University of Miami

UM defense seeking consistency in hopes of getting seniors first win over FSU

UM defensive backs Tracy Howard (3) and Deon Bush (2) are shown against Boston College on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 during the players’ freshman season. Howard and Bush get one final shot to beat Florida State this weekend.
UM defensive backs Tracy Howard (3) and Deon Bush (2) are shown against Boston College on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 during the players’ freshman season. Howard and Bush get one final shot to beat Florida State this weekend. adiaz@miamiherald.com

University of Miami seniors Tracy Howard and Deon Bush have each had three tries to defeat Florida State.

For them, there’s only one more go-around.

If the Canes can’t get it together Saturday in Tallahassee, this modern “couldn’t-get-it-done” era will be forever imprinted in Hurricanes history. The Hurricanes (3-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won six straight from 2000 through 2004, have lost five consecutive games to No. 12 FSU (4-0, 2-2), starting with Jimbo Fisher’s first year as head coach in 2010.

Miami lost seven in a row to FSU from 1963 through 1972.

“We need to go out there and win,” said cornerback Howard, a Miramar High alum. “That’s all it’s really about. … Yeah, they’ve beaten us since I’ve been here, but it is what it is.

“We’ve got another shot. We just have to make it happen.”

Bush, a safety who missed the first half of the 34-23 loss last Thursday at Cincinnati because he was penalized for targeting in the previous game, insisted the Canes “are not trying to make it bigger than it is right now,” but is well aware “this is the last shot” for the 12 seniors listed on the UM roster.

“We’re trying to do everything possible to go to Doak Campbell and come out with this ‘W,’ ” said Bush, who picked off former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston last year in a 30-26 loss.

“It was cool,’’ the Columbus High graduate said, “but that was last year. Just looking forward to Saturday.”

Last week’s inconsistent performance by the defense, not to mention the offense, was not enough to produce an expected victory that would have brought the Canes into a nationally televised showdown of undefeated, in-state rivals.

UM’s defense allowed 300 yards on 40 plays in the first half to Cincinnati. After taking a 3-0 lead, the Canes were suddenly down 14-3 on five plays.

“They started fast and we couldn’t have started worse,” UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Tuesday.

Down 27-20 at the half, Miami gave up five yards and no points in the third quarter before allowing a 52-yard pass and 17-yard run in the final quarter that led to a touchdown. Then, a late 41-yard rush flipped the field for Cincinnati.

“There was a 22-minute period there where they had one first down,” D’Onofrio said. “There were a lot of things [we] did well in the game, and that’s where we want to focus. We’ve been double-training guys. … We’re getting our safeties back.

“I feel as good about our lineup as I have since Game 1.”

The Seminoles, favored by 10 points, have an offense that is less stout than their sixth-ranked scoring defense (11.5 points allowed per game) and 13th-ranked total defense (281.5 yards allowed per game).

FSU’s offense would be weakened considerably if star tailback Dalvin Cook can’t play because of a hamstring injury. The Seminoles already will be without Mario Pender, who required surgery after his lung collapsed Sept. 22.

The Seminoles are 61st in offense (405.8 yards a game) and 47th in scoring (32.8-point average), while the Hurricanes are allowing 344 yards and 21.8 points a game.

UM could be without weak-side linebacker Jermaine Grace, who hurt his right ankle last Thursday.

“A lot of guys [are] fighting” to compensate, D’Onofrio said of his linebacking corps, which had middle ’backer Raphael Kirby switch to weak side for the injured Grace and Juwon Young playing in the middle.

Should Cook be out, FSU would need quarterback Everett Golson, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, to continue being turnover-free. The Canes’ seniors played against Golson in 2012, when Notre Dame won 41-3 in Chicago.

“He did some good things,’’ Howard said.

Golden was more effusive.

“He’s doing a great job in this system,’’ the coach said. “He’s protecting the football. He’s putting them in a position to win — that’s his No. 1 job.”

The Canes have yet to put together four dominant quarters.

“We just have to finish,” Howard said. “Things happen. Everybody expects us to beat people 100 to zip. And we want that, too. We want to be dominant. But it’s college football. It’s not really a monopoly anymore where the top guys go to 10 schools. People spread it out. Everybody’s got talent.

“Yeah, we’re supposed to be dominant … but as long as we come out on top, that’s truly all that matters.’’

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