UM Football News & Notes: 11/26

Miami coach Randy Shannon said his Hurricanes still have lots to play for in their final two games, and that may be so.

Miami coach Randy Shannon said his Hurricanes still have lots to play for in their final two games, and that may be so.

The Hurricanes are looking to finish in second place in the ACC Coastal Division, which would be their best finish in his tenure and their best since coming in second in 2005, the first year of divisional competition.

They also are hoping to match their win total from last year, when they were 9-4, and they need to win both of their remaining games -- the regular-season finale coming up against South Florida and their bowl game -- to do that.

And they want to send their seniors out on a winning note in their final home game.

Noble goals, perhaps, but certainly not the ones the Hurricanes were talking about when the season began.

Back in August, there the goal was to get to the ACC championship game and possibly win it to play in a BCS bowl for the first time since the Orange Bowl after the 2003 season.

There even was some thought given to their chances of even getting into the national championship picture once again if they could beat Ohio State in the second game of the season.

Getting back to double digits in wins, even without a championship, also was expected.

None of that happened, of course.

The Hurricanes lost to the Buckeyes, but even so, a 3-1 start was promising. Then came a huge slap in the face in a 45-17 loss at home to Florida State.

The Hurricanes now have won only four of their last seven games, unable to put together as much as a three-game winning streak at any point, and they are 0-3 against opponents ranked at the time of the game.

The loss to Virginia Tech sealed the Hurricanes' conference fate, eliminating them from the division race.

Now in a news release, the Hurricanes are trumpeting that a win over USF would give Miami at least eight wins for a second consecutive season.

It's not just the losses per se, it's also what teams the Hurricanes lost to that hurts.

"Losing is one thing," senior cornerback Ryan Hill said. "When you go into a game, you're expecting to win. But when you take a game like Virginia and you lose to guys you know you shouldn't lose to -- I can kind of stomach Florida State and Ohio State. These guys are among the nation's elite, just as we are.

"But when you lose to Virginia, that's one game I just don't have an answer for. I don't understand how we lost that game."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Miami has outscored USF 58-17 in the two meetings between the two schools.

--The Hurricanes are sixth in the nation in forcing turnovers with 26 on the season. USF has turned the ball over only 16 times, which is tied for 31st in the country among 120 FBS teams.

--Miami is continuing its quick-strike capability. The Hurricanes have 17 scoring drives that have consumed less than two minutes. Last year they had 20 such drives.

SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads USF 2-0 (last meeting, 2009, 31-10 Miami).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Hurricanes have hit it big in the rushing game in recent outings, topping the 200-yard mark in five of their last six games. In the lone exception in that span, they had 179 yards against Virginia. RB Lamar Miller has come on strong in recent outings, capped by his 163-yard day against Virginia Tech.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Miami ranks second in the country in pass efficiency defense and is second in tackles-for-loss with an average of 8.64 per game. The Hurricanes are giving up 174.1 ypg rushing, which isn't good, but they are holding foes to only 145.2 ypg passing. That's third stingiest in the country. They have 16 interceptions and 34 sacks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm excited about some of the things we're doing offensively and defensively, but the ultimate is we've got to improve in the win-loss record more than anything." -- Coach Randy Shannon, in a brief assessment of the season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: South Florida at Miami, Nov. 27 -- Like the Hurricanes, the Bulls are coming off a bitter loss to a conference rival. But a win in this intrastate match would mean much more to USF than it would to Miami. The Bulls are still fighting for recognition as a valid challenger to the state's "Big Three" of college football, and a win over the Hurricanes, even if not the Hurricanes of old, would be a step in that direction.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Pay attention. As disheartening as the loss to Virginia Tech was, the Hurricanes don't want to compound its impact by losing their regular-season finale. The Hurricanes should be able to get away with man coverage on USF's suspect receiving corps (except on Dontavia Bogan), which should free up the front seven to get pressure on USF QB B.J. Daniels.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Lamar Miller -- Miller has run for 625 yards on the season with more than half that (373 yards) over the last three games. He gives the Hurricanes a guy who can break off a big play in the running game.

WR Leonard Hankerson -- Hankerson set a school single-season record for touchdown catches with his 12th in the loss to Virginia Tech. He has 57 catches overall, 19 more than the No. 2 receiver, Travis Benjamin.

LB Colin McCarthy -- McCarthy leads the Hurricanes in tackles with 95 for the season. He has been in on 29 tackles in his last two games.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB Jacory Harris (concussion) is expected to return after missing the last three games and most of a fourth.
--TB Graig Cooper, who was limited by injuries this season, is Miami's No. 5 all-time leading rusher with 2,367 yards. But he's not apt to catch No. 4 Clinton Portis, who finished with 2,523 yards. Cooper is No. 3 all-time in all-purpose yards.
--TE Asante Cleveland, who missed two games because of a concussion, returned against Virginia Tech and will play against USF.


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