X-Factor Squared

Where would the Miami Hurricanes be without Roscoe Parrish and Devin Hester? They are the X-factor squared and have caused fits for every opponent the Canes have locked horns with this year.

With the Canes registering a huge 31-21 win over Virginia at Charlottesville last week in a game that was played in cold temperatures, you need not look any further than at two of the smallest guys on the team as the reason the Canes still have the chance to win the conference and earn a berth in a BCS bowl.

While Hester ran wild earlier this year with three punt returns for touchdown and a kickoff return for touchdown, Parrish seemed to fall into Hester's shadow.

But with Hester playing more on defense, in stepped Parrish who is once again returning punts for the Canes and picked the perfect time to make a sensational punt return for touchdown against the Cavaliers last Saturday that gave UM a 24-14 with under seven minutes to play.

The fact that Parrish returned the punt for a touchdown was not the amazing thing. It's the fact that Al Groh forgot that Parrish is just as dangerous a return man as Hester is.

Instead of kicking away from Parrish as teams have been doing to Hester, Groh decided to punt it to Parrish. Big mistake.

"It's a great luxury to have two guys like Roscoe and Devin who can return kicks like that," UM coach Larry Coker said. "The thing that we're having to do is win games in various ways."
                   
       #4 Devin Hester          #1 Roscoe Parrish
       16 punt returns          16 punt returns
       316 yards                247 yards 
       19.8 avg                 15.4 avg
       3 Touchdowns             1 Touchdown
       1st in ACC               2nd in ACC
       4th in the nation        10th in the nation
With the team not having the ultra-explosive offense and incredibly dominant defense the Canes have had in the past, the U has found different ways to win ball games, particularly with the legs of two of its fastest players in Hester and Parrish.

"We're not a dominant offensive team or a dominant defensive team," Coker said. "It's a tremendous advantage to have players like that who can break it open. I think it really puts the opposing coaching staff in a bind on how you want to handle kicks. Do you punt away from the guy or do you kick to him? If you kick away, you'll get some shanked punts like we have."

Returning kicks has always been a big part of Miami's arsenal, but never has it been as much of a weapon as has been this year. The Canes have returned five kicks for touchdowns, four by Hester and one by Parrish. Four of the five are on punt returns while Hester has a kickoff return for touchdown. Hester also had a kickoff return for touchdown called back because of a penalty.

The U has had incredible return men in the past including the likes of Santana Moss who returned six punts for touchdowns during his career as a Hurricane, Phillip Buchanon, Kevin Williams, who was one of the most explosive players in the nation while he played for Miami in the early 90s, Randall "Thrill" Hill and Tremain Mack who was a special teams machine.

In the three seasons prior to this one, the Canes returned four kicks for touchdown. In fact, two of those returns belonged to Parrish and Hester, with Parrish returning a punt 92 yards and Hester returning a kickoff 97 yards against the Florida Gators in last season's opener.

Moss' record of 655 punt return yards in a sseason could very well be in jeopardy with Hester and Parrish being a threat to bring it to the house whenever either one of them gets his hands on the ball.

With Hester seeing more and more time at corner, Parrish will see more time returning kicks, but an even scarier thought for opponents is when they both line up together to return punts. Pick your poison.

Beyond the fact that these two are dynamite kick return men, they are also making plays at their respective positions.

Parrish's 25-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the UVA game was the knockout blow to the Cavaliers.

He has solidified himself as Brock Berlin's favorite target and the one that Berlin knows will make a play when he gets the ball.

"When I watched Barry Sanders in practice, I would get excited just watching him run off-tackles," Coker said. "Roscoe is one of those guys. He is starting to practice that way. Now that I have seen him do that in practice the last 3-4 weeks, it is a great example of what you have to do."

And Hester, who Coker has said makes fast guys look slow, has turned into the slash-type player who will do and can do just about anything he is asked. Along with his four kicks returned for touchdown, Hester has a rushing touchdown as well as three interceptions.

"Devin has played better and has gotten better each week," Coker said. "He never played defensive back at this level before. I know that he has learned how to get three interceptions, which is great for him and the team. He has a bright future ahead of him."

And the scary part for opponents is these two keep getting better week after week and are underclassmen as well.

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