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Miami Hurricanes look to get back to the basics

BY CHRIS PERKINS, Special Correspondent Published: October 2, 2009
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — As the new-era University of Miami football team searches for its personality, its leader, sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, put his on display this week.

"I guess in the media I’ve been a little too arrogant, some people say, because I’m a very confident person,” he said during Monday’s weekly press conference. "So I’m just going to change it up and be like, ‘It is going to be a challenge. They’re a wonderful team. I might be a little nervous coming into this game.’ ”

Harris, known as "J-12” to teammates (his first initial and jersey number), then flashed a big smile. He was being sarcastic; he’ll never change. If only the rest of the Hurricanes were that cool. Miami had some of its swagger stolen in last week’s 31-7 loss at sixth-ranked Virginia Tech.

To re-gain its swagger, the 17th-ranked Hurricanes (2-1) need to upset No. 8 Oklahoma (2-1) in a nationally-televised 7 p.m. showdown at Land Shark Stadium. Miami’s concern is almost palpable.

"This is a pivotal game for us,” third-year coach Randy Shannon said.

Oklahoma’s offense (eighth in the nation at 40.7 points per game) figures to be Hurricanes’ biggest problem. Virginia Tech rushed for 272 yards against Miami. There’s a sense of urgency among the Hurricanes to get the previously-solid run defense fixed.

"We didn’t tackle very well,” Shannon said. "We have to get back to what we did against Georgia Tech, get back to basics.”

That goes beyond the defense. All phases of Miami’s game could use a tweak. Last week the Hurricanes had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown that gave Virginia Tech a 21-0 second quarter lead. Then, Jimmy Graham, a 6-foot-8 power forward-turned-tight end, dropped two passes that killed a crucial third-quarter drive with Miami trailing, 21-7.

Such miscues can’t be covered by a Miami defense that has only forced two turnovers in three games — an interception and a recovered fumble.

"I have to do things to make more plays for the defense to be successful,” said linebacker Sean Spence, the 2008 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year who has just 13 tackles this season.

If the Hurricanes take a cue from Harris, they could regain the confidence that made them the talk of the nation coming off victories over then-18{+t}{+h}-ranked Florida State (38-34) and then-14{+t}{+h}-ranked Georgia Tech (33-17).

In the season’s opening games it was the Hurricanes who caused concern.


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