The last time the Hurricanes traveled to Duke in the 2012 season finale, Miami had already self-imposed its second consecutive postseason ban.
The Canes still had plenty to prove, and they did so by defeating the Blue Devils 52-45 and clinching a share of their first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title. But because of the ban, Georgia Tech played in the ACC title game instead.
On Saturday, when the No. 24 Hurricanes (7-2, 3-2) return to Wallace Wade Stadium to face the Blue Devils (7-2, 3-2), it will be with Coastal Division hopes on the line for both teams.
“Obviously, a huge challenge for us this week,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Our guys are really familiar with them … and have the utmost respect for their speed and size and strength.
“They’ve been a very difficult matchup for us and will be again.”
The Hurricanes, coming off two consecutive losses, need to win their final three games against Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh to have a chance to win the Coastal — and would need Virginia Tech to lose one of its last two games against Maryland and Virginia.
This is not the Duke you might remember from years past.
Though Miami lost to Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2) at home last week, Duke defeated the then-No. 19 Hokies in Blacksburg, Va., for the Blue Devils’ first win over a Top 25 team since 1994 and first win over a ranked team on the road since 1971.
This will be Senior Day for Duke, which is riding a five-game winning streak and is assured of its first winning season since ’94.
“Duke is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” UM coach Al Golden said. “It’s a team that plays with poise.”
Golden said he expects to see both Duke redshirt junior quarterbacks in the game — Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette.
In six games this season, Boone has completed 99 of 159 passes (62.3 percent) for 1,061 yards and five touchdowns, with nine interceptions.
In eight games, Connette has thrown three game-winning, fourth-quarter touchdowns. He’s 83 of 131 (63.4 percent) for 1,128 yards and 12 touchdowns, with six interceptions.
Connette also has rushed for 283 yards and eight touchdowns, with Boone rushing for 111 and four scores.
“Both have the ability to run,’’ Golden said. “Both have the ability to get out of the pocket. They’re getting the type of plays that they need to get from [Jamison] Crowder. [He’s] having a magnificent year.’’
Crowder has become the ninth player in Duke history to reach 2,000 career receiving yards. He has 67 catches for 903 yards and three touchdowns this year.
Some of the Hurricanes acknowledged this week that if they can’t get to the ACC title game, a 10-game season would be another lofty goal. UM last reached double-digit victories in 2003, when it finished 11-2. In 2009 the Canes were 9-3 heading into the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, but lost to Wisconsin to fall short. They also fell one game shy of the 10-victory mark in 2004 and ’05.
“Even if we don’t go to the ACC, it still will be a successful season winning 10 games,” receiver Allen Hurns said, adding his teammates “still have hope” of going to the league title game.
“It would mean a lot.”
Hurns’ quarterback, Stephen Morris, who said his bum right ankle has continued to get stronger, has tried to put the Coastal scenario out of his mind.
“We can’t really rely on that,’’ Morris said. “We can’t put our faith in it. We just have to play our game and win our last three.”
Tight end Asante Cleveland called the loss to Virginia Tech “a series of unfortunate events.
“We just need to play a little smarter, focus on the details and lock in. “They’re a very disciplined team,” Cleveland said of Duke. “Smart kids, obviously. You can tell they’re really determined.”