Nothing's Changed

It's doesn't resemble anything like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated or walking under a ladder, but leave it to University of Miami coach Larry Coker to detect that there's something not quite right this week. And it has nothing to do with being superstitious or believing in jinxes.

"Don't think for one minute that just because we're No. 2 in the country and undefeated that we're going to go in there, and have a whale of a time," said Coker as the Hurricanes (7-0) begin final preparations before facing No. 11 Virginia Tech (6-1) Saturday night at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.

"If I know (Virginia Tech coach) Frank Beamer the way I think I do those boys are going to be ready to play one heck of a football game. You can say whatever you want about them losing to West Virginia, but that's only going to make them even more dangerous."

Coker wants that message to ring loud and clear in the ears of his players as the second-ranked Hurricanes (7-0) put their preparation mood for the Hokies into full gear in the next several days.

Before last Wednesday night, Miami (7-0), in the midst of an off week, figured they were getting ready for a contest full of National Championship implications against the Hokies, who breezed through their first six games of the season.

But Virginia Tech stumbled at West Virginia to fall out of the top-ten rankings and take some of the starch out of Saturday's game against the Hurricanes. Add to that a perception that Miami, a 3 1/2 point favorite, should now have even more of a psychological edge over a team they've handled on three consecutive occasions and appears to be staggering.

Still Coker has been around long enough to know that isn't necessarily the case.

"As we've seen anything is possible on Saturdays. The only thing that is guaranteed is that Virginia Tech is going to be ready to fight for 60 minutes," Coker said before the Hurricanes closed Monday's practice session to the media. "A lot of time you hear, well so and so is down because they lost a game they shouldn't have. But from my experiences I think a team, coming off a lose, tends to be even stronger in the next game."

Having already coached the Hurricanes to 30 consecutive regular season victories since 2001, a streak that will be in play against the Hokies, Coker doesn't really know what's required to help one of the premier programs in the nation bounce back from a disheartening setback. But Beamer, on the other hand, has had to deal with a number of defeats in the last three seasons.

Since 2001, the Hokies have suffered nine losses in 33 games. So how have they responded after being hit with an ‘L'? Not as well as many would imagine considering the high regard Beamer is held in throughout the coaching circles for getting his players ready to compete on a weekly basis.

Virginia Tech is 1-4 in games following a defeat since losing at home to Syracuse Oct. 27, 2001 with their lone victory coming over Air Force in the San Francisco Bowl last December. After losing to Syrcuase- their first defeat of the 2001 season- the Hokies went down the following week to Pittsburgh 38-7 at Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech finished the 2001 campaign by dropping the regular season finale to Miami and the Gator Bowl to the Florida State Seminoles.

Things weren't any better last season as Virginia Tech lost four of their final five regular season games, including three in a row to start the month of November. The Hokies rebounded from a regular season-ending defeat to UM with a win over Air Force in the postseason. From 1987, Beamer's first season at Virginia Tech, to 2000 the Hokies went 23-21-1 in games following a loss.

"The mark of a good football team is one that can bounce back from a little adversity," said Beamer. "We have a chance on Saturday to get back on track against a very good football team."

Despite the circumstances something will have to give as Miami, who did not play last Saturday after dismantling Temple 52-14 Oct. 18 in the Orange Bowl, and Virginia Tech will enter the game No. 1 or No. 2 in eight team categories in the Big East.

The Hokies' offense, led by junior quarterback Bryan Randall (1,042 passing yards, nine touchdown passes) and junior tailback Kevin Jones (739 rushing yards, nine touchdowns), ranks first in the Big East in scoring offense with 40.0 points a game. Virginia Tech has scored 35 points or more in their six wins this season, including a season-high 51 against Syracuse Oct. 11. But the scoring ability of the Hokies' offense, although they failed to produce any points against West Virginia, will likely be tested by the Hurricanes, who are first in the league in scoring defense allowing 15.3 points a game.

Virginia Tech was sloppy in several areas against the Mountaineers as they committed a season-high 13 penalties for 116 yards, and had four turnovers. Randall saved the Hokies any further embarrassment by recovering three fumbled snaps of his own.

"The numbers may not indicate it the last few years, but we're a resilient team," said Jones, who is fourth in the Big East in rushing. "I believe in the guys on this team and I know they're going to bounce back strong. Nobody likes losing, but unfortunately it happens. We just have to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Coming off a three-touchdown defeat to the fourth place team in the Big East, the Hokies might not be flying around with a lot of confidence this week. But that doesn't mean they don't have the Hurricanes' undivided attention. Miami opened the week by closing practice to the media.

"Our guys know what they're up against," said Coker.

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