UM Football News & Notes: 11/23

So much for Miami's slim hopes of making it to the ACC Championship game. The Hurricanes needed a victory over Virginia Tech and a loss by the Hokies in their regular season finale against Virginia to win the Coastal Division title. But they didn't get the former, so the latter doesn't matter.

After going into the fourth quarter tied with the Hokies, the Hurricanes gave up two unanswered touchdowns over the final 15 minutes and dropped a 31-17 decision at home.

"I thought the key in the game tonight was that we turned the football over in the red zone," coach Randy Shannon said, "and they didn't turn the ball over tonight. When you have those kinds of things happen in the game, bad things are going to happen."

Actually, the Hokies did have one turnover, but it came in the first quarter and deep in Miami territory. It cost the Hokies a chance to score but not any points because the Hurricanes fumbled it back after driving into Tech territory.

For the game, the Hurricanes lost three fumbles and had three interceptions. The picks all came on Miami's final three drives, with one leading to Tech's final touchdown.

But it was the fumbles -- including one by tailback Damien Berry on fourth-and-1 at Tech's 12-yard line and a fumbled snap by quarterback Stephen Morris at Tech's 35 -- that proved more costly.

"Those two turnovers might have put us six points or 14 points ahead, where we needed to be going into halftime," Shannon said. "But when those things happen, then they set you back."

The loss dropped Miami to 7-4. The Hurricanes finished 5-3 in the ACC while Tech remained undefeated in the division at 7-0.

With just two games left -- the regular-season finale at home against USF and a bowl game -- the Hurricanes need a sweep to match last year's 9-4 record.

"It's very important for us as a team and as a senior group to go out and make plays for the program and finish off with a win," senior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said. "You don't want to finish off your career with a loss in your last home game."

NOTES, QUOTES

--True freshman QB Stephen Morris was 15 of 33 passing in his third start since the injury to junior Jacory Harris. Morris started the day 7 of 7 and was 12 of 17 in the first half for 168 yards, but he ended up throwing interceptions on the final three possessions. At least two of the picks likely could be blamed on receivers running the wrong route. His passes were good for 202 yards and a touchdown.

--Senior WR Leonard Hankerson caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season to cap off Miami's first possession, setting a school single-season record. He went into the game tied with Michael Irvin, who had 11 touchdown catches in 1986.

--Miami went into the game averaging a national-best 8.4 tackles-for-loss and added 11 more against the Hokies. LB Sean Spence and DT Marcus Forston (2.5 each) led the category. LB Ramon Buchanan had two.

GAME BALL GOES TO: TB Lamar Miller -- The redshirt freshman was a consistent producer on offense. Despite getting hit by leg cramps from time to time, he rushed 15 times for a career-high 163 yards, scoring on a 4-yard run in the third quarter to tie the game at 17. His 47-yard dash on the first play after Tech had gone up 17-10 set up his scoring play.

KEEP AN EYE ON: TE Asante Cleveland -- After sitting out a game recovering from a concussion, the true freshman was back on the field against Virginia Tech. He had two catches for 32 yards on consecutive plays in the second quarter, sparking a drive that led to a go-ahead field goal for the Hurricanes.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It doesn't mean anything. If it came with a 'W' it might have been different. But now it doesn't mean anything." -- WR Leonard Hankerson, on setting a school record with his 12th touchdown reception of the season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Miami rushed for 279 yards against a Tech defense that was giving up 155.1 a game. TB Lamar Miller led with 163 on 15 runs, and Damien Berry had 47 on just nine runs. The defense got to Tech's Tyrod Taylor for five sacks, one each by LB Sean Spence, DE Olivier Vernon, DE Adewale Ojomo and DE Marcus Robinson and another chalked up to "team."

STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Stephen Morris passed for 202 yards but had three interceptions. WR Leonard Hankerson had a key drop to go with his game-high six receptions, and WR Travis Benjamin let a potential touchdown reception slip through his grasp. He also lost a fumble on a punt return, though no damage was done because Tech fumbled it right back on the next play. Senior LT Orlando Franklin was flagged for two holding penalties, including one that wiped out a 25-yard pass play with the score tied early in the fourth quarter. The defense gave up an 84-yard run to Tech's Ryan Williams for the go-ahead score, and the secondary blew several coverages in critical situations, allowing a receiver to get loose for a 43-yard touchdown pass, among other breakdowns.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB Jacory Harris, who sustained a concussion in the loss at Virginia on Oct. 30, was in uniform for the first time since then but spent the afternoon on the sidelines. He will likely get more work this week in practice and will start against USF "if he's ready," coach Randy Shannon said.
--Senior TB Graig Cooper made his first start of the season. He rushed six times for 10 yards. Cooper, who injured his knee in last year's bowl game, had a 34-yard kickoff return and had a punt return for 3 yards.
--LB Colin McCarthy led Miami in tackles for the second straight week with 14 stops against the Hokies. He had 15 tackles in the win over Georgia Tech.
--TB Damien Berry was shaken up on the fourth-down play that ended with him losing a fumble in the first quarter, but he returned.
--DE Marcus Robinson (leg) and special teams player Cory Nelms (undisclosed) left the game and did not return.


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