Running back Duke Johnson’s season is over because of a fractured ankle right ankle, and his Miami Hurricanes have tumbled down the rankings.
Those are the biggest repercussions of the Canes’ 41-14 loss to Florida State on Saturday night, but all is far from lost for Miami. The Canes (7-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) now turn their attention to Saturday’s home game against Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
The Canes, whose national ranking slipped from seventh to 14th when the newest Associated Press poll was released Sunday, would win the ACC’s Coastal Division if they prevail in their four remaining regular-season games.
Johnson, who will have surgery this week, plans at being at all those games, helping in any way he can, according to Canes coach Al Golden.
“Everyone who has interacted with [Johnson] has talked about what a remarkable attitude he has and how strong he has been,” Golden said.
“I feel badly for the young man. He was just starting to impose himself on the game, and I hope he [keeps] that blueprint in mind [when he returns].”
Johnson was having a strong game until the injury, rushing 23 times for 97 yards.
He might have had far more yards had it not been for an early whistle in a run in which Johnson started to his right, got trapped and then reversed his field into the clear only to see that the officials had ended the play.
Either way, Johnson’s injury is a reminder of how quickly things can change. The Canes trailed just 21-14 at halftime against Florida State. They had just scored a touchdown on their final possession of the first half, and they got the ball first to start the second half.
After that, though, just about everything went wrong for the Canes, who were shut out in the second half and lost their star running back.
But Virginia Tech is also coming into this week’s game under less-than-favorable circumstances.
The Hokies have lost two in a row, both against teams they usually dominate. Two weeks ago, the Hokies lost to Duke for the first time since 1981. On Saturday, they lost to Boston College after winning five in a row in the series.
The Canes will likely be favored in all four of their remaining games, including ACC matchups at Duke, home for Virginia and at Pitt. If they win all four, the Canes will play in the ACC title game Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C., most likely in a rematch against FSU.
But the question for Miami is this: Can it recover in time emotionally from the much-hyped FSU game as well as heal physically from the loss of Johnson and a previous injury to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett?
“I don’t know if you could put that [the FSU game] behind you in one night,” Golden said. “[The players are] clearly disappointed. They invested a lot in that game, and then it unraveled in the third quarter. But we need to move forward quickly. All of our guys need to step up.”
“I didn’t see any ill effects of the ankle,” Golden said. “I’m getting positive reports [from trainers]. The fact that he can run and scramble says to me that he is getting better.
“Some of his throws [Saturday] were excellent and on others he needs to continue to improve his decision-making.”
“He jumped the gun by one-hundredth of a second,” Golden said.