Canes Confident in Defensive Turnaround

The abrupt fall of Miami's defense is one the likes of which coach Larry Coker, who spent 22 seasons as a collegiate assistant before being named head man for the Hurricanes in 2001, has never seen.

"I was at Oklahoma State with a great offensive team and a defense that struggled early," Coker said this week, "but I've never been around a reversal like this. But that's why I still feel it's in them. It's not like I haven't seen us play great defense this year."

The Hurricanes (6-1, 3-1 ACC) allowed only one defensive touchdown through their first four games and held opponents, including Florida State in the opener, to an average of only 201.5 yards.

The last three foes have averaged more than that in rushing yardage alone -- 224.3. In total offense, Louisville, North Carolina State and North Carolina averaged 497.3 yards a game.

Meanwhile, an offense that started the season with the approach of being careful and not making a mistake, suddenly has become the hope for the rest of the schedule. QB Brock Berlin has thrown for 1,111 yards in the past four outings with games of 308 yards against Louisville and 338 against North Carolina.

Although the running game needs to pick it up, the offense is no longer the problem.

The troubles on defense run throughout the lineup.

Coker was critical for the way his defensive players up front failed to get off blocks to make the plays against North Carolina, and the secondary has had trouble communicating and getting in the proper positions in time. And the linebackers also may be showing their inexperience. It's no coincidence the Hurricanes lost first-round draft choices off last year's team in each area.

"We're not really attacking and getting off the blocks like we did earlier," Coker said. "It's not a scheme change. We aren't playing with the same type of intensity we did earlier. It seems like we're searching instead of attacking."

The good news for the Hurricanes is that despite their drop from third to 10th in the BCS standings, they still can win the ACC title and a BCS berth by winning their four remaining games. Three are at home, starting with Saturday's game against Clemson. They go to Virginia on Nov. 13 but get Wake Forest and Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, respectively.

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