Special Teams Turnaround

University of Miami coach Larry Coker isn't about to make any excuses for his team's performance last Saturday against Big East doormat Rutgers. Despite getting criticized for not looking like the No. 1 team in the country for much of the afternoon against the Scarlet Knights, the Hurricanes looked up at the scoreboard and saw Miami 42, Rutgers 17 at the end of the game.

And that's the bottom line, according to Coker. "We don't have to make any excuses for a 25-point win. I saw a lot of instances were we looked like a very good football team," said Coker. "If you asked me before every game I would gladly accept a 25-point win over anybody."

But as the 8-0 Hurricanes head into Saturday's showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers (5-3, 2-3) at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville there is one thing that Coker would love to see improve- in a hurry.

The Hurricanes special teams troubles continued- especially in the punting game- in the victory over Rutgers as UM senior Freddie Capshaw had a punt blocked in the second quarter that was taken into the end zone for a Rutgers touchdown. Capshaw, ranked 78th in the nation with a 38.8 yards per punt average, has already had three punts blocked this season. Capshaw entered the season with two punt blocks in his entire career at UM. Both came last year at Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.

Although, Coker said that there would not be any changes in special teams personnel this week a quick fix might be order if the Hurricanes intend to stretch the longest winning streak in the nation to 31. Volunteer's sophomore Dustin Colquitt is seventh in the nation in punt average (43.6 per punt). Miami freshman Roscoe Parrish is averaging 11.5 yards a punt return.

And with Coker anticipating a close game against Tennessee, special teams, as is usually the case, could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.

"Is it a concern? No, because we know what we did wrong against Rutgers," said Coker. "But Tennessee is very good on special teams and whoever wins that part of the game has a good chance of coming out on top."

Mark Jones leads the Volunteers in punt return average with 148 yards on 13 attempts.

Miami kicker Todd Sievers also had a PAT attempt blocked in the second quarter against Rutgers. B-C-S: Despite dropping in the latest Bowl Championship Series rankings, which included Ohio State moving past Miami for the No. 2, Coker reiterated that the Hurricanes would not concern themselves with their current status in the BCS. Although they were slighted in the rankings even after a school-record 30th consecutive victory, Coker said the team's focus is on the Volunteers and not what the pollsters have to say at this point in the season.

"I don't think it's a major concern. We'll be fine," said Coker, when asked what kind of impact the BCS standings would have on the Hurricanes. "The thing we have to do and win some football games. It's crunch time. We have four tough games left and I'm just concerned with winning those football games. I can't worry about any other scenario right now."

Coker added that he was almost sure that a few more upsets would take place in the final weeks of the season.

"It seems to happen every year. You guys saw what happened on Saturday," said Coker. "Every year we go through this and at the end it seems like they're just one team standing. And I expect the same thing to happen this time. There's a good chance we'll see some more teams fall before it's over."

Even with four previously undefeated teams losing Saturday (Georgia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State), Coker said he remains optimistic that the Hurricanes will end up in the Fiesta Bowl playing for the national title.

"No doubt about it," Coker said. "They are going to be crazy things happening. The thing we can control is not letting crazy things happen to us."

Coker's players are taking the same approach to the BCS rankings.

"We aren't worried about it (BCS)," said defensive end Andrew Williams. "We're going to put that on the back of our heads and at the end of the season we'll see what happens."

The Hurricanes is third in the BCS- 6.01- behind the Buckeyes (5.57) and No. 1 Oklahoma (2.04).


Tennessee is 2-5 all-time against No. 1 teams. The Volunteers last victory over a top-ranked team was in 1985 over Auburn. Tennessee's only other win against a No. 1 ranked opponent was in 1959 against LSU. No. 1 Florida defeated Tennessee 33-20 in 1997. Miami has a road record of 83-19 since 1983, best among all Division I football programs. During that time period Miami has finished with undefeated road records in eight seasons (1985, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 2001).

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