Hurricanes Begin Preparing For Orange Bowl Looking To End Season With Statement Win

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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The Miami Hurricanes are hoping to end a surprisingly successful season with a big exclamation point.

Preparations for Miami’s appearance in the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl began this week as the Canes took the practice field on Monday for the first time in weeks.

The time off was the first for the Canes since the season began, with Miami’s schedule being condensed after a pair of hurricanes ripped through and around South Florida back in September.

“I think it was nice for the whole team to get fresh again from going as many weeks as we did in a row because of [Hurricane] Irma,” said running back Travis Homer. “I think it’s definitely good for our bodies to rejuvenate.”

The Hurricanes (10-2) will battle Wisconsin (12-1) at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30th, giving Miami the opportunity to finish the season out with a big win at their home stadium in front of a national audience.

Tuesday’s practice, the first one open to the media since Miami last took the field in late November, saw head coach Mark Richt give his players a little extra motivation during the team’s on-field huddle that comes after they stretch.

“Obviously they were a little rusty in some areas, but the energy level was great,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said following practice. “The guys came out focused, motivated and we had some guys step up, be leaders and push everybody.”

Miami will have their hands full with the Badgers, who (like the Hurricanes) would have been included in the four-team College Football Playoff if they had won their conference championship game.

Wisconsin lost to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship, but Canes fans were happy to see the Buckeyes also get left off the playoff schedule.

The Badgers now come into the Orange Bowl with a big chip on their shoulder, as well as one of the best defensive units in the nation, something the Hurricanes will have to be ready for.

“Watching their defense, they are really good,” said Miami center Tyler Gauthier. “I think they’re the No. 1 defense in the country. They are big, they are strong, they play Big Ten football and they are used to playing man-on-man. They are definitely good ball players.”

Overall, Richt seemed pleased with what he saw out of his players Tuesday.

“It was a good practice,” Richt said. “It’s the first time we’ve had a Tuesday-type practice in a long time, but I thought they held up good. Scout teamers, I’ve got a lot of respect for them – they did a good job. We helped them out a little bit with a couple more breaks, but the scout teams did a good job. I thought we competed well. I thought guys enjoyed it. I thought we did a good job today. Good start.”

Last December Miami won its first bowl game in a decade, taking down West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

For Miami, which at one point in November was ranked No. 2 in the country, closing out the season with a big win over a very good team would carry some extra weight.

“It means a lot,” defensive lineman Kendrick Norton said. “Obviously, it’s going to be like a home game for us, so we will be comfortable. Miami hasn’t been [in the Orange Bowl] for a while, so we have a lot of pride in getting there and doing well.”

The Hurricanes are making their first appearance in the Orange Bowl since the 2003 season, a 16-14 win over rival Florida State on New Year’s Day.

“I think it would be great for us to finish with 11 wins,” Brown said. “It would give us momentum going into the offseason because that’s going to be huge for the future. Not that I really care a whole lot about it, but they base rankings in the preseason off of what you do in the bowl game and what you have going in, so it would be a great step for this program. I think it would be the first time since 2003 since we had won 11 games, so it would be a huge step for us.”