Hurricanes deliver Homecoming heroics

Junior running back Mike James powers through the Blue Devil secondary for a 32 yard game in the Hurricanes 49-14 victory over Duke. George Wu//The Miami Hurricane

There’s a simple cure in football when all seems wrong and chaos has become the norm: play Duke.

Miami’s 49-14 win over the Blue Devils on Saturday, a predictably lopsided affair, was a chance for the Canes (5-4, 3-3 ACC) to collect themselves after a disastrous game last Thursday. Consistency and reliability have been up and down all season long.

At one position, at least, Miami has found both.

Lamar Miller’s 147-yard, two touchdown rushing performance – his sixth game with 100 yards or more this year – made him the first Hurricane back to surpass 1,000 yards on the ground since Willis McGahee totaled 1,753 yards in 2002, a school record.

“That was one of my goals this year,” Miller said. “I’ve been working very hard throughout the offseason. The offensive line’s been doing a great job giving me an opportunity to make runs for this team.”

Miller reached the historic mark on a 22-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter. He now stands with 1,016 rushing yards with three games to play. Interestingly, the Canes will face three very different run defenses to close the season: FSU ranks third, USF 21st and Boston College 70th in the nation.

“I’m proud of [Miller] and the offensive line,” head coach Al Golden said. “They’re going against eight- and nine-man fronts all game. He ran really hard; clearly he finished his runs better than he has been the last few weeks.”

Miller was well aware of where he stood during the game.

“It was tough,” Miller said. “I was thinking about it throughout the whole day. Throughout the game, [center] Tyler Horn came up to me and told me what I needed for a thousand yards, so it kept me motivated.”

Though it was a memorable individual feat, the Canes recognize that such an accomplishment takes a full team effort.

“He’s a great individual, he’s a great back, but he owes it all to his offensive line and everyone around him, and he understands that,” senior quarterback Jacory Harris said. “That’s why he got his 1,000 yards.”

The ease with which Miami dispatched the Blue Devils, clearly demonstrated by their willingness to test experimental portions of the offensive playbook, was a welcome break from the litany of emotionally draining contests this season.

“We were hurting. That was a bad performance,” said Golden of last week’s loss to Virginia. “So I think the guys, instead of sitting around and moping, went after it. A lot of guys grew up this week, they really did.”

Though Duke quarterback Sean Renfree came into the game ranked 15th in the nation in passing, the Miami defense held Duke under 200 yards passing and recorded an interception, Ray-Ray Armstrong’s first of the season. Not surprisingly, senior linebacker and Butkus Award semifinalist Sean Spence led the team in tackles. He has been another model of consistency all season.

“Every game we lost this year was because we didn’t play the way we wanted to play, and at the end we still had a chance to win the game,” Spence said. “I think going forward this is a new season for us. We have four games left and we want to finish strong, so we started with Duke.”

Miami has won back-to-back games only once this season and, with a trip to Tallahassee looming this Saturday, the Canes will try to turn this momentum into a victory over the Seminoles.