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Hurricanes Hungry for Friday Night Matchup at Duke

Hurricanes Hungry for Friday Night Matchup at Duke

By David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes cannot wait to play the Duke Blue Devils on Friday night.
Despite all the challenges of playing on a short week, especially against an undefeated opponent like Duke (4-0, 1-0 ACC), the Hurricanes (2-0) are just excited to be back on a regular schedule after going 21 days between their first and second games of the 2017 season.

“We’re ready to play a conference game,” Miami defensive lineman Chad Thomas said. “We’ve been waiting on it. We’ve been practicing a little harder. Coaches are on us cause we want to win the Coastal. Every game is big for us, but a Coastal game is even bigger.”

While the Hurricanes hold a 12-2 series advantage over Duke, the two teams are in position for an exciting game on Friday night. The atmosphere should be electric when the No. 14/13 Canes and Blue Devils, who are receiving votes in both polls, kick off at 7 p.m. from Wallace Wade Stadium.

“Everybody is going to be fired up to play The U, but they’re definitely going to be fired up because last time we went there you know how that ended,” Thomas said. “They want to get revenge for that even though that year’s gone, probably two years ago but I know they’re going to be fired up.”

The “Miracle in Durham” has been a popular topic of conversation all week, as reporters in both Durham and Coral Gables have looked back at Miami’s game-winning eight-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown from two seasons ago. But Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was quick to remind members of the media that the latest edition of the Blue Devils is the one they should have their focus on.
“I think that’s the bigger issue,” Diaz said. “Who they are – the 2017 version of Duke – and the 2017 version of Miami is probably even a bigger deal. We already played them a year ago. I’m pretty sure [the fans] will treat us poorly when we walk out, regardless of what happened two years ago. When the ball meets the foot, I don’t think any of that will come into play.”
Miami quarterback Malik Rosier played a big role in the 30-27 Hurricanes’ victory. Then a redshirt freshman, Rosier made his first career start against the No. 22 Blue Devils in place of an injured Brad Kaaya. Rosier rose to the occasion, completing 20 of 29 passes for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns against at Duke.
“Walking out, I felt pretty calm,” Rosier said of his first time playing at Duke. “Some of the guys were kind of freaking out because they thought I was nervous. If I’m well prepared, there is no reason to be nervous. I trust the guys on my team and I trust the coaching staff. The coaches put a great plan for us coming into this week. I feel fine. As long as we do our job and execute, I think it will be a good game.”
Rosier has fond memories of his first trip to Durham, but he is not dwelling on the past. The redshirt junior signalcaller will be one of Miami’s team captains this week and he knows the 2017 edition of Duke will be his biggest test to date and he has been preparing for that challenge all week.
“They were my first career start and my first career win,” Rosier said. “They have a very good defense. They’re a very good team that’s 4-0 and they know how to win. Friday night, they’re going to be amped up to play. I feel like it’s going to be a great game. They’re probably mad about the last one we won when we were at Duke. I think they’re going to try to stop us again. They can throw any type of coverage at us at any moment, so they’re a team that you have to be prepared for. You have to know what you’re doing because if you don’t, that makes you think on every play.”
The Blue Devils’ defense has been excellent over their first four games, allowing a paltry 15.3 points per game. Duke enters the week ranked second in the ACC with 14 sacks on the season and they are the conference leaders with seven interceptions, including three that were returned for touchdowns.
“They play very sound football,” Rosier said “When you watch them, there are not many busted coverages. They pretty much are around the ball every time you throw it. If you mess up and throw a little inside or outside, they’re going to be there to bat it down or create a turnover. I know 14 [Byron Fields, Jr.] has already had like two or three pick sixes, so that’s a guy that we’ve got to worry about. They just play a great defense overall. They’re going to make you beat the. They’re not going to beat themselves. Those are teams that are really hard to beat.”
In addition to a stingy defense, Duke features an outstanding playmaker at quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Daniel Jones has been a dual-threat for the Blue Devils, throwing for 904 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 141 yards and three scores this season. While Jones’ statistics are impressive, it’s not his arm or legs that are most impressive to Miami’s defensive coordinator.
“The first thing that defines him is his toughness,” Diaz said. “And if your quarterback is tough your offense is tough. The offense takes on the personality of its quarterback. He doesn’t slide. He can take a hit. He took some hits in our game a year ago. He’s taken some hits this year, but when you see him lower his shoulder and get a first down, I imagine that gets everyone on their football excited to play because they know that he’s tough and he doesn’t flinch. Certainly, they’ve got weapons. With what he presents to us as a runner, you know quarterback run game will be really in play this week for the first time. It really wasn’t as much the first two weeks. Really the first dual-threat guy we’ve gone against. We knew going in that really, he’d be one of two returning starters we’d face this year at quarterback. That’s what I think gave Duke confidence, I think you see that in the way they started the year and I think a lot of that comes back to knowing who they’ve got in the driver seat.”
Miami defensive back Malek Young is one of several Hurricane defensive backs looking to stop Jones’ aerial attack. According to Pro Football Focus, Young is holding quarterbacks to a 0.0 passer rating when targeted so far this season. While Young had success a week ago against prolific Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside, he knows Jones will present new and different challenges for Miami’s secondary.  

“We can improve our Cover 2 coverage, and our jam, and focusing on our man, and reading the quarterback,” Young said. “All the DBs, I trust them. I love the DBs that we have. We’re like family and I trust what they do when they’re filling gaps to make tackles and I set my edge to make tackles. I just love what we do on defense.”

Young will play a key role in Miami’s defensive secondary on Friday. While he has been strong in his play thus far, the Hurricanes’ defensive backs have had uneven results at times this year. Diaz is confident that the Hurricanes will be better in coverage going forward and is looking forward to showing that this week against Duke.
“If we continue to play a great run defense, I know we can fix our coverages,” Diaz said. “I know we can get better on the back end and we anticipate getting better on the back end. We knew we’d be inexperienced. And I kept mentioning, when we were inexperienced in the front last year, our experience in the back end covered up a lot of those mistakes. When we’re inexperienced on the back there’s nothing to cover up, you’re kind of exposed back there. We’ll get better. We had a better week of practice this week. You always say in coaching, you make your biggest jump between game one and game two. This is between game one and game two. So, our guys are excited to play and Duke, of course, with the offense they have, presents a great challenge for us.”