CORAL GABLES — Miami linebacker Sean Spence said the Hurricanes would have two tasks when reviewing a less-than-pretty win over Duke.
“Evaluate the film,” Spence said, “and evaluate ourselves.”
Evidently, beating the Blue Devils doesn’t make Miami feel as if all its problems are suddenly fixed. Voters, however, are apparently seeing plenty of promise.
A 28-13 road win over Duke on Saturday at least got the Hurricanes (4-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) back on the winning track, a week after a four-touchdown loss to archrival Florida State knocked Miami out of The Associated Press Top 25 poll and put the team in a precarious spot in the Coastal Division race.
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On Sunday, Miami returned to the poll, checking back in at No. 25, even after appear to be sleepwalking at times against Duke. It could have been a dominant showing by the Hurricanes — they forced seven turnovers, but only converted those into 14 points.
“This is college football. Anytime you get a win, you’ve got to run with it,” cornerback Ryan Hill said. “There were some things that we’ve got to clean up and obviously we’re going to go back, look at film and get some things cleaned up. We’re not where we want to be right now as a team, so we’ll go back to practice and keep pushing.”
They better push quickly. A make-or-break game awaits this week.
North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) visits Miami on Saturday night, and although it represents merely the midway point in the ACC race for both teams, the loser will likely need a ton of help to remain viable in the conference title chase. And the Hurricanes have stumbled mightily against the Tar Heels in recent years; North Carolina has won the last three games in the series.
“They own us until we prove otherwise,” Spence said.
In the ACC Coastal race, the picture is becoming clear, and the best team in what essentially amounts to a mini-season will probably move on to the conference title game.
Virginia Tech (back in the rankings at No. 23 this week) is 3-0 in league play, Georgia Tech is 3-1, North Carolina and Miami are both 2-1. Head-to-head, there’s only been one game between those four teams; the Yellow Jackets beat the Tar Heels 30-24 on Sept. 18.
Otherwise, for those Coastal teams, the biggest part of the season starts now.
“Got to steadily improve and get better as we keep going into the Coastal Division, to try to reach our goal at the end of the day,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said.
There were bright spots for Miami against Duke.
Quarterback Jacory Harris didn’t throw an interception and seemed to struggle less with his array of nagging physical ailments. Damien Berry rushed for 100-plus yards for the third straight game, becoming just the fifth running back in school history to accomplish that feat. Leonard Hankerson caught his seventh touchdown pass; only five players in major college football have more in 2010.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go,” Shannon said. “Still have a lot of things to get done.”