MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — There seems to be a lot of anger around Miami this week.
Such is to be expected after losing to archrival Florida State yet again, with the Hurricanes falling when a potentially game-tying extra point was blocked in the final moments a week ago. And Miami hasn’t forgotten the beating North Carolina administered a year ago, when the Tar Heels rolled to a 59-21 win and enjoyed it a little too much for the Hurricanes’ liking.
“They embarrassed us last year obviously, and we have a chip on our shoulders about that,” Miami defensive end Trent Harris said. “Especially after this loss, we’re going to make someone pay.”
Here comes Miami’s chance. The 16th-ranked Hurricanes (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) play host to North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) Saturday afternoon, a game that shapes up to be critical for the hopes of each club in the Coastal Division race.
“It’s going to be huge,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “Another ranked opponent on the road in a hostile environment.”
It’s the third straight week that North Carolina has faced a ranked foe. The Tar Heels beat Florida State two weeks ago on a field goal at the buzzer, then lost to Virginia Tech last week in a downpour brought on by Hurricane Matthew. North Carolina looked so out of sorts in the 34-3 loss that Miami didn’t even put much stock in the game film — knowing the weather was an enormous factor.
Miami is considerably banged up. Offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu is out after surgery for a broken leg suffered in last week’s Florida State loss, and quarterback Brad Kaaya dealt with shoulder issues in practice this week as well.
The Tar Heels have a chance to become the second team since 1973 to win at Florida State and Miami in the same season. Virginia pulled it off in 2011.
Here’s some things know going into the North Carolina-Miami game:
THINK FAST: These teams can score quickly. Miami has 14 touchdown drives that lasted less than 2 minutes so far this season, and North Carolina has nine. The longest Miami TD drive this season lasted 3:42, while North Carolina’s longest is 4:32. And both are among the lowest-ranked nationally in time of possession — Miami is 123rd out of 128 FBS teams with an average possession time of 24:14, North Carolina is 127th at 22:47.
SWITZER RISING: North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer comes into the game with 197 career catches. Only six active FBS players came into this weekend with more, and Switzer is nine catches away from passing Quinshad Davis for the Tar Heel career record. And in the two games preceding last week’s storm-affected game, Switzer had 30 catches for 366 yards.
KAAYA WATCH: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has 7,585 career yards. He’s 105 away from tying Gino Torretta for No. 4 on the Hurricanes’ all-time list, and 311 shy of matching Stephen Morris for No. 3 all-time. Kaaya could also pass Torretta and Morris in career completions this week — he comes in with 541, 10 behind Morris (No. 4 in Miami history on that list) and 14 behind Torretta (No. 3).
HOOD’S RETURN: The Tar Heels expect RB Elijah Hood back this week, after he missed the Virginia Tech game with a concussion. UNC missed Hood’s physical and tackler-punishing running style in the heavy rain against the Hokies. He said he had “been working back in with the protocol” and practiced fully this week. “I did the … testing and everything and it kind of cleared up, all the symptoms went away,” Hood said.
RICHT REBOUNDS: Miami coach Mark Richt typically has teams back on track quickly after a loss. In his 15 seasons at Georgia, Richt’s teams went 23-9 when playing in the week immediately following a defeat. This game is the second crack Richt gets at career win No. 150, and is his first time opposing North Carolina as a head coach.
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