A Must-Win Game?

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami (1-2) will face Houston (4-0) on Saturday in the Orange Bowl at 6 p.m.

The Cougars enter the game with a successful offense led by QB Kevin Kolb.

Houston is 3rd in the nation in total offense (486 yards/game), 5th in passing offense (312 yards/game), and 10th in scoring offense (38 points/game).

"Obviously we are playing a good football team. Houston is a good team," Coker said. "They have a lot of players coming back, a veteran team. They have a great quarterback in Kevin Kolb. He's a very special player."

Houston is coming off a 34-25 victory over Oklahoma State, in which Kolb threw four touchdown passes.

The senior Heisman hopeful has thrown for 1,193 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 1 interception this season. He has thrown for over 10,000 yards in his career.

"We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us," Coker said. "The main thing for us is to get out act together and play the way we know to play."

Although the Hurricanes do not want to fall to 1-3 on the season, a non-conference loss would not affect their goals of winning the ACC.

When asked if the game was a must-win, Coker responded, "I'd say that is probably a little overstated. It's a game we certainly need to win. Is it a must-win? We'll see. It is a very important game obviously. We need to get back on track and we need to win. The only thing we can do is win to sooth our pain so to speak."

After Houston, Miami will face North Carolina (1-3), Florida International (0-4), and Duke (0-3).

TEAM NOTES

1. Injury updates
WR Darnell Jenkins (torn PCL) did not practice Tuesday and is doubtful for Saturday. Sam Shields would start in his place. OLs Reggie Youngblood (high ankle sprain) and Tyrone Byrd (knee) will play Saturday, but Jason Fox's starting position is secure. OL Andrew Bain will not miss any games after suffering a knee injury against Louisville on Sept. 16. TE Chris Zellner (high ankle sprain) will not play on Saturday. TEs DajLeon Farr and Dedrick Epps are expected to fill in for Zellner. S Anthony Reddick is still not healthy yet.

2. Evaluating recruiting classes
Coker classifies a phenomenal recruiting class as a class that generates two great players. That shouldn't seem hard to do each year, but it is equally important to generate more high-caliber players who can contribute on a regular basis. The 2006 class figures to have at least three great players in RB Javarris James, WR Sam Shields, and OL Jason Fox.

3. Hater blockers
When LB Tavares Gooden was addressing about 15 reporters, the question came up about coach Coker and the job he has done at UM. Gooden told reporters he was prepared for that question and reached in his pocket and pulled out a pair of sunglasses, which he referred to them as ‘Hater Blockers'. He said you have to block out the haters, who are not being supportive of a coach that has won a national championship. He answered a few more questions with his sunglasses before the interview was complete.

4. On the players
Many of the leaders on the team including LB Jon Beason, believe the coaches can only do so much. At some point, the play on the field lies solely on the players responsibility to get the job done. Beason is a player who has excelled this season and is leading the team in tackles. Unfortunately, there are not enough "Jon Beasons" on the team. The Houston game will be a test as they look to gain some sort of confidence back.

5. Special teams struggles
Coker is not happy with kickoff returns as they rank 76th in the country as they average 18.9 yards per return. Recently RB Andrew Johnson began returning kicks to help out and he has responded with a 22.0 kickoff average in two attempts. Last week in practice WR Rashaun Jones joined Johnson as a returner, which could mean Jones is close to returning to the team after missing the first three games due to a suspension. P Brian Monroe is doing an "adequate" job according to Coker. K Jon Peattie is just 1-for-3 in field goals this season and Coker is not happy about the missed field goals of 40 and 45 yards against Louisville. K Matt Bosher is not ready yet and will be redshirted this season.

Christopher Stock can be reached at stock@canestime.com

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