The #7 Miami Hurricanes (4-1, 2-1) have been getting lights-out production from the defense. It has limited four of five opponents to 10 points or less this season and allowed its last three opponents a total of 17 points combined; none of them coming in the first half.
Through five games, Miami is ranked third in the country in total defense, fifth in points allowed, third in pass defense, and first in pass efficiency.
Miami has improved on its run defense. They are currently ranked 22nd in run defense, allowing 103 yards per game. This marks a tremendous improvement from a defense which allowed an uncharacteristic 155 rushing yards per game in 2004.
Miami's stingy defense will most likely determine how far the Hurricanes can go in their pursuit of a sixth national championship. This is a familiar scenario for UM, which takes pride in its defensive prowess.
The Hurricanes' defensive philosophy has traditionally been structured around an attacking style with quick and athletic players that can make game-changing plays at any moment.
This summer, the Hurricanes reviewed old film and tweaked the defensive packages to fit a more aggressive style. Head coach Larry Coker believes it has had a natural positive effect.
"The defense has played well all season," Coker said. "We installed a really good blitz package with the defensive coaches this summer ….We are much more complex defensively then we have been in the past. I think it's made it much more difficult for teams to study us."
Quarterback Kyle Wright knows how difficult it can be to play against UM's secondary, which has limited opponents to 57 points in five games.
"I'm used to practicing against them everyday so I'm used to it," Wright said. "But the amount of talent these guys bring to the table; the speed and athleticism is just unprecedented throughout college football."
The defense is allowing only 11.4 points per game. It gave up 10 points after regulation in UM's 36-30 triple overtime win at Clemson. The Hurricanes have only given up 47 points in regulation, which is second nationally.
"We strive to be better than the 2001 defense," said senior cornerback Kelly Jennings. "I was here with that group and I know how good we were and what we have to do to be better. We don't want them to even catch the ball."
In 2001, the Hurricanes held opponents to a score or less in five straight games. This year, Miami is working on a three-game streak.
A major concern remains injuries, however. Coker said the whole unit is banged up at the halfway point of the season.
"It's hard being on defense and trying to recover, because you are always hitting it and playing through pain, but at this point in the season you have to play with bumps and bruises because we won't have everyone healthy."
Despite the ailments, the defense has high expectations for the near future. After barely missing a shutout against the Blue Devils, the Hurricanes hope to keep winless Temple off the scoreboard at Lincoln Financial Field.
"We were really disappointed when Duke scored that TD," said freshman safety Kenny Phillips. "Everyone on the sideline was upset because we wanted the shutout, but we don't worry about it too much, we just let it go after the play is done. "Shutout is what we talk about before every game, before every practice."
Sophomore linebacker Jon Beason agreed that a shutout is an attainable goal, but he said he does not care how the Hurricanes earn victories; as long as they win.
"Hopefully this weekend we can finally get a shutout," Beason said. "We definitely talk about it and it's one of our goals, but statistics don't matter. If we give up 400 yards a game and still win the national championship, that is fine with me."
Saturday's game marks the 13th meeting between Miami and Temple, with UM holding a 12-1 advantage, with 12 consecutive wins.
After Temple, Miami will return home for two games against ACC foes Georgia Tech and North Carolina, as they begin a season ending five-game run against conference opponents.
Defense Continues to Dominate, Wants Shutout
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