University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes trying to avoid at Virginia Tech what they haven’t done in 41 years

N’Kosi Perry discusses his return to starting lineup

N'Kosi Perry started his fifth game of the season against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Miami Hurricanes quarterback has learned from his earlier return to the bench.
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N'Kosi Perry started his fifth game of the season against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Miami Hurricanes quarterback has learned from his earlier return to the bench.

Before now, the last time the Miami Hurricanes scored 21 or fewer points in four consecutive games was the end of the 2007 season — a total of 44 points in four losses, which included their 48-0 loss to Virginia in their final game in the Orange Bowl stadium during Randy Shannon’s first year as head coach.

That also was the last season the Canes failed to qualify for a bowl game, as they qualified but self imposed postseason bans in 2011 and 2012.

The last time they lost five or more games in a row: 1977.

The offensively ailing Hurricanes (5-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), in Blacksburg, Virginia, for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff against equally downtrodden Virginia Tech (4-5, 3-3), have scored a combined 60 points in this four-game slide to Georgia Tech, Duke, Boston College and Virginia.

With two regular-season games left, they still haven’t reached the minimum six victories needed to qualify for a bowl game.

Saturday could be their best shot to get it done against a Hokies team that has allowed 49 points or more three times this season (Old Dominion, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh) compared to only once in the previous 13 years.

“It only takes one win, that’s all it takes,’’ junior linebacker Shaq Quarterman said after UM’s latest loss at Georgia Tech. “It takes one win to start a winning streak. Then you win another, then the winning streak continues. We have to put our heads down and get back to what we know how to do.

“Our plan is to get the seniors to a bowl game. It’s that simple. They’ve worked extremely hard. These are the last of the guys that were recruited by Coach [Al] Golden. They’re owed that much.”

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University of Miami linebacker Shaquille Quarterman chats with the media during Media Day at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center on Monday, August 13, 2018. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD

The defense, No. 4 in the nation, has for the most part maintained its excellence despite little help from the offense and special teams.

Coordinator Manny Diaz was asked earlier this week how he keeps his players motivated.

“You have to have some sort of bond,’’ Diaz said. “You’ve got to have a connection with something outside yourself to be good at anything. If you get into your feelings, you start feeling selfish [and] then you may start to lower your standard. The great thing we have is we’ve created a unit that takes a lot of pride in how we play, and it would be a frightening thing to be the guy that lets down all the other guys that play defense.

“Because if our locker room senses it, the pack’s going to take care of it.’’

Now the pack has to do something about that sickly offense.

It starts with redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, who will make his fifth start Saturday after a solid performance at Georgia Tech.

“It’s disappointing for the team, especially for the seniors,’’ Perry said on Wednesday about UM’s 5-5 campaign. “This is not the season we were hoping for and we thought we were going to have. It’s just learning lessons for everybody.

“My freshman year we came out killing it,’’ he said of last season’s 10-0 start. “Everybody was used to winning. Now we can’t get [used] to the feeling of losing.’’

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The Canes need Perry to maintain his poise in whatever they do offensively, but it’s their running game that could prove to be the difference Saturday. In their past three games, the Hokies have allowed 465 rushing yards to Georgia Tech, 219 to Boston College and 492 to Pittsburgh.

“I can point a lot of fingers, but ultimately they all come back to me,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, known for years as one of the best in the business, said after the Pitt game. “That’s the bottom line.”

UM junior tailback Travis Homer (732 yards and three touchdowns on 134 carries, for a 5.5-yard average), who sustained a calf strain two weeks ago against Duke, will likely get most of the carries for the Canes, with sophomore DeeJay Dallas (562 yards and five touchdowns on 95 carries, for a 5.9-yard average) also getting his share. But Dallas has fumbled multiple times the past two games, and must get his confidence back to ensure UM prevails on the ground.

“It’s all mental,’’ offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said. “You don’t go from never fumbling in practice or the game to having four in two games. I think it’s definitely inside of his head. We’re doing a really good job of trying to calm him down... He’s a tough dude.’’

Also getting carries Saturday, according to coach Mark Richt, will be freshman Cam Davis.

Homer said his advice to the younger players on making it through the losing streak is to keep fighting.

“We’ve been down this road before [during] my freshman year, losing four games in a row,’’ Homer said. “It’s just about how you respond.’’

Said senior linebacker Mike Smith: “We need to get a win. That’s all we need. Getting a win will cure a lot of things around here.’’

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