CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The 8th ranked Miami Hurricanes are off to a 6-0 start and have won 11 straight games, dating back to last season.
On Saturday, the Canes will face a North Carolina Tar Heels squad that finds themselves on the ropes with a 1-7 record and a 5 game losing streak. Most recently, they were shellacked 59-7 at Number 14 Virginia Tech. Their combined margin of defeat in five (ACC) conference losses is 129 points.
On paper, this looks like a matchup that would be very easy for Miami’s coaches and players to take lightly.
Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt insists that isn’t the case. According to Richt, Miami is not looking ahead to their matchup with Virginia Tech on November 4th.
“If we were rolling everybody, we’re whipping everybody by three touchdowns, no drama, getting your second- and third-stringers in – well we get our second- and third-stringers in anyway – but if we were having that kind of a roll, maybe,” said Richt. “We’re just finding ways to win at the end of games. We’re not foolish enough to think that we’ve arrived yet. I don’t think they believe that. They know we have to earn it.”
Miami has gone out of their way to earn each of their past three victories in the fourth quarter. Against Florida State, it was a game-winning touchdown with six seconds left. Against Georgia Tech, they converted fourth and ten on their final drive en route to a game-winning field goal. Most recently, Miami fought off a Syracuse second half rally to seal the game with a late touchdown and defensive stop.
Miami’s combined margin of victory in their past three heart-pounding wins has been 13 total points. Richt is correct to point out that the Hurricanes are not in position to overlook a conference opponent, regardless of UNC’s struggles.
Richt was asked how far away Miami is from becoming a dominant squad.
“Good things are happening,” noted Richt. “But it takes time in recruiting to get your roster deep enough with guys that can really play at the championship level. One thing you can’t manage is injuries – you can manage who plays, but you can’t control the injuries. I don’t know if anybody can withstand that many injuries and let it just roll off their back and throw in the next guy and play at a high level, but some teams are better prepared to do that than others. We’re just trying to get in the point in recruiting where we’ve got guys that we feel comfortable playing two-deep, maybe even three-deep sometimes. And if you do have an injury, you have a qualified kid that has already played. He already has the talent base to win and that’s what we’re trying to get. Trying to get used to winning and winning culture, that’s hopefully being developed. But the winning culture is really more of how you go about your business every day than actual wins, sometimes. Sometimes they don’t show up right away.”
Miami has had their share of injuries, most notably losing star running back Mark Walton (ankle) for the season. Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards has been limited with a hamstring, the offensive line and defensive secondary have seen players in and out of the lineup from week to week, and the Hurricanes just lost freshman wide receiver Evidence Njoku for the year.
Still, Miami has been far more fortunate than North Carolina, as the Tar Heels have already lost sixteen scholarship players to season-ending injuries.
Despite UNC’s lack of health and success, they won’t be overlooked by Mark Richt and his team.
Kickoff for Miami at North Carolina is set for 12-Noon on Saturday, October 28th. You can listen to the game on 560 WQAM.