University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes downplaying climb into AP Top 10

Duke Johnson said he found out after practice Sunday on Twitter.

Ladarius Gunter found out during the weekly news conference.

Coach Al Golden knew, of course, but tossed the information in his mental trash bin.

The Miami Hurricanes entered the Associated Press Top 10 rankings Sunday for the first time since they were No. 8 on Oct. 18, 2009 — and are heading on the road for a Thursday-night Atlantic Coast Conference matchup with North Carolina.

“It doesn’t matter,” said tailback Johnson, who ranks fourth nationally in all-purpose yards, averaging 190.8 per game. “All that could be gone with one mistake, one game, and that’s something we’re trying not to pay too much attention to. If we lose a Coastal [Division] game, all that doesn’t mean anything.”

The Hurricanes (5-0, 1-0 ACC) rose three spots without having played Saturday, thanks to then-No. 12 Oklahoma, then-No. 7 Georgia and then-No. 5 Stanford all losing.

The last time the ACC had three top-10 teams was the poll of Oct. 30, 2005, when Virginia Tech was ranked No. 3, Miami was No. 5 and Florida State was No. 9.

On Sunday, Clemson led all ACC teams at No. 3 and Florida State followed at No. 5. In the USA Today poll, the coaches ranked Miami 11th.

The Tar Heels (1-4, 0-2) aren’t close to being ranked, which likely makes Golden even more wary. When asked if the ranking, Golden’s highest ever as a head coach, validated anything, he said, “No.”

“At the end of the season we’ll count ‘em up and see where we’re at,” Golden said. “We’re 0-0 going into this game. All that matters right now is going to Chapel Hill, being a mature team, playing with poise, communicating, executing.

“The rest of it, to be honest with you, doesn’t really matter. It’s just all about North Carolina right now and we’ve got to continue to have that bunker mentality for the rest of the year.”

Golden assured reporters that coaches “don’t talk about it, and never have.”

Gunter, a junior cornerback who has two interceptions this season, including one he ran back for a touchdown last week, was, indeed, surprised when he was told by a reporter of the ranking that was released just before noon.

“I didn’t know,” he said. “Oh, OK. That’s what’s up. We have to keep going on the plan. Hopefully we just keep getting higher ranked.”

Could the attention affect the Canes’ concentration leading up to the game?

“It shouldn’t affect anything,” Gunter said. “We’re going to go out and do our job like we do each and every week.”

Quarterback Stephen Morris, who noted that his injured right ankle is “feeling a lot better” and that he continues to strengthen it, said the best way to keep a high ranking from seeping into the players’ psyche is to focus on practice.

“We had a great practice out there,” Morris said. “Every single day is focusing on getting better. We try not to listen to the outside media, try to understand that people are going to get in your face about ‘how good you guys are.’ Our focus is day-to-day.”

Morris, nonetheless, agreed that the ranking is “a great accomplishment.”

“You don’t ever want to overlook that fact because we worked hard for it,” he said. “Let that be outside, and inside our biggest focus is continuing to grow every day.”

The Hurricanes are 7-8 all-time against the Tar heels and 2-4 since 2007. Last year they lost 18-14 at Sun Life Stadium.

The loss before that? In ’09 at North Carolina, four weeks after reaching that No. 8 ranking.

Johnson was asked his reaction when he saw on Twitter that the Canes reached No. 10.

“We’re top 10,” he said straight-faced. “It’s good for the program. It’s a good look. But like I said, it doesn’t mean anything.”