Pass Rush Improvement

The Hurricanes want to remember the 41-38 comeback victory against Louisville, but the defense would like to forget about their performance. Sophomore defensive end and second-year starter Baraka Atkins is ready for the challenge ahead for the team on Saturday against North Carolina State.

Baraka Atkins has 11 tackles through the first five games of the season. He is second amongst defensive linemen in tackles behind Orien Harris who has 17. Atkins also has two forced fumbles and returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown—his first of his football career.

"I was jumping for joy inside," Atkins said describing the touchdown against Houston. "That was great feeling, but at that point during the game I didn't think I was playing very well. I didn't show too much emotion because I needed to get ready to go back on the field. I was definitely excited. It was my first touchdown in my football career—high school and college."

Atkins is one of four players with defensive touchdowns in their career. Antrel Rolle (2003), Santonio Thomas (2003), and Tavares Gooden (2004) are the other three players with touchdowns. The defense expects to score touchdowns.

"Of course we do," Atkins said. "We expect to score at any time. Any time the ball is in the air is a chance for it to be intercepted and a chance for us to score. Any time the ball is ran, it is a chance for it to come loose. We expect to score every time we touch the ball."

Last game against Louisville the Hurricanes won in dramatic fashion winning 41-38 after being down 31-14 late in the third quarter. The Miami defense only allowed 29 points through their first four games. They also allowed 507 yards of total offense, marking the most allowed by the Hurricanes since October 7, 2000 when Florida State had 565 total yards in Miami's 27-24 victory. The defense is eager to play another game, but Atkins believes they have nothing to prove.

"There wasn't much that caught us off-guard," Atkins said. "It was just a case of missing tackles and missing assignments. I still believe we don't have anything to prove. We are still a good defense and very talented. It is just a case of going out there and doing it. Nothing to prove."

The Louisville game was a game the coaches were not happy with. Atkins and his teammates want to put that game behind them and move forward.

"My thoughts on the game are already gone," Atkins said. "We are playing North Carolina State this week."

Last year, Atkins started 12 games earning third-team Freshman All-America honors by The Sporting News. He recorded 43 tackles including 6.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He led the team in forced fumbles with three and had 16 quarterback hurries.

Through the first five games of the season Atkins would like to improve on his development as a defensive end.

"I am not where I want to be, but I am working hard throughout the week of practice and during the game," Atkins said. "I want to work on my pass rush and getting more sacks. Tackles for loss are good and always help the defense."

Last season the Hurricanes recorded 37 sacks for an average of 2.85 sacks per game. This year the Hurricanes have registered 16 sacks in the first five games—an average of 3.20 sacks per game. The team would like to have more sacks and it can be frustrating not getting the sack.

"I definitely think it can get frustrating during the games," Atkins said. "We are maintaining and getting that pressure we like, but the quarterbacks will scramble or throw the ball away. It can get frustrating at times."

North Carolina State features the number one defense in the country in terms of total defense allowing 203 yards per game. Miami's defense is ranked 11th averaging 274 yards per game. Although the Hurricanes feel they have a top-notch defense, they do not feel they want to out-perform the Wolfpack defense.

"As far as going up against the North Carolina State defense, we are not competing against them," Atkins said. "We are competing against their offense. Our goal is to stop their offense."

Christopher Stock is a Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@canestime.com

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