The annual drama of Miami-Florida State is over.
Now comes the grind: Four of the next five games on the road for the No. 16 Hurricanes, starting with the Virginia Cavaliers at 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).
Redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry will make his first road start, a situation which UM coach Mark Richt likened to the movie Hoosiers.
“It’s just like if you watched Hoosiers way back,’’ Richt explained at his weekly pregame news conference. “You see these guys going to the state championship game and they’re used to this little wooden gym, and then they went into ... this gigantic arena and they’re all looking around like ‘Oh, my goodness!’
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“But what did the coach do? He took out the tape measure and he said it was 10 yards for a free throw — I mean 10 feet,’’ Richt said amid laughter. “What is it, 15 feet for a free throw? Anyway, it’s the same field. You’ve got to do the same thing in the game that you’re doing in practice over and over. So, you’ve got to get your focus tight and not looking around at everything.”
Perry’s only experience on the road was the final six minutes at Toledo on Sept. 15, when he did not attempt a pass.
“I don’t think it will be that much different,’’ said Perry, now 47 of 83 (56.6 percent) for 646 yards and 11 touchdowns, with three interceptions in five games, two of those games as the starter. “I know the crowd is not going to be on our side for the most part, but hopefully we can silence them and do what we’ve got to do.’’
The Cavaliers (3-2, 1-1) have chosen the Hurricanes (5-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) as their homecoming opponent.
“They’re going to be juiced up,’’ said running back DeeJay Dallas. “We just have to go in there, and like I said in Toledo, ‘Crush dreams.’’’
Added Dallas of Virginia, preceded by Perry’s first big obstacle — overcoming a 20-point deficit against Florida State: “He just needed the first hit, and the first big play to pop off, and then he was good after that. He’s ready. He’s built for this.’’
Richt said Perry is getting “more and more comfortable’’ with each snap, and despite having a bad first half and finishing against FSU with a 40.6 completion percentage, still was “spectacular’’ in leading the comeback. “He threw two touchdowns on fourth down,’’ the coach said. “He laid it in there perfect.’’
Keep in mind that UM’s offensive line did not help, allowing Perry to be sacked five times.
“We got our tails kicked most of the game,’’ conceded a disgusted center Tyler Gauthier. “We’re going to go up and play a team at Virginia in their homecoming, or whatever they call it, and they’re going to be fired up and ready to play. We can’t come out flat.’’
The Hurricanes are 9-6 all-time against Virginia, losing three in a row from 2010 to 2012. Virginia leads 4-3 in games played at Scott Stadium (capacity 61,500).
The Cavaliers are led by talented, dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins, one of 10 FBS quarterbacks since 2000 to record 1,100-plus passing yards, 340-plus rushing yards, 11-plus passing touchdowns and three-plus rushing touchdowns through the first five games of the season. Some of the others on the list: Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow.
Virginia is 10th in the nation in third-down conversions, and Perkins is 24th of 120 quarterbacks ranked in passing touchdowns. His top receiver, Olamide Zaccheaus, is 10th in the nation in receiving touchdowns (six) and receiving yards per game (100.2). Zaccheaus is the nation’s only active player with more than 2000 career receiving yards and more than 450 career rushing yards.
“More than anything it’s about the quarterback,’’ said UM defensive end Jon Garvin. “He can throw. He can run. He can do his reads well. And we’re going to treat him as such. He has my respect. We’re going to go at him as hard as we can.’’
The Hurricanes, favored by 6 1/2 points as of Friday, will have have the coolest weather they’ve played in this season. Temperatures are forecast for 55 degrees at kickoff and falling to the mid-to-high 40s by game’s end.
“I really don’t mind, as long as it’s not snowing,’’ Perry, from Ocala, Florida, said with a grin. “I feel ilke once we get running I’ll be warm and comfortable.’’