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Canes Head to BC for Regular-Season Finale

Canes Head to BC for Regular-Season Finale

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – For the Miami Hurricanes, the end of the regular season is here.

After months of offseason conditioning work, spring football, preseason camp and a three-month stretch that has featured matchups against top-10 teams and conference foes, the Hurricanes have the opportunity to close out one chapter of the 2023 season on a positive note before turning their attention to the postseason.

That opportunity will come Friday afternoon in New England when the Hurricanes take the field in Chestnut Hill for an ACC showdown against Boston College and it’s one Miami’s players and coaches aren’t taking for granted.

“It’d be huge because it’ll [send] us into the offseason on a really good note. These last few weeks haven’t gone the way we particularly wanted, but I think finishing strong is really important because it keeps our guys optimistic,” defensive lineman Branson Deen said. “It keeps our guys looking ahead to the future in a good way. So, I think we really have a great opportunity to turn the tide a little bit at the end of the season. … You want to get that eighth win [including the bowl game]. You get that eighth win and it’s like, ‘Man, we got over the hump. We finished strong, got over the hump and we’re looking really good going into the future.’”

The Hurricanes enter their regular-season finale looking to snap a three-game losing streak and bounce back after a pair of hard-fought, close losses to a pair of top-10 opponents, fifth-ranked Florida State, and ninth-ranked Louisville.

In both games, Miami (6-5, 2-5 ACC) had the opportunity to potentially tie or win the game in the final seconds before coming up just short.

Though the losses stung, players and coaches alike say the effort the Hurricanes showed and the performances of more than a few freshman contributors all point to the kind of progress that’s been made this season as second-year head coach Mario Cristobal continues working to build a championship-caliber team that will be a force both in the ACC and beyond.

“A lot of the younger guys that start for us or might be in our two-man rotation have kind of been through the storm a little bit with last year and going to this year, losing close games and almost being right there to finish,” Deen said. “So, I just keep talking to them to keep pushing. We’re optimistic as a team that we’re right at the ceiling, man, ready to break it open.”

Said Cristobal, “The amount of progress that’s taken place over the course of the last 15, 20 months has us really excited because it’s real. There’s no making up anything. There’s no creating narratives. There’s the reality of work, there’s the reality of improvement. There’s reality of closing the gap. There’s a reality of talent development. There’s a reality of talent acquisition, systems development, right? All of a sudden, our offense and defense are in the top 25, top 30. All of a sudden, it’s a fourth-quarter game every single week. We’re finding a way to win, win in overtime or we’re coming up short. Everything has really closed in terms of that gap and that is exciting. I’ve said it before, these are, unfortunately, steps that you cannot skip. We’d like to, we’d like to grab every win and we don’t find consolation in anything but that. But also, been around long enough and in enough of these processes to know what’s real and what’s not. This one is real, and I think it’s reflected in our players, as hard as they play, the way they play to the end. It’s reflected in the way that we’ll continue to recruit at a high level because people understand and see well, Miami is really becoming different again. It’s pretty much that simple.”

The Hurricanes’ offense will look to build on their performance against Louisville, a performance in which quarterback Tyler Van Dyke completed 24 of 39 passes and threw for 327 yards and a touchdown.

Xavier Restrepo had a career day, catching eight passes for 193 yards – a performance that earned him ACC Receiver of the Week recognition, while freshman running back Mark Fletcher, Jr. turned in another big performance, rushing 17 times for a career-high 126 yards with two touchdowns.

Like Miami, Boston College (6-5, 3-4) enters Friday’s game hoping to close out the regular season on a positive note before turning to bowl preparations.

The Eagles are coming off a pair of back-to-back conference losses to Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh and like the Hurricanes, know a win will not only send them into the offseason with a dose of confidence, but will likely improve their stock as teams jockey for position in the bowl selection process.

Boston College is led by quarterback Thomas Castellanos, who is also the Eagles’ leading rusher. The sophomore, a transfer from UCF, has completed 57 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,995 yards and 14 touchdowns this year while rushing for another 827 yards and 10 scores.

Containing him has been a challenge for some defenses, but the Hurricanes are confident they’ll be able to come up with a game plan to limit Castellanos and the rest of the Eagles offense.

“I mean, [it’s] really just doing your job. As long as we all do our job, we’ll be okay,” said Miami cornerback Jadais Richard . “They do have an elusive quarterback. They also have a strong running back [in Kye Robichaux] and they’re pretty solid out on the perimeter. So, you know, as long as we just come and play Hurricane football, we’ll be good.”

For the Hurricanes, Friday’s game is one more chance to show how they’ve grown, even amidst some of the challenges they’ve endured this season.

And they said they’re going to make the most of that chance.

“It’d be huge for this program to end on a high note, to finish the season 7-5 and continue to go on to the bowl game and hopefully, get a win there too,” said Van Dyke. “It’ll definitely be big for the program.”