Canes' bully days have ended

Now that they have discovered they are indeed mere mortals, Miami's Hurricanes are not so quick to dismiss Tennessee as just another opponent.

The supremely confident -- arrogant, some would say -- bullies of the college football world lost a little of the swagger that helped them to a 39-game regular-season win streak when Virginia Tech shocked them with a 31-7 upset on Saturday. In the process, Miami lost its hold on the No. 2 national ranking.

After falling to No. 6 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the USA Today/ESPN poll, Miami might also have lost its shot at a third straight national title appearance. Now, all the Hurricanes can do is seek atonement against the Vols on Saturday in Miami.

''The job we've got to do is get behind this,'' Miami coach Larry Coker said. ''After that, we are going to go on, and everything will be pointed toward Tennessee.''

Had they not lost on Saturday, the Hurricanes could easily have viewed Tennessee as another easy victim, another easy 'W' on their way to the championship game. After all, the Vols were no match for the Hurricanes at Neyland Stadium last season.

That has changed now, as they cannot afford another slip if they are to remain in the hunt for the second spot in the BCS. Southern Cal and Florida State were expected to move in front of Miami in the BCS rankings behind Oklahoma.

''We definitely expect a great game from Tennessee,'' Miami safety Maurice Sikes said. ''They are running the ball a lot better and their quarterback (Casey Clausen) is relatively healthy. They look good. I saw the Alabama game, and they did a good job winning that one.

''It's like a national championship for them,'' Sikes said. ''They are trying to knock us off and ruin our season. We will have to bring our best game for them.''

Returning to the championship game could still happen for the Hurricanes, but they have much less control of their fate than they have in recent years.

''The perspective is we don't control our destiny,'' Coker said. ''We've had that luxury for the past two years, and we don't have that now. But we do know this: There are not a lot of undefeated teams out there.

''Let's go ahead and pencil Oklahoma in as undefeated; probably they are going to be there. Now, you have the one-loss teams. Georgia went down, and if there is going to be a one-loss team in there, why can't it be us?''

The Hokies exposed the Hurricanes with a stout defense that recorded two touchdowns. Miami produced 377 yards of offense, but many of those came after Virginia Tech built a 31-0 lead with outstanding defense.

The Hokies harassed Miami quarterback Brock Berlin into two interceptions, one returned 44 yards by linebacker Michael Crawford to set up a touchdown. Berlin was sacked three times.

Eric Green returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in a 21-point third quarter for Virginia Tech.

Berlin finished 16 for 24 passing for 164 yards. Tight end Kellen Winslow also struggled. He caught eight passes, but totaled just 48 yards and was flagged for a personal-foul penalty.

Despite the poor performance by Berlin, Coker said he would remain the starter against Tennessee.

''He completed 64 percent of his passes and really had an outstanding first half,'' Coker said. ''We just have to go back and make sure we make good decisions. We can't win throwing interceptions.''

The Hurricanes might be without their best cornerback, Antrel Rolle, against Tennessee. Rolle was ejected for fighting on the sidelines in the waning moments of the game Saturday. Coker said depending on the officials' interpretation of the situation, Rolle's ejection might result in a one-game suspension.

Virginia Tech cornerback Deangelo Hall was also ejected.

''I think there was a lot of talking going on, and when you're on the short end of the scoreboard, that irritates some,'' Coker said. ''Hall punched Antrel. He retaliated and punched him back. They should have been ejected. I'll make the call to the Big East and see what the status for Antrel is.''

Special teams also were a problem for the Hurricanes. Turnovers were crucial too.

''We had a blocked field goal attempt and two shanked punts,'' Coker said. ''That just kills you. They had 21 points off turnovers. That was the story of the game.''


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