There’s a phrase bouncing around Coral Gables this week called “short-term memory.’’
University of Miami football players were saying it in response to last Saturday’s heartbreaking 20-19 loss to Florida State, the seventh defeat in a row to the Seminoles — for those who have longer memories.
When No. 16 UM (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, the Canes will be eager to hop back on board the ACC’s Coastal Division train that they’re hoping will lead them to their first conference title game in December.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya, who injured his shoulder last week against FSU and was unavailable to the media this week, is expected to play. No matter how far his memory extends, Kaaya no doubt remembers last November, when UNC walloped UM 59-21.
While Kaaya wasn’t available to the media this week, teammate Demetrius Jackson said he’s letting go of FSU.
“You can’t really look at what’s going right or what’s going wrong,’’ the defensive end said. “Right now, we’ve got the Coastal ahead of us and the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference, so we just have to keep working.
“We’re over it. Short-term memory in a season like this … we already had our bye week because the games, they come back-to-back,’’ Jackson said, snapping his fingers in rapid-fire succession. “Got one Saturday and then got one next Thursday. So we can’t mope about that. We still control our own destiny.’’
In a division with seven teams, Miami is one of five with at least one loss in the Coastal. Next week’s Thursday night game in Blacksburg, Virginia, is against No. 17 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0), one of the two teams with no league losses. The other: unranked Virginia, which is 2-3 overall but 1-0 in the ACC.
The Tar Heels were No. 17 before they lost to Virginia Tech last Saturday in horrendous weather conditions, thanks to the effects of Hurricane Matthew. So both teams are coming off ACC losses and need to recover quickly to safely stay in the league race.
UNC quarterback Mitch Trubinsky has proven to be one of the top signal-callers in the nation, despite a poor performance last week. He had put up three consecutive 400-yard passing performances before the storm, and threw for only 58 yards and his first two interceptions against the Hokies.
But in fine Miami weather, look for Trubinsky to air it out — especially targeting Ryan Switzer, who ranks seventh nationally with eight catches per game and 13th overall with 589 receiving yards. Coming into the week, Trubinsky was sixth nationally in completion percentage (70.2), 12th in completions per game and 12th in passing yards (1,769).
“I expect him to come out and play well just like he has the other weeks,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said of Trubinsky. “He’ll learn from the things that happened in that [Virginia Tech] game. He’s a very level-headed kid. I don’t think you’re going to see any panic in him.’’
Trying to counter UNC’s quick-strike, fast-paced offense will be UM’s young, highly ranked defense. The Hurricanes are fifth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 12.8 points per game, 11th in passing yards allowed (158.2) and 27th in rushing defense (125.8).
“The first thing is getting lined up,” UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of the challenge.
“Their tempo will be as fast as anything we have seen this year. … The questions our guys will face will be, ‘Are you walking around when they are set to snap the football? Are your eyes not in the right position? Can we make plays on the ball downfield?’ ’’
UM will be without safety Jamal Carter for the first half because of a targeting call in the FSU game. The Canes also will be without productive defensive tackle Gerald Willis. Defensive end standout Chad Thomas broke his right hand last week, but he will play with it heavily padded.
“You play the game of football with your feet,’’ Diaz said, “and those are in fine shape.’’
On offense, UM backup right tackle Tyree St. Louis is now the starter after Sunny Odogwu underwent surgery for a badly injured left leg.
The offensive line has allowed Kaaya to be hit more than usual the past couple weeks and especially needs to protect him Saturday as his shoulder heals.
“It [stinks], obviously,’’ right guard Danny Isidora said of how it feels to see his quarterback get hit hard repeatedly. “We’ve just got to get better.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to move on. We have a lot more games to play.’’