Leading Through Tough Times

He was ridden into the ground by the fans, national and local media alike and maybe even some teammates last year after the Hurricanes lost back-to-back games against Virginia Tech and Tennessee. He even lost his starting job for a week, but Brock Berlin fought back and he's a better player and leader now because of it.

Heading into this Saturday's mammoth game against Virginia, one that could make or break the Hurricanes season, Brock Berlin is ready. He's ready to show the country that Miami is still a team to be reckoned with even though they have lost consecutive games.

Ranked third in the nation just two weeks ago, the Hurricanes are now ranked 18th and in the eyes of many, they are reeling.

Not to Berlin and his teammates. To them, they are simply not playing to their capability and it has cost them dearly, but it hasn't cost them a chance at a conference championship and a BCS bowl game.

Heading into Charlottesville on Saturday, the Canes are three and a half point underdogs to Virginia, something that generally doesn't happen unless it's a match up against Florida State.

But Berlin has something to prove and from past experience, he knows how to respond and react.

"We have to keep believing in ourselves," Berlin said. "Our backs are against the wall. It has to start in Virginia."

Hearing the negativity is something Berlin has grown accustomed to since he took over as quarterback following possibly the best quarterback to ever play at the U in Ken Dorsey who finished with a 38-2 record during his career at Miami.

He has been booed consistently while playing quarterback in the Orange Bowl of all places no matter what the outcome, including hearing it from the fans during games against Florida State and Louisville, both games that Berlin helped lead the Canes to victory in with last second heroics.

He heard those same boos in his home opener against Florida last year when the Canes fell behind 33-10 before making an incredibly comeback to win 38-33 behind the arm of none other than Berlin.

He walked into the locker room at halftime against Louisville down 24-7 and hearing a chorus of boos from the fans only to have the crowd going crazy for him after he turned the tied on the Cardinals and led the Canes to a 41-38 win.

Through all of that, Berlin has remained focused, and although the Canes have dropped consecutive games for the second time in two years, it is not because of Berlin's lack of production.

Through eight games, he is throwing for a conference leading 229 yards per game and is also leading the ACC in touchdown passes with 15 to only four interceptions. His quarterback rating has gone up to 137.1 over the past five games from 117.2. His rating is second in the conference behind Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans, the Canes opponent this week.

Throughout all that has transpired over the past two weeks, Berlin maintains that he must play better for the Canes to win even though he hasn't thrown an interception since the Canes 45-31 win over North Carolina State that happened on a tipped ball.

"I feel comfortable in our offense," Berlin said. "But if I played better, I feel we would have won those games."

One thing Berlin will face that he hasn't seen much of is a defense that runs a 3-4 old school defense as their base defense. That is something the Canes will have to work on in practice throughout the week in order for his pass protection to be there throughout the game.

"They have a good defense," Berlin said. "They run a little different type of defense with a three-man front. It's their base defense and we have to be ready for it."

With their season riding on this game, the Berlin sees a group that is ready to play some football and get that sour taste out of their mouth.

"You see a bunch of guys that are pretty pissed off," Berlin said referring to his teammates about the past two results. "We know we have to play. The ACC is a really good league. We know we are playing a good team every week and have to be ready to play, but we know that everyone wants to play against us and get a piece of us."

Regardless of the challenge of facing the ninth best defense yardage wise and the seventh best defense scoring wise in the nation in front of Berlin and his Canes, they know what's at stake and they know what needs to be done.

"We just have to keep doing what we've been doing," Berlin said. "You can't put your head down because there are still big games to play and we can still win the conference and get a BCS bowl."

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