof.
Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro broke Wake Forest's all-time receptions record (217) last week against Maryland.
Impersonate the Tar Heels
Wake Forest can look to North Carolina (1-5) for inspiration. Sure, the Tar Heels had the home crowd, but fact remains it was a lesser team that hung with Miami and took the Hurricanes to the wire. Look at what worked for both North Carolina and Georgia Tech—who also gave Miami first-half fits—and find a way to mimic.
Strike First, and Bring Something New to the Table
South Florida and Georgia Tech both brought new offensive looks to their game against Miami, while North Carolina game-planned with two different quarterbacks. The best way for an underdog to pull off an upset is early momentum. Fall in a hole, and it will be a long day for Wake Forest.
Establish an early lead, and the Demon Deacons could possibly stave the Hurricanes off for a while, hoping to keep it close going into the fourth quarter.
Buckle Down Defensively
Miami's offense will be more like the Clemson squad that put up 573 total yards a few weeks back and less like the sputtering offenses North Carolina State and Maryland fielded. The Demon Deacons forced three Terrapins turnovers in last week's win and cruised to victory.
If Wake Forest can keep Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson turning the ball over, the pace of this game will slow down tremendously, which is necessary for the road win.
Stephen Morris has six interceptions in the past two games, coming off of two picks in the first four.
Hands down the most watched player for Miami this weekend. Morris almost single-handedly gave away last Thursday night's game in Chapel Hill. His four-interception performance was on par with Kyle Wright (2007) and Jacory Harris (2009), each of whom had four picks in road losses at Kenan Stadium.
Where Morris proved his moxie—clutch throws on the game's final drive, keeping his head up and helping lead the Hurricanes to victory.
Morris hasn't come up big in monster showdowns during his career—Kansas State, Notre Dame and Florida State last year, most notably—and must shake off the rust before next weekend's contest in Tallahassee.
Morris was afforded a few tune-ups this year, but got a few unlucky breaks due to an ankle injury. This is Morris' last dress rehearsal before two games that will decide the ACC Coastal and possibly impact the national picture.
Like Morris, injuries and first-half blowouts have led to less Johnson than expected this season. The sophomore running back has been cleared to play this week and needs to make the most of the opportunity.
Dallas Crawford more than proved his worth as a second-stringer and capable back, but Johnson's explosiveness was missed last week. Let Johnson get in some good runs, get game-ready and then put him on the shelf for Florida State.
Also, coaches need to make sure No. 8 works on his cut-block technique as shots to the head against South Florida and North Carolina are what sent him to the sidelines twice this season.
With Kacy Rodgers II working his way back after an early exit against North Carolina, Bush was brought back into the equation. Still recovering from offseason hernia surgery, Miami is still waiting for the Bush of old to return. Can this be the week?
Yet another top-notch Hurricanes player who needs to relish one last warm-up before Florida State and Virginia Tech as Bush's services will be greatly needed against both ACC powers. Especially deep against freshman sensation quarterback Jameis Winston next week.
Tanner Price has thrown for 1,476 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games this season.
The dual-threat quarterback is the heart and soul of the Wake Forest offense, and as seen this season, good passers have given Miami's defense fits. (Even Florida's Jeff Driskel threw for an unthinkable 291 yards against the Canes.)
Price has put up good numbers against lesser teams but struggled on the road against Boston College and Clemson. He's also had double-digit carries in three games this season, adding another dimension to what the senior quarterback will bring to Saturday's showdown.
Price must keep the chains moving and limit mistakes if Wake Forest has any shot at the upset.
The senior wide receiver has racked up 704 yards in receptions this season—almost matching last year's total of 763 yards. Last week he became Wake Forest's all-time reception leader, catching his 217th pass.
Campanaro is Price's favorite target, averaging 12.8 yards per catch and his season-long is a 66-yard haul-in. He is also the Demon Deacons' punt returner, so field position is another area to make plays.
Price-to-Campanaro needs to happen early and often so Wake Forest's offense can get off to a proper road start.
