University of Miami

Strong win over UNC has Hurricanes feeling upbeat

Miami Hurricanes’ Darrion Owens chases down North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2014.
Miami Hurricanes’ Darrion Owens chases down North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Suddenly, that Nov.15 Florida State at Miami game likely doesn’t seem quite as daunting to those who relish the orange and green.

UM’s 47-20 homecoming blowout Saturday of fellow Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division opponent North Carolina surely has the Hurricanes feeling as confident as they’ve been all season.

Florida State not only has a 24-game win streak, it also has Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who has a knack for turning potential disasters into triumphs — such as last Thursday, when he led the No.2 Seminoles (8-0, 5-0 ACC) back from a three-touchdown deficit to a 42-31 victory at Louisville.

The Hurricanes have their own accomplishments to savor.

As of Sunday, the Canes (5-3, 3-2) own the nation’s 11th-ranked defense, even more incredible. One month ago, former Hurricane standouts were calling local radio shows and demanding an overhaul of the coaching staff, starting with defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. Distraught fans, meanwhile, paid for a “Fire Al Golden’’ banner plane and hoisted “Fire Mark D’Onofrio’’ signs before the Oct.11 Cincinnati kickoff — otherwise bombarding social media with their disgust.

“We’re blocking everything out,’’ Golden said after the game, pointing to better practices leading to better performances. “We’re focused. And we’re improving. We’re not letting anything on the outside get inside. It’s hard to do.’’

Golden said his players have “been dealing with adversity for a long time. … They’ve dealt with adversity off the field really well, handled it with class and moved forward. Now I think they’re starting to handle it better on the field and stay together.’’

Miami had the day off Sunday, and Golden postponed his weekly Sunday teleconference until Monday. But it was obvious in the aftermath of the UNC thrashing Saturday at Sun Life Stadium that the Hurricanes are ready for their open week to heal and get extra time to prepare for FSU.

“It is a good time because we’ve got to get caught up in our academics, we’ve got to get healthy,’’ Golden said.

The status of running back Gus Edwards, who left the game in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury, is in question. And left tackle Ereck Flowers, who had knee surgery on Wednesday, likely won’t be ready for FSU, though Golden said he wasn’t out for the season and didn’t give an estimate for his return.

Also on the offensive line, Alex Gall continues to have issues with a back injury.

UM’s offense, nonetheless, had another dynamic showing. Running back Duke Johnson, with 177 rushing yards Saturday — 172 of those in the first half — has run for 100 or more yards in five consecutive games, including 249 yards rushing a week ago Thursday at Virginia Tech. He was taken out of the UNC game after he scored a 37-yard receiving touchdown, his third score of the day, on a pass from Brad Kaaya with 12:37 left in the third quarter.

Johnson was asked if what he was doing could be likened to a basketball player scoring 30 points a game during a stretch or a baseball player hitting .500 for a couple weeks — a zone of sorts.

“Yeah, you could say so,’’ Johnson replied. “I think as an offense, we’re in one of those zones.

“We’re hitting in every way we can — passing, rushing. The guys up front are doing a great job

providing holes and protection for Brad and I to do what we do best.’’

Defensively, however, is where UM has made the biggest turnaround of late. In the latest NCAA rankings released Sunday, the Hurricanes rank 32nd in rushing defense (131.9 yards allowed per game) and 12th in passing yards allowed (180.6) of 125 FBS teams.

“We’re pretty much playing together,’’ said linebacker Denzel Perryman, who noted he will likely watch FSU’s next game Saturday against Virginia.

“And when we play together, everybody does their job and we get a performance like that.’’

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