University of Miami

The Miami Hurricanes will be without this key linebacker against the Pittsburgh Panthers

Mark Richt: ‘The thing I enjoyed the most was the celebration in the locker room’

Coach Mark Richt was elated after the Miami Hurricanes beat the Virginia Tech Hokies to reach bowl eligibility. The Canes snapped a four-game losing streak.
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Coach Mark Richt was elated after the Miami Hurricanes beat the Virginia Tech Hokies to reach bowl eligibility. The Canes snapped a four-game losing streak.

The Pittsburgh Panthers boast one of the best rushing offenses in the country. On Saturday, the Miami Hurricanes will have to try to slow Pittsburgh down without one of its most reliable linebackers.

Mike Smith, who started at weak-side linebacker Saturday against the Virginia Tech Hokies, is unlikely to play against the Panthers after sustaining a left knee injury.

“He’s on crutches now,” coach Mark Richt said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “We don’t think he’ll play, but we are pretty certain he’ll be ready for the bowl game.”

Smith was seen after practice Tuesday outside the Hecht Athletic Center with his left leg bandaged from top to bottom. He was walking with the help of crutches.

Smith started for the first time this season in Blacksburg, Virginia, as fellow linebacker Michael Pinckney served a one-game suspension for using a banned substance. The senior finished the game with five tackles. He was injured in the second half but returned to play after initially leaving the game.

Miami (6-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) lists Smith on the two-deep depth chart as Shaquille Quarterman’s primary backup at middle linebacker and Pinckney’s primary backup on the weak side. Without Smith, sophomore linebacker Bradley Jennings Jr. moves into the backup spot at middle linebacker and redshirt freshman linebacker Waynmon Steed becomes the primary backup at weakside linebacker. Steed got the majority of snaps Saturday when Smith was knocked out of the game.

Smith has been by far the Hurricanes’ most reliable reserve linebacker this season. Playing in 11 games, Smith finishes the regular season with 31 tackles, six tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.

Pitt (7-4, 6-1) ranks second in the ACC in rushing offense, behind only the Clemson Tigers. The Panthers are averaging 247.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks No. 13 in the country.

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