You think you’ve got a lot of cooking to do to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner?
Imagine how busy the kitchen will be Thursday at the Pittsburgh Marriott, where the hotel catering department will be feeding the entire University of Miami football team and staff on the eve of their game against the University of Pittsburgh (Friday, noon, ABC).
The feast will include more than 250 pounds of turkey, 100 pounds of mashed potatoes, 50-plus pounds of stuffing, 10 gallons of gravy, and 30 pies in five different flavors — pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, blueberry and apple.
The Hurricanes, up to No. 2 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, will have plenty to be thankful for when they sit down to that meal after a day of travel. They are undefeated at 10-0 for the first time since 2002 and aiming to extend the nation’s longest active winning streak to 16.
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Defensive back Michael Jackson hasn’t finished a season undefeated since his days as a kid in the Optimist Pop Warner league. Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz hasn’t gone undefeated since he was a graduate assistant at Florida State. Mark Richt has never had an undefeated season as a head coach.
Asked after practice Wednesday what he is most thankful for, Richt replied: “Always for what God has done in my life, through his son Jesus, No. 1. My wife, No. 2. Our kids, No. 3. And our family and this program, obviously. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be here and to have so many people working together to try and be great and not caring who gets the credit. It has been a lot of fun.
An undefeated regular season could happen Friday. That would be wonderful.
Mark Richt, UM coach
“An undefeated regular season could happen Friday. That would be wonderful.”
Wide receiver Braxton Berrios said: “I’m thankful for a tremendous amount — my family, this team, God, my health, the list goes on and on. We’re all blessed. We wake up every day and have a life to look forward to, and that’s enough for most people. Everybody in this building has so much to be thankful for.
“It’s incredibly rewarding. We’re one game away from finishing the regular season undefeated. It goes so fast, so rarely do you sit back and look at your work; and it’s not time to do that yet, but we can appreciate the fact that we’re one game away.”
Diaz, grateful for the team’s 10-0 record, spirit and camaraderie, said: “Cherish it. We try to explain that to the players. Our careers as coaches is much longer than theirs as players; and we’re in such a special territory. It is hard to get to Thanksgiving undefeated and you want to make sure you’re doing everything to continue to improve.”
Diaz said he is grateful that the Canes have stuck together and won even when they were not in peak form.
“It’s hard to be at your best every day, every weekend no matter any line of work you’re in. We’ve certainly had games where we haven’t been at our best, but it is a skill — when you can win when you’re not at your best, that’s no small skill. And that comes down to toughness and persistence our team plays with and usually champions have that.”
One thing the Hurricanes insist they are not focusing on this Thanksgiving is their position in the College Football Rankings. Defensive lineman Chad Thomas didn’t even watch the ranking announcement on ESPN Tuesday night. He said he was busy helping his mother move, and found out the Canes had jumped to No. 2. Berrios didn’t watch the show, either.
“Nothing they say or do is going to help us win Friday, or help us any bit come Dec. 2 [in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson],” Berrios said. “We can appreciate the fact that we’re No. 2 in the country, that we fought through a lot of different things, came back in a lot of games and are still undefeated. But at no moment can we sit back and relax, because at that moment somebody else is doing something to get better. That’s when you slip up.”
Cherish it. We try to explain that to the players. Our careers as coaches is much longer than theirs as players; and we’re in such a special territory. It is hard to get to Thanksgiving undefeated and you want to make sure you’re doing everything to continue to improve.
Manny Diaz, UM defensive coordinator
Richt shrugged off a question about moving up from No. 3 to No. 2.
“I don’t worry about it too much, to be honest with you,” Richt said. “I guess they’ve been cutting hairs on who’s No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 anyways. I don’t know their formula. I’m not trying to figure out what it is. I’m just trying to figure out how to beat Pitt. I’m sorry, that’s all I’ve got.”
Diaz said the playoff ranking seems to be a much bigger deal to fans than to the team: “The only thing that matters is we’ve earned the right to control our own destiny,” he said. “Only thing we can do to that end is beat Pitt on Friday. I don’t sense the players talking about it a whole lot. I think everybody’s just worried about Pitt.”
As for having to spend Thanksgiving Day away from family, that’s no big deal for the Hurricanes.
Tight end Christopher Herndon IV said: “It’s been like that for the last four years, so it’s just another business trip and happens to be a holiday in between. We’re focused on Pitt.”