UM VS. SOUTH FLORIDA, 3 P.M. SATURDAY, SUN SPORTS

Miami Hurricanes to focus on positive home finale for seniors – not bowl prospects – when they face USF

 

UM seniors play their final home game Saturday, and the Canes will qualify for a bowl game with a victory. But whether they play in one is yet to be seen.

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

Bowl-game decisions can wait until later, as in when and if the Miami Hurricanes even qualify for one.

These days, no UM opponent takes the “cupcake” designation, even when that team – such as nonconference foe South Florida – is 3-6 and without its star quarterback.

Coach Al Golden, whose 17 seniors will play at Sun Life Stadium for the final time Saturday, knows that all too well.

When Golden was asked this week for the umpteenth time about UM’s plans for the postseason should it qualify for a bowl, he answered, basically, by not answering. And after last Saturday’s 41-40 loss at Virginia, his words made sense.

“You know, every time we get in that position, just all the speculation goes crazy and everybody wants to answer all those questions,” Golden began. “Right now, what we need to focus on is playing well and playing better than we played last week, because we had the same questions last week and we didn’t take care of the one thing that we needed to take care of, and that was the University of Virginia.

“With all due respect, it’s something we are not discussing or talking about and it’s really something that I have no dialogue with or input on right now. My job is to get this team ready to play South Florida, who is coming off a bye week and will be very fresh.”

BULLS MISSING STAR QB

Perhaps fresh, but without talented quarterback B.J. Daniels, a senior who had 8,433 career yards and 52 touchdowns before he broke his leg Nov. 3 against Connecticut.

USF’s depth chart has junior Bobby Eveld “or’’ redshirt freshman Matt Floyd as the starter Saturday, though Eveld has yet to throw a pass. Floyd has played in four games this season, with four completions (of 10 passes) for 22 yards.

Should the Hurricanes (5-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeat the Bulls (3-6, 1-4 Big East), Miami would be bowl-eligible and in the position of deciding whether to impose its second consecutive bowl ban to help allay any expected NCAA sanctions in the Nevin Shapiro case.

The players know that’s a possibility, but they’re concentrating on making this a positive experience for the seniors.

“I’ll cherish the moment,” senior cornerback Brandon McGee said of running through the smoke for the last time. “Most of your family is going to be there and it’s the last time you get to take that field with this group of guys. You definitely want to leave a mark and end the season on a positive note.”

Senior Jake Wieclaw, who waited his turn behind former kicker Matt Bosher to make his imprint on the program, had his most exciting moment in college football last year at USF. Wieclaw kicked a winning 36-yard field goal as time expired last year to give the Hurricanes a 6-3 victory.

“That game is obviously something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said Wieclaw, whose mother, father, brother and a high school coach are traveling from Lenox, Ill., to attend Saturday. “It was a memory created not just by myself, but with the team – my brothers, my family away from my family.

“Saturday will be very special.”

FOUR YEARS FLIES FAST

Mike James, UM’s senior running back, team leader and a favorite of Golden’s, will have his older sister and aunts and uncles at the game supporting him.

“It’s crazy how fast it goes,” James said. “I mean, four years that fast. You think, ‘I’ve got forever.’ ’’

Golden said his message to the seniors would be to take advantage of these last two games – the Canes end the season Nov. 24 at Duke – and “right the ship.”

Said Golden: “Their legacy will be that they fought through it, that they didn’t quit, didn’t leave. They dug in and fought through the tumult and the adversity when it certainly would have been easier for a lot of them to say, ‘I’m out of here.’

“They deserve to finish on a great note, a positive note. They have been through a lot, and as a staff we’re grateful to them.”

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