Miami chases strong finish at skidding Duke
The Miami Hurricanes are winding down a disappointing season with a 6-5 overall record and a 4-3 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Coach Manny Diaz’s job reportedly is in jeopardy in advance of Miami’s trip to Duke (3-8, 0-7) on Saturday for the regular-season finale.
Even so, the Hurricanes are bowl-eligible, and they’re having fun.
Just ask Mike Harley.
In Miami’s 38-26 win over Virginia Tech last week, the senior wide receiver caught a 55-yard touchdown to put the game away with 10:39 left in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes had just a five-point lead before that play.
“I was smiling the whole time,” Harley said of his joy even while the ball was in flight. “It was crazy.”
That’s the thing about the Hurricanes this season. They have five losses, but two of them came against opponents that rank among the nation’s elite, Alabama and Michigan State.
Miami also has two wins against teams that were Top 25 at the time, and the Hurricanes’ three ACC losses were by two, three and three points.
The Hurricanes are three plays away from an unbeaten ACC record, and they have developed a star quarterback in Tyler Van Dyke. The redshirt freshman has passed for more than 300 yards and at least three touchdowns in five consecutive games. He has been selected the ACC Rookie of the Week four times.
Miami has overcome season-ending injuries to five of its starters: quarterback D’Eriq King, safety Bubba Bolden, running back Cam’Ron Harris and offensive linemen Jalen Rivers and Corey Gaynor.
Yet, Harley is five catches away from breaking Reggie Wayne’s career record for receptions by a Hurricane (173 from 1997 to 2000).
Miami’s other star wide receiver, Charleston Rambo, has 71 catches this season for 1,071 yards. He needs two catches to break Leonard Hankerson’s single-season program record set in 2010. Rambo needs 92 yards to break Allen Hurns’ program record for single-season yardage.
Miami also has tight end Will Mallory, who has caught four TD passes in the past five games.
The Hurricanes, who have won four of their past five games, had no turnovers against Virginia Tech despite heavy rain. Miami’s defense also had 10 tackles for loss and four sacks against the Hokies.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have been hammered the past five weeks in a losing streak that is now at seven games. Duke hasn’t had a margin of defeat smaller than 25 points since Oct. 9.
Miami drilled Duke 48-0 last season. Two years ago, however, the host Blue Devils entered their matchup with the Hurricanes on a five-game losing streak before shocking Miami 27-17.
“I’ve heard some of our guys mention (that upset),” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Everybody looks for hope, and I wouldn’t discourage that. But this is a different Miami team and a totally different Duke team.”
Cutcliffe said Duke plans on using three quarterbacks against Miami: Jordan Moore, Gunnar Holmberg and Riley Leonard.
The Blue Devils hope that causes some Miami confusion, and Duke also has running back Mataeo Durant, who has rushed for 1,173 yards. Steve Jones set the Duke rushing record in 1972 with 1,236 yards.
Look for Miami to stack the box against Durant, who has a total of just 23 carries for 111 yards the past two games.
Cutcliffe, who is 67 and could retire after this season if the rumors are true, said Durant has been banged up lately.
Durant has 258 touches from scrimmage this season, including 233 carries. He has taken a pounding.
“An individual record is always secondary to winning,” Cutcliffe said. “But we’re aware of it, and we would love to win (and get Durant the mark).
“Wouldn’t that be fun?”
–Field Level Media