With more than half the regular season behind them, the Hurricanes have entered the first open week of their schedule, a much-needed break from the grueling grind of a sometimes up and often down 2014 campaign.
After defeating Cincinnati 55-34 Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, the Canes (4-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) will have some time to unwind before traveling to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-1) on Oct. 23 in a Thursday night ESPN telecast.
“For us it’s going to be about getting healthy and getting healed up,” said UM coach Al Golden after the game.
“And for our team, they haven’t even had a Saturday night. They haven’t even had like just a normal night, so I’ve got to get them out of the building a little bit, and got to get healed up and then we’ve got to come back and hopefully be really healthy and ready to go to Blacksburg.
“We need this right now. It’s been six or seven consecutive weeks — a lot of tough ones. They need some time off here.”
The Canes are expected to take part of this week off, though Golden didn’t reveal his specific schedule.
“It’s nice to have a few days off,” said freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is now 12th nationally in passing touchdowns (16) and 16th nationally in passing yards (1,806) — and leads the ACC in both. “Of course we aren’t just going to put these days aside and take them for granted. We’re still going to take advantage of each day, whether it’s watching film or recovering.”
“There are still things to get better at.
“As an offensive unit we’re going to go back and look over the first half of the season. Virginia Tech is coming up so we’ll be watching film on them.”
What has Kaaya heard about Blacksburg?
“For us, we’ve already played in three hostile environments. We played three good teams in a row, so I think we all know what to expect. We played at Nebraska, at Louisville and at Georgia Tech, and they were rockin’.”
UM is 18-13 all-time against Virginia Tech, but 5-7 at Blacksburg, where Lane Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in college football. The Canes haven’t been to Blacksburg since 2011, when they lost 38-35.
Until Sept. 13 against East Carolina and Sept. 20 against Georgia Tech, the Hokies had not lost back-to-back home games since November 2002.
The Hokies have been beset by injuries, losing top three running backs Shai McKenzie (torn ACL), Marshawn Williams (sprained ankle) and Trey Edmunds (broken clavicle), according to The Virginian-Pilot, which indicated Williams is questionable for Pitt on Saturday.
The Thursday night game between the Canes and Hokies will be crucial in terms of the Coastal Division standings. The Hokies had off this past weekend.
Virginia (4-2, 2-0) is the only undefeated Coastal Division team, with Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1), Duke (5-1, 1-1), the Hokies and Pitt (3-3, 1-1) behind the Cavaliers. Miami and UNC (2-4, 0-2) are in sixth and seventh place, respectively, in the division.
Besides Virginia Tech, UM still hasn’t played Coastal opponents Virginia, Pitt and North Carolina.
Tuberville on UM
Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville was a defensive assistant at UM from 1986 through ’93, directing a Hurricanes defense ranked third nationally in scoring defense his final season there. After allowing 621 yards Saturday, the Bearcats are now 121st of 125 FBS teams in that category, and 125th in total defense.
“We can’t tackle anybody on defense and we are giving up big plays,” Tuberville said after the game. “We look like the Bad News Bears.”
Tuberville said, nonetheless, it was nice to return to Miami.
“To see several guys that were here on the staff when I was here, it was good to see them,” he said. “They are doing a good job here. They are coming off probation, which is hard to do, and Al took this thing over when it was a complete mess. They are much better than they were a couple years ago.
“I was very impressed with their players and the speed and quickness they have added in the last couple of years.”