Miami coach Mark Richt nearly went through his weekly teleconference Sunday without anyone asking him anything about the Hurricanes’ next opponent: Pittsburgh on the road at noon Friday.
Finally, Richt was asked what he could say about Pittsburgh in light of the Panthers being 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“They beat the team we just played, [Virginia], 31-14, I believe,’’ Richt replied. “That’s about all you need to know.’’
Whether that’s enough to get the Canes’ adrenaline flowing for their final regular-season noon game (ABC) the day after Thanksgiving is yet to be seen. But the No. 2 Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0 ACC and No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings) already know they must beat the Panthers to keep their path open to the College Football Playoff.
UM, which leads the all-time series 25-10-1 (in 1964 the game ended 20-20), started as a 14-point favorite.
This season, the Panthers have beaten Youngstown State (6-5), Rice (1-10), Duke (5-6) and Virginia (6-5), on Oct. 28, the game to which Richt referred.
They’ve lost to Penn State (9-2), Oklahoma State (8-3), Georgia Tech (5-5), Syracuse (4-7), North Carolina State (7-4), North Carolina (3-8) and Virginia Tech (8-3).
Since the game is on Friday, the Canes will have one less day to prepare, but Richt said he’s keeping the schedule the same. UM will leave on Thanksgiving.
Regarding the Pittsburgh weather, Richt said “it’ll probably be addressed before the week is out. You’re playing in the middle of the day, which is good, and I think temperatures are going to be the 40s, which is actually pretty good for football weather.’’
Richt acknowledged that the Hurricanes must improve in short-yardage situations, saying the Canes just haven’t blocked well. “We’ve had third-and-shorts we didn’t get and then we went for them on fourth down a couple times the last couple weeks and made some fourth-down conversions,’’ he said. “The big thing is make sure we get a hat on everybody, run our feet, make sure the back hits it with some enthusiasm and a little tempo and pace and hopefully, if you have to, be able to knock somebody back and get the yardage.’’
Travis Homer has been that back to hit the hole with enthusiasm. After gaining 5 yards the first half, Homer finished Saturday’s game with 96 rushing yards and a touchdown. He now has 849 yards and seven touchdowns on 130 carries for a 6.5-yard-per-carry average.
“I thought his best run of the game was the run prior to the field goal,’’ Richt said of Homer’s 6-yard rush to the Virginia 27 that set up Michael Badgley’s 44-yard field goal to put UM ahead 31-28. “We really didn’t have much running room but he broke some tackles…’’
▪ Pertaining to a question about how there have been 476 plays since a holding penalty has been called on an opposing lineman, Richt said he always turns in to the ACC office plays that he thinks were called wrong by the officiating crew.
“It could be defensive pass interference or a hold. We turn in probably five to maybe as many as 15 calls a game we would like them to take a look at and tell us what they think. It’s been that way all the years I was in the SEC as well.’’
As for the thought that there are uncalled holds against his defensive line, Richt said, “I just think it’s pretty typical when you’ve got good pass-rushers, people get in trouble and get out of field position and gotta grab and snatch and tug a little bit and sometimes they get away with it and sometimes they don’t.’’
The coach said the league office agrees with him “probably 25 to 35 percent’’ of the time.
▪ Richt said defensive lineman DJ Johnson was not at Saturday’s game because “he needed to go home for some personal reasons,’’ but that he was expected back Sunday.