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Hurricanes coach Al Golden stands by his players after Notre Dame trouncing

University of Miami coach Al Golden said Sunday he is not ready to bench kicker Jake Wieclaw, who has missed five of his past six field-goal attempts.

The coach was similarly supportive of Phillip Dorsett and the other receivers who dropped passes in Saturday night’s 41-3 loss to Notre Dame in Chicago.

“I don’t think it’s time for that yet,” Golden said when asked whether he would make the switch to redshirt freshman kicker Matt Goudis. “In our first 18 months here, Jake did a great job.

“He does need to kick better. He knows that.”

Wieclaw had made 18 of 21 field goals before this slump, which has spanned parts of three games. He made his first attempt against Notre Dame, a 28-yarder, but then missed a 47-yard try.

“I want to be fair,” Golden said. “That second [kick] was a long one. He hooked it. We have to get him to stay with his swing, make sure he swings through the ball. But I have faith in Jake.”

“We’re going to need him.”

That need could come Saturday, when the Canes (4-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) host North Carolina (4-2, 1-1) at 2:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

The Tar Heels, who are coming off a 48-34 win over Virginia Tech, have won three in a row since losing by one point at Wake Forest and five points at Louisville.

Golden is hoping his receivers can catch the ball better than they did against Notre Dame; in that game he counted seven drops. Four were by Dorsett, and one that would have produced a first down was by Herb Waters.

Two of Dorsett’s drops came on the first drive, and he likely would have scored on either play. Had he made the first of those grabs, and he and Waters avoided drops on subsequent drives, quarterback Stephen Morris’ 201-yard passing day could have been much closer to 350 yards.

Instead, Golden said, the receivers as a unit were not as confident as usual. No one wanted to be the next player to drop a pass.

Dorsett said Saturday that he lost the first pass in the lights, just before the ball hit him in the left arm. It was Miami’s first night game of the year, and Dorsett had never played at Soldier Field

But Golden said he does not accept the lights as a reason for the receivers’ issues.

“There are no excuses for those drops,” Golden said. “But anyone who dropped the ball, we’re going to work with them.”

Golden said there were problems besides drops and a missed field goal.

He cited a holding penalty on Jonathan Feliciano that wiped out a touchdown run by Morris. There was also a roughing-the-punter penalty on Gabriel Terry that led to a Notre Dame touchdown, and a personal-foul call on Darius Smith that also led to a TD.

“If any of those things hadn’t transpired, it would have been a different game,” Golden said. “I don’t know if we would have played well enough to win the game, but it wouldn’t have ended up the way it did.”

Looking at the big picture, Golden said he doesn’t know of many teams that have played four of its first six games on the road with two of them against Top-10 opponents. Miami lost at No. 6 Kansas State earlier this season before falling to No. 7 Notre Dame in Chicago.

Golden also continued to talk about his team’s youth, citing 14 freshmen and sophomores who are playing on offense and 20 on defense.

“Just look at our roster,” he said. “I don’t see anyone doing what we’re doing [with our depth chart].”

This and that

• Commenting for the first time on the departure of athletic director Shawn Eichorst, Golden said he was “caught by surprise” by the decision.

“Shawn is a great athletic director and an even better friend,” Golden said. “I’m going to miss him. But he made his decision for his family just as I and my wife and my family made decisions a year ago that this is where we wanted to be. I’m excited about what we’re doing. I just want to keep building this program.”

• On the injury front, Golden said cornerback Rayshawn Jenkins and defensive tackle Olson Pierre would return against North Carolina.

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