MIAMI (AP) – The competition isn’t as formidable this week for the Miami Hurricanes, and that has their coach concerned.
After losing last week at No. 1 Clemson, Miami will try to rebound Saturday against Pittsburgh. The No. 13-ranked Hurricanes are 9 1/2-point favorites, which makes it a game that will test the attitude second-year coach Manny Diaz is trying to instill in Coral Gables.
Diaz said that for too long, the Hurricanes have played with an arrogance they don’t deserve, a hangover from the era when Miami was a perennial national championship contender.
“We can’t just think we’re Miami, and we are more talented than, say, Pitt,” Diaz said. “Our players have been hearing that for many years, regardless of who the head coach has been, and it has not been serving them well. We have to have respect for who we’re playing. That’s the arrogance I’m speaking of.”
It’s a bounce-back game for both teams. The Hurricanes (3-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) went to Clemson ranked No. 7 and harbored hopes of making a prime-time splash reminiscent of their glory days. Instead, they endured a 42-17 drubbing.
The Panthers (3-2, 2-2) are two points from being undefeated. They lost 30-29 to North Carolina State, and were beaten 31-30 in overtime last week at Boston College.
“We’ve got to win it in the fourth quarter,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We’ve got to find a way to finish the darned game.”
Quarterback D’Eriq King, who is in his first season at Miami, said any arrogance that might go along with being favored won’t be a problem for the Hurricanes.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind the team will go out there and play super, super hard,” King said. “You’ve got to respect everybody you play. I know how it has been in the past, but I don’t think this team is even thinking about that.”
THE LINE ON PICKETT
Pitt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett’s coming-out party happened three years ago against the second-ranked Hurricanes when he ran for two scores and threw for another in a 24-14 upset win.
The game remains the highlight of the enigmatic Pickett’s career, but the senior has won teammates over with his toughness. Pickett has carried the ball 45 times this year, many of them coming on scrambles after protection broke down. He briefly went to the sideline each of the past two weeks after taking particularly hard hits.
Narduzzi wants to keep Pickett healthy but has no plans to tell him to stop using his legs.
“He’s going to compete, that’s for sure,” Narduzzi said. “You saw how he came back. He’s tough, and I could tell Kenny to run out of bounds or take a knee. He ain’t taking a knee. That’s not Kenny Pickett.”
ON THE RISE
Junior safety Bubba Bolden has emerged as one of the Hurricanes’ top playmakers, as well as a marathon man. Against Clemson, he blocked two field goals, made 10 tackles, and forced a fumble.
“He played about 90 snaps Saturday, which is probably a game and half,” Diaz said. “He’s sprinting down the field covering punts. He’s completely committed to the team.”
Said Bolden: “You’ve just got to go out there and lead. I didn’t let fatigue get to me at all.”
Narduzzi admitted he left the more experienced members of his secondary on the field too long in both losses. The result? A pass defense that began the season looking dominant was instead dominated.
The Panthers have allowed 694 yards passing and seven touchdowns with no interceptions over their last eight-plus quarters.
“We’re going to have to rotate our corners, we’re going to have to keep them fresh, and I did a poor job of making sure that we were doing that,” Narduzzi said.
The 2020 Hurricanes will play their first day game, and the forecast of humid 85-degree weather — just the sort they practice in — could work to the home team’s advantage.
“Happy to have a noon kickoff and get to play under the sun,” Diaz said.
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