UM Football News & Notes: 12/6

Miami and Notre Dame are scheduled for a three-game series that starts in 2012 at Chicago's Soldier Field and continues with meetings at Notre Dame in 2016 and in Miami in 2017.

But for those who can't wait, there was good news when bowl pairings were announced.

The Hurricanes and Fighting Irish will clash in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31.

Both teams sport 7-5 records, but they took remarkably different routes to get there.

The Irish won six of their last eight games after starting the year 1-3.

Miami started 3-1 and looked to contend for the ACC title but then slumped to 4-4 over its final eight games.

The Hurricanes lost their last two contests -- to Virginia Tech and USF, both at home -- and their coach. Randy Shannon was let go after four years and a 28-22 record.

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was named interim coach, and he and the rest of the staff will coach the 'Canes in the bowl.

Miami and Notre Dame have met 23 times, but not since 1990. The Irish hold a 15-7-1 overall advantage, but the Hurricanes won five of the past seven meetings.

NOTES, QUOTES

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--WR Leonard Hankerson became Miami's go-to guy in the passing game, ending the regular season with 66 receptions for 1,085 yards. That's nearly as many catches as the next two receivers combined (Travis Benjamin with 40 and LaRon Byrd with 37). Hankerson also set a school record with 12 touchdown catches, one more than Michael Irvin had in 1986.

--TB Lamar Miller didn't lead the Hurricanes in rushing -- that honor went to TB Damien Berry -- but there wasn't any doubt that over the last month of the season he had become Miami's featured back. He ended up with 633 yards, averaging 6.1 per carry.

--LB Colin McCarthy was in double digits in tackles in each of his last three games, registering 35 of his 105 stops over that span. He has nine tackles for loss, among them a sack, and also had one of Miami's 16 interceptions.

--Interim coach Jeff Stoutland and the 2010 staff will take the Hurricanes through preparations for the bowl. Stoutland has served as offensive line coach all four years under Randy Shannon, who was dismissed hours after the loss to South Florida that ended the regular season. Stoutland also has served on staffs at Michigan State, Syracuse and Cornell.

BOWL HISTORY: Miami is 19-16 in bowl games, including a 3-1 mark in BCS bowls from the 2000 through the 2003 seasons. Wins in the 1983 season's Orange, 1987 Orange, 1989 Sugar, 1991 Orange, and 2001 Rose gave the Hurricanes national championships. They are making their third consecutive bowl appearance, but haven't won in the postseason since closing out Larry Coker's last season as coach with a win over Nevada in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is one of those situations where the history speaks for itself. We have two great programs that have incredible history, and we are playing in the second oldest bowl on national television." -- Interim coach Jeff Stoutland, on the Sun Bowl matchup with Notre Dame.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BOWL BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: The Hurricanes stepped up their running game as the season wore on and finished by topping the 200-yard mark in five of their last seven games. TB Damien Berry led with 865 rushing yards but had some problems with fumbles late in the year, opening the way for redshirt freshman Lamar Miller and sophomore Mike James to assume much of the workload. Senior TB Graig Cooper also earned a start late in the year on his way back from a knee injury. True freshman Storm Johnson, who spent much of the season on the kickoff return team, had the year's longest run from scrimmage, a 71-yard touchdown dash against USF.

Scouting the passing game: Going into the season, Miami looked so deep at wide receiver that the loss of Thearon Collier, who transferred to Southern California, didn't seem like a big deal. But essentially three wideouts are carrying the load for the Hurricanes with Leonard Hankerson (66 catches, 1,085 yards), Travis Benjamin (49-699), and LaRon Byrd (37-394) doing the bulk of the receiving. Tight end hardly figures in. Miami got only 17 receptions combined out of Asante Cleveland, Chase Ford and Richard Gordon. QB Jacory Harris was hurt and missed three games, but he still had 12 interceptions. Freshman QB Stephen Morris threw eight picks in his four starts. Harris figures to start in the bowl.

Scouting the run defense: The Hurricanes have looked good at times defending the run, registering 66 tackles for loss (not including sacks), but they have been inconsistent. They weren't able to stop Virginia late in the game to get the ball back to the offense, and they are giving up an average of more than 170 rushing yards per game. That ranks only No. 81 among 120 FBS teams.

Scouting the pass defense: Like the run defense, the Hurricanes have had their moments defending against the pass. After recording only 14 interceptions in the last two seasons combined, they have 16 this season with SS Ray-Ray Armstrong and CB Ryan Hill leading with three apiece. They also have 37 sacks with DT/DE Allen Bailey (seven) and DEs Olivier Vernon (six) and Adewale Ojomo (five) leading the way. But also like their effort against the run, the Hurricanes have had costly breakdowns against the pass. USF hit three big pass plays on its final scoring drive in regulation to send the game into overtime.

Scouting the special teams: P-PK Matt Bosher averaged 44.3 yards on punts and was 12 of 16 on field goals, but he had a couple of hiccups on PATs, missing three in his 38 attempts after his career making 90 of 90 in the last two seasons. Miami scored on a punt return (Benjamin) and a kickoff return (Miller) in the loss to Ohio State, but the Hurricanes were average for the year, averaging only 4.8 yards on punt returns and 19.5 yards on kick returns.

Intangibles: There is a big question about the Hurricanes' motivation. They played uninspired football in the finale against USF, and with the firing of coach Randy Shannon, there is a lot of instability in the program at this point. Still, if anything can get their juices going, it just might be a matchup with Notre Dame.

ROSTER REPORT:

--TB Mike James, who missed the last game against USF because of illness, will be back for the bowl game.

--QB Jacory Harris, who missed three games after sustaining a concussion in the first half against Virginia, didn't start against USF but played the second half and should be available for the bowl.

--RT Seantrel Henderson was wearing a boot on his foot as the result of an Achilles' heel problem, but the freshman starter told the Miami Herald he will be "fine" for the bowl game.


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