No. 16 Miami Needs To Rebound Against North Carolina

JT BlockCBS Miami: Twitter | Facebook

There’s plenty of catchy sayings about bouncing back from a fall.

There’s the one about continuing to try after your first unsuccessful attempt; the one about getting back on a horse; and of course the one that former Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade based a whole promotional campaign around: “fall down seven times, stand up eight”.

Pick whichever one tickles your fancy, but the fact remains that the University of Miami must shake off any and all negative lingering effects from its one-point loss to rival Florida State last week because the No. 16 Hurricanes still have aspirations of winning the ACC Coastal division and the road to it begins Saturday when they host North Carolina at Hard Rock Stadium.

The game, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on either ABC or ESPN2, will be UM’s second matchup against a Coastal division opponent this season. Miami (4-1, 1-1) is currently tied with Pittsburgh for fourth in the division while the Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1) sit in second place behind No. 17 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0), who the Canes will travel to face next Thursday (Oct. 20).

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Demetrius Jackson said that the team is resolute in its mindset moving forward.

“We’re over it,” Jackson said Tuesday after practice when asked about the FSU game. “We got to have short-term memory in a season like this. We already had our bye week, so the games are coming back to back. We have one Saturday and one next Thursday. So we can’t mope about that because we still control our own destiny.”

Sophomore running back Mark Walton confirmed it.

“It was already behind us when it was over. We got to have short-term memory, that’s all we’re thinking about, short-term memory and moving on to North Carolina,” Walton said.

Although winning the Coastal is something Miami has never been able to do, the Canes know that their best shot at it hinges on what happens Saturday.

“It starts with North Carolina. We are right in the driver seat of the Coastal if we beat North Carolina,” receiver Braxton Berrios said. “If not, then we have a long road ahead of us and it will be other team’s jobs to lose it really. If we beat North Carolina, then we are in the driver seat and as long as we do not lose we will be in the ACC Championship game.”

Protecting The Goods

One of the things that Miami must leave behind is its struggles in protecting quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Kaaya was officially sacked three times by the Seminoles, but he took more than a handful of hits throughout the night – including a helmet-to-helmet shot from FSU’s Matthew Thomas which knocked out one of Kaaya’s teeth and earned Thomas an ejection for targeting.

After the game, Kaaya said he was definitely feeling the effects of the hits he took.

“Not feeling amazing [physically]…I took some hits today, took some hits to the head which I wasn’t a fan of. I lost a tooth, but I’m good. I’ll be in there next week.”

This past Sunday, head coach Mark Richt announced that Kaaya would be “rested” in the early days of practice leading up to the UNC game and not throw in order to rest a sore shoulder.

Some wondered whether Kaaya was also dealing with the effects of a possible concussion – something Richt quickly shot down.

“When you take hard hits, it’s a shock to the system when you get hit hard,” Richt said Sunday in his weekly teleconference with media. “Right now, we’re not categorizing anything as a concussion.”

Kaaya returned to practice Tuesday and, according to Richt, looked solid.

“He threw a lot better than I thought he’d throw,” Richt said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t have known that his arm was bothering him – and I don’t know if it was, I didn’t even ask him. I was just watching him throw it and he zipped the ball well. So I didn’t really think there was an issue. He practiced the whole day. He did a good job.”

Kaaya practiced again Wednesday but hasn’t been made available to the media since after the game against Florida State.

North Carolina isn’t necessarily a team that is especially adept at getting to opposing quarterbacks. The Tar Heels have total 11 sacks on the season – Miami has 19 – with a team-high 2.5 of those sacks coming from sophomore defensive end Malik Carney.

That doesn’t mean UNC won’t try to dial up the pressure and do everything it can to get to Kaaya.

UM junior offensive lineman KC McDermott said that seeing Kaaya sent to the deck is not a pretty sight for the line.

“The fact that we let him get knocked down bothers us a lot,” McDermott said. “But in the end, it really makes us focus on doing everything right even more the next time. Brad is an amazing quarterback and we do not ever want to see him get hurt or on the ground, so we have to do our job and make sure that he is upright on every play.”

Nicked Up

Miami has had issues keeping a lot of its players upright this season.

The injury bug took another bite over the weekend as offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu underwent surgery Wednesday to fix a break in his lower leg.

Odogwu, who sustained the injury during the game against FSU when a Noles defensive lineman fell on his leg, will be out indefinitely. Sophomore Tyree St. Louis will fill in for Odogwu at right tackle.

Richt is hopeful that the 6-foot-8, 325-pound redshirt junior can return to the lineup before the end of the season.

“He may be back before the end of the season,” Richt said, but “it’ll be a while.”

Also out for this coming Saturday’s game will be defensive tackle Gerald Willis. Willis sustained a knee injury in the FSU game and has not practiced this week.

Defensive lineman Chad Thomas has been wearing a protective cast/club in practice on his right hand, which he broke during the second half of the FSU game. Thomas has fully participated in practice and is expected to play against North Carolina.

Thomas said the cast won’t affect how he plays.

“It’s only a cast to protect my hand for the next game, but no adjustments are needed to be made,” Thomas said.

As many as three more Canes are said to have sustained injuries this past Saturday – including receiver Stacy Coley (knee) and linebacker Shaq Quarterman (shoulder) – but all are expected to play against the Tar Heels.

Carter To Miss First Half

While he’s not injured, Miami will be without safety Jamal Carter for the first half of Saturday’s game against North Carolina.

Carter was flagged for targeting during the fourth quarter for a hit on FSU’s Kermit Whitfield. Though it appeared to be a legal hit – as replays showed Carter using his shoulder – NCAA rules stipulates that he not only be ejected from the current game but also miss the first half of the following game.

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