Hurricanes running back Mike James already envisions his upcoming date with the Seminoles will be bittersweet.
I love playing them every year, the senior said. But its the last time, so Ive got to make it count.
Freshman running back Duke Johnson said hell do anything to help the Canes beat No. 12 FSU on Saturday.
And third-down specialist Eduardo Clements insisted the whole state of Florida counts on this game for bragging rights.
So, what will all three need to accomplish their mission in prime time at Sun Life Stadium?
Patience, insists their coach.
And plenty of it.
You cant abandon the run against this team, Miami coach Al Golden said. Youre going to get some negatives. Theyre very good up front. Their tackles are hard to block. But youve got to have patience. Otherwise, the game can spin out on you.
And you cant let it spin out.
It certainly spun out for every team but North Carolina State, which scored its winning touchdown with 16 seconds left. But even N.C. State couldnt run against FSU.
The Seminoles (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have the fifth-ranked rushing defense in the nation, while the Hurricanes (4-3, 3-1) are 86th nationally in rushing not a great potential equation for Miami.
FSU has held five of its seven opponents this season to less than 100 yards rushing.
They have a great defensive line, great defense altogether, Clements said. But it seems like no team has really tried to consistently run the ball against them. If we open up the running game, then we give Stephen or Ryan a chance in the passing game.
We have to run the ball.
With starting quarterback Stephen Morris nursing a sprained ankle, and his backup Ryan Williams awaiting a possible first start at Miami, the Canes must have some success in the running game if they want to avoid a Seminoles sack party.
James, who has been used in the Wildcat formation recently, already has established career highs for rushing attempts and yards this season, with 402 yards and four touchdowns on 88 carries a 4.6-yard-per-
Johnson, recuperating from turf toe, leads the Hurricanes with 428 yards on 74 carries a 5.8-yard average.
I played with Duke Johnson when I was a senior and he was a freshman, said FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a former teammate of Johnsons at Miami Norland High. He skipped JV and went to varsity, so me and him were switching in and out at running back.
Man, he was good as a freshman, real good. Im not surprised [at his success]. He [was] talking trash to our high school coach. Im gonna do Xav. So I was like, Yep, well now Im gonna have to [show] him.
The stingy Noles are allowing 2.4 yards per rush, so that might not be hard to do. Last week, however, was the first game this season in which the no-huddle Hurricanes led their opponent in time of possession.
People are saying that last week we held a team [North Carolina] that scored 44 points a game to 18, Golden said. But they dont understand that maybe the offense had a lot to do with that by running the ball effectively and holding it for 30 minutes.
Since 1988, the team in this series that rushes for more yards has won the game 18 of 25 times. Last year, however, Miami outrushed FSU 140 to 63 yards.
James scored two rushing touchdowns last season in FSUs 23-19 victory, but they came late in the fourth quarter.
Just get on them early, James said he learned from that game. They do a lot of great things. Fast, physical, rush upfield. You try to take advantage of their aggression, but theyre good.
Hurricanes offensive line coach Art Kehoe said the Canes moved the ball consistently against UNC, but didnt show up in certain situations.
We had a dumb penalty and jumped offsides, he said. We had a dropped ball. We just got shut down. We lost some yards on first downs on running plays five or six times.
We just havent been consistent enough. Were just a tackle away sometimes from busting out into the open field, and thats close. But close isnt good enough.
Miami Herald writer Patrik Nohe contributed to this report.