The senior safety had an interception last week against Maryland and must read the eyes and instincts of Stephen Morris in order to disrupt the Miami passing attack. Keep Morris' turnover streak alive, give Price and Campanaro a short field and the Demon Deacons can get something going.
Al Golden, his staff and the Hurricanes are off-limits to the media this week in light of the NCAA ruling and desire to avoid game week distractions.
The Miami Hurricanes are off limits to the media this week, meaning no quotes from Al Golden in the annual ACC teleconference. UM coaches and players won't speak with the media until after Saturday's game against Wake Forest, but Miami still remains a hot topic amongst media members.
Joe Zagacki is the long-time voice of the Miami Hurricanes radio network and opened up to the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro about Tuesday's ruling, with much to say about the scholarship losses and no further postseason bans:
It beats the alternative that's for sure and considering what's happened over the last three years it's a manageable situation. Al Golden is a terrific talent evaluator. He's just a great manager in terms of leading your corporation. I think this is good news for Miami because they can move forward. Al Golden can continue with his program and the damage has been done. It's been three years and I think that damage has to be taken into account.
It's been far from a slap on the wrist. Take into account not only the damage for Al Golden and what he's had to recruit against—that's just on the football field. Take into account the average student the day the atom bomb went off. He was a freshman. He's now a junior of his college experience and he's yet to go through a college experience like everybody else in the country. You put that in there, factor that in and then everything else in the program. The damage has been done to the brand. The orange and green is one of the best brands in the country. It has to be protected. And the damage that has been done to that is immeasurable. Today is an opportunity for Miami to rebuild all that and move forward. I can't help but think of what Al Golden said in the summer. We're going to be like the explorer in Key West who kept waking up every day hunting for gold saying 'Today might be the day. Today might be the day.' Finally for Al Golden, today is the day.
ESPN.com ACC writer Andrea Adelson spoke with Miami athletic director Blake James on Tuesday afternoon to get his take on the sanctions handed down and James' like of thinking was in line with Zagacki's. Adelson mentioned some feeling Miami wasn't punished enough and asked James point-blank if the decision was a "win" for UM. His response:
I would say to those that view this as light or as a win or however they look at it to stand in front of a group of 115 young men and tell them they’re not playing in an ACC championship or a bowl or to sit down an individual and tell them they’re not going to be able to play in a game or in X number of games, or to have the cloud of uncertainty over your program and have all the speculation and stories and the things that go on while that’s sitting out there to deal with, it was significant. That’s why we took the significant steps we did. Nine scholarships is significant in football. Three scholarships is significant in basketball. Taking it as seriously as we did from the start put us in the position where a lot of the sanctions are now in the past. We’ve done the things we need to do to move full speed ahead as soon as we got to this point. I think we’re there. We recognize there’s a lot of lessons we learned that will continue on with us and we’ve still got some significant sanctions left that we’ll have to deal with.
With a win against Wake Forest, Miami will move to 7-0 for the first time since the 2003 season.
Another game that on paper should be Miami's for the taking. Superior athletes, a meaningful contest in the quest to remain undefeated and an ideal situation with a lesser squad at home prior to a road game at Florida State.
That said, consistency has been an issue for Miami all season. Drops and miscues kept the opener against Florida Atlantic closer that it needed to be, while Georgia Tech and North Carolina got ahead early, forcing the Hurricanes to rally late.
Miami has big challenges ahead with Florida State and Virginia Tech, but in a game like this, Miami is its own worst enemy.
Show up properly, and the Canes should roll by five touchdowns. Play another game full of mental errors, and it'll be a closer than the experts think. Fall apart completely, and another upset could be in the works.
Based on how the past week has played out, hard to believe Miami won't be ready for this one. It's bunker mentality for the Hurricanes right now in effort to limit NCAA-related distractions and a full-blown focus on preparations for the Demon Deacons.
Come Saturday, a cathartic release at Sun Life Stadium when Miami takes the field. A good turnout is expected—possibly bigger now, courtesy of the NCAA dark cloud being lifted.
The "U Family" has waited 798 days for resolution and with the stakes raised and this season about to get real, Miami is due for a much-anticipated coming out party.
Prediction: Miami 45, Wake Forest 17