By JOEDY McCREARY
AP Sports Writer
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The Miami-Duke game features one team that’s nationally ranked, chasing a championship and promising not to overlook a turmoil-ridden opponent coming off a record-setting loss.
The 22nd-ranked Blue Devils are the ones flying high.
All those issues belong to the Hurricanes.
Miami’s visit to Duke on Saturday night marks its first game since Al Golden was fired one day after the most lopsided loss in program history — a 58-0 rout against No. 3 Clemson.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya is dealing with a concussion and the mother of cornerback Artie Burns died unexpectedly this week — making this an exceptionally tumultuous time for the Hurricanes (4-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
"We don’t want to get too far away from the human element of what that’s all about," interim coach Larry Scott said. "We can skip straight to the problems and fixing the issues in football … but first we needed to make sure we reached them on that level, and make sure we get them back in the boat, get them back all in and try to get their mindsets back focused on winning football games. But a part of that is reaching the person first."
Duke (6-1, 3-0) is prepared for nothing less than Miami’s best shot. Coach David Cutcliffe expects all those struggles to galvanize a Hurricanes team that, for its shortcomings, still seems to be overflowing with talent.
"We’ve got enough maturity and leadership, and really our junior and senior classes — all those guys played and played a lot against Miami and understand who they are," Cutcliffe said. "It’s really not as hard (to focus on them) as you might think. They look at tape. They see the product, they see the talent, they see how hard they play. … When you look at it and you study (the Clemson game) on tape, you see it’s an outlier."
The Hurricanes enter two games behind Duke in a crowded Coastal Division race. The Blue Devils face their two main competitors in the division — North Carolina and No. 23 Pittsburgh — in the next two weeks.
But those matchups can wait.
Duke refuses to take its eye off the Hurricanes.
"We just have to not lose focus of who Miami is," quarterback Thomas Sirk said. "I don’t think they’re going to come out and slack off any because of the coaching situation."
Some other things to know about the Miami-Duke game:
BURNS’ SADNESS: Dana Smith, Burns’ mother, died earlier this week and the school held a crowdsourcing campaign to help with her funeral expenses, raising its goal of more than $40,000 in six hours. He was named a team captain for the game and he posted on Twitter earlier this week that "Saturday will be my greatest effort cause that’s what you would want."
WELCOME, MALIK: Miami QB Malik Rosier was supposed to be Kaaya’s backup this season. No one envisioned he would be starting, but that looks like it’ll be the case Saturday after Kaaya was concussed (on a two-man rush against five linemen) in the debacle against Clemson a week ago. Rosier is 9 for 28 for the Hurricanes this fall, but he’s already beaten Duke — also a baseball player, he appeared in Miami’s 10-0 win over the Blue Devils on April 5.
TOUGH RUNNING: The Hurricanes have been held under 100 yards of net rushing in three consecutive games, the first time that’s happened since the end of the 2007 season. Starter Joe Yearby has 135 yards on 47 carries in his last three games — and 44 of those yards came on two carries. Backup Mark Walton has only 109 yards on 38 carries in his last four games. And with Kaaya likely out this week, even more pressure will be on Miami’s ground game.
SIRK WORKS: Sirk leads the ACC in total offense, averaging 280.6 total yards, and is one of five major-conference QBs to lead his team in both rushing and passing. In the four-overtime win at Virginia Tech last week, Sirk passed for 270 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 109 more yards and ran for the game-winning score on a two-point conversion.
DOING IT WITH D: The Blue Devils have the ACC’s second-best scoring defense, giving up 14.1 points per game, and have not allowed more than 24 in regulation in any game this season — though Virginia Tech tacked on 19 more in the four overtimes. Duke ranks third in the ACC against the pass (151 ypg) and fifth against the run (130).
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Florida, contributed to this report.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap
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