Canes get back to basics

University of Miami coach Larry Coker fell just short of thanking the person responsible for giving the top-ranked Hurricanes a bye week after his team survived a thriller against the Florida State Seminoles, Oct. 12.

But unlike the Hurricanes first off week last month there was little time to heal bumps and bruises this time around. Coming off a defensive effort that resulted in 296 rushing yards for Florida State and with another high-powered ground attack awaiting the Hurricanes, Coker didn't take any chances.

"We went back to the basics and took a real good look at ourselves," said Coker as the top-ranked Hurricanes (6-0, 2-0) prepare to face West Virginia (5-2, 2-0) Saturday at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia, in a game featuring two of four unbeaten Big East Conference members. "We really worked on rapping up the man with the ball, staying in position to make plays and playing to the ball. I love Mo Sikes, Sean Taylor and those guys back there, but when guys in the secondary are making a lot of tackles there's something wrong."

And smartly enough Coker spent plenty of time trying to correct the problem.

The Hurricanes defensive unit is expected to get another 60-minute workout attempting to stop the Mountaineer's top-ranked Big East rushing offense anchored by running back Avon Cobourne, who is first in the conference and third in the nation with 1,002 rushing yards.

Cobourne, who had 108 rushing yards on 28 carries in a 34-7 victory over Syracuse last Saturday, is the anchor of a West Virginia rushing offense that is averaging 297.6 rushing yards and 55.5 rushing attempts a game. The 5-9, 190-pound senior has scored nine touchdowns on the season and is averaging 143.1 rushing yards per game.

A lot was made of the Hurricanes run defense, ranked 58th in the nation allowing a 146.3 yards a game, inability to contain Seminoles running back Greg Jones in the Orange Bowl last week. Jones had six rushes of 10 yards or more in route to a 189-yard performance as the Seminoles offensive line tied up the Hurricanes defensive on the inside and opened running lanes for Jones.

Although Miami's defense was hurt by poor tackling and being out of position early in the game, most of them said that it's just a matter of correcting some breakdowns. Now, the Hurricanes must work out their problems against the nation's second ranked ground attack. "We made some mistakes, but there things that can be corrected," said Miami junior linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has a team-leading 49 tackles. "We have to worry about taking care of ourselves. There is enough talent on this team that we can do that.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, isn't hiding anything.

"That's our bread and butter," said Rodriguez, who is 8-10 since being taking over the Mountaineers. "If we can't run the football and avoid the big play on defense we could be in serious trouble. Miami is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason, guys. They have some talent over there."

West Virginia isn't so bad, either.

After a shaky start, that included blowout defeats to Wisconsin and Maryland, the Mountaineers have bounced back the last several weeks with impressive performances in victories over Rutgers and Syracuse. Sophomore quarterback Rasheed Marshall finished with 159 yards of total offense and three touchdowns against Syracuse. Marshall has 331 rushing yards on the season. Quincy Wilson has 468 rushing yards on the season.

"I'm really looking forward to the challenge," said Cobourne. "We have to show this week in a big way."

The West Virginia defense will probably have to be at their best as well- especially keeping track of Miami running back Willis McGahee. McGahee is third in the Big East and 11th in the nation with 735 yards rushing. McGahee has scored 11 touchdowns. The Mountaineers rushing defense, ranked 18th in the country, is allowing 107.4 yards per contest.

The Hurricanes lead the all-time series 14-3 against the Mountaineers and have won the last four games by a combined score of 154-64.

"There going to come right after us," Coker said.

DEBATE: With seven undefeated teams among the top-10 in the country still remaining, there is already widespread speculation about how things will turn out. But there are plenty of games left before anybody can make any kind of reservations.

Virginia Tech's six remaining opponents –five of them Big East teams- have a combined record of 26-16, which includes upcoming games against UM, No. 16 Pittsburgh (5-2) and West Virginia (5-2). No. 5 Georgia, whose remaining opponents are 23-13, still has to face Kentucky (5-2), No. 23 Florida (5-3), Mississippi (5-2), Auburn (4-3) and Georgia Tech (4-3).

The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes have three teams (No. 8 Michigan 6-1, No. 18 Penn State, 5-2 and No. 25 Minnesota 7-1) remaining on their schedule that sport winning records. Ohio State also has dates remaining against Purdue (3-5) and Illinois (2-5).

No. 2 Oklahoma, whose five remaining opponents have a combined record of 21-15, has No. 21 Colorado (5-2), Texas A&M (5-2), Baylor (3-4), Texas Tech (5-3) and Oklahoma State (3-4).

Of the current top five teams, Miami has the lowest combined winning percentage of remaining opponents at 23-18. Left of the Canes schedule: West Virginia 5-2, Rutgers 1-6, No. 16 Tennessee 4-2, Pittsburgh 5-2, Syracuse 1-6, No. 3 Virginia Tech 7-0

Notre Dame (7-0), North Carolina State (8-0) and Bowling Green (6-0) also remain undefeated.

"Let's see. Miami and Virginia Tech still have to play each other, Oklahoma has to get through the Big 12 Championship game, Ohio State still has Michigan and Georgia rarely ever beats Florida, " said ESPN college football analysis Kirk Herbstreit. "The fans and a lot of the media will blow this BCS thing up, but the standings don't mean a whole lot right now."

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