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Tenth-Ranked Hurricanes Getting Ready To Play Face The Nation

Al Golden and his tenth-ranked University of Miami Hurricanes are getting ready to be prime time players. The game this week with the University of North Carolina will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and will be the only college football game on the dial. Golden and his staff will have the players ready for their second ACC tilt.

Stephen Morris is ready to be a Prime Time Player and is ready for the Tar Heels.
Stephen Morris is ready to be a Prime Time Player and is ready for the Tar Heels.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

University of Miami coach Al Golden does not want to hear about how great his football team is or about where they are ranked.  All Golden knows is that his tenth-ranked Hurricanes have a tough game coming up on Thursday night at North Carolina and he wants his team focused on the game at hand.

"Records talk about the past.  We don't talk about rankings around here," Golden said. "It's all about how we play Thursday night.  Its about how we play this week.  We are 0-0 heading into this week's game. At the end of the season we will count them up and see where we are at."

This is not a regular game though. All eyes will be on the Canes (5-0) as they face a North Carolina (1-4) team that defends its home turf very well.  Miami is only 1-4 at Chapel Hill. The Canes, however are 16-2 on Thursday night games on ESPN.  This will be the 75th appearance on the network, which ties the Canes for the most appearances in the country.

"This is a great opportunity for us at Keenan Stadium," Golden said. "We are working really hard to prepare for this game. It will be a big game atmosphere that is for sure.  We've been through big games and we know what the situation is."

Offensive Coordinator James Coley agreed that this will be a big test for the Hurricanes.

"Playing on Thursday night is a big challenge for us.  This is going to be a hostile environment that we are going into," Coley said Sunday. "Their team is going to be ready and so will we."

Crowd noise is going to pose a problem when it comes to communication, but the Hurricanes have seen it before and the coaching staff has a remedy for all possible scenarios.

"You can try to simulate the crowd noise as best as you can, but it is never the same," Coley said. "That is why we work on communication so much in practice."

Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said that his defense will be ready to play under any circumstances and that crowd noise will not disrupt what his tenacious defense sets out to do.

"We focus on crowd noise, but it is the offensive guys that have to get used to it," D'Onofrio said.

Senior quarterback Stephen Morris is ready for the challenge and does not want to make such a big deal of the team's ranking or the fact that they will be on national television once again.

"This is a big game for us, but its a game like any other. You can't make this game any bigger than what it is," Morris said. "We can't let the environment get to us. I can assure you that we will be ready to play."

The Canes will be bringing their high powered offense into Keenan Stadium and their confidence is soaring. Morris said that his confidence level in his unit mates is extremely high and that he knows that at any time this unit can explode.

"I thought we have made great strides. We were not on the same page in the beginning of the season, but we are focusing on making plays and making ourselves better and it is showing," Morris said. "I think that the USF game was a tremendous confidence booster for us."

Johnson said that his confidence level is rising and that he feels that the offensive unit as a whole is improving with every snap.

"I had a lot of runs that I left on the field, but I learned from those runs and we are getting better," Johnson said. "If I hit some holes faster it might have been a 25-yard run instead of a 7-yard run.  I am learning from my mistakes and I am getting better."

Running back Duke Johnson, who has fumbled three times in the last two games, is also confident that his bout with fumblitis is over.

"I look at those fumbles as just not being focused on the football," Johnson said. "I just have to put the other arm around the football and protect it. I just have to do it and I will."

Coley said that the Canes are prepared at any time in the game to use that offense in ball control mode or as a quick strike arsenal that can score from any given point on the field.  Coley has not been afraid to create an air assault with Morris leading the charge and throwing with precision to Phillip Dorsett, Stacy Coley and Allan Hurns.

"You have to take inventory of what you have in your playbook," Coley said. "You have plays that you know can get you certain yardage.  When you need a certain play you have to be able to get that play and dial it up.  Coach Golden just manages a great game."

Johnson echoed Coley's sentiments.

"We just want to execute the plays that are called," Johnson said. "We want to make sure that we hit all of our goals."

NOTES:  Golden said that no decision has been made as to the status of  Rashawn Scott.  The receiver is still battling back from injuries sustained against FAU in the season opener. "It's going to a close call. He has not taken a hit and has not been cleared by the doctors, but he is very close," Golden said. Golden was also quick to praise Malcolm Lewis, who is coming back from a grotesque leg injury that he suffered last year at Georgia Tech that ended his season. "He is doing everything extra that he needs to do to get healthy and expedite his return. He is starting to look like Malcolm again."