Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Jon Feliciano struggled just as much in the aftermath of the Miami Hurricanes’ 30-26 loss to Florida State as he did in the game’s final moments.
“It’s tough,’’ Feliciano said Monday, as the team prepared to move on to next opponent Virginia. “It was a very emotional night for me. I was really upset about what happened. When you come so close….’’
Would anything worse than finishing 9-4 be a disappointment? Feliciano was asked. The pause was uncomfortably long.
“Yeah,’’ he said. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that, but personally, yeah. …Now we’ve got to look forward to Virginia.’’
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Feliciano, like the other seniors, will leave UM (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) with an 0-4 record against FSU, which has defeated Miami five consecutive years. But their responsibility now, they insist, is more important than ever: keep leading and teaching the youngsters to play hard, starting with the Cavaliers (4-6, 2-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Basically, just keep your head up,’’ was linebacker Denzel Perryman’s message to the young Canes. “It’s a loss in the books right now,’’ he said Saturday. “You’ve got next year. For the guys like me and Clive [Walford] and Phil [Dorsett], it’s the last time we’ll play in an atmosphere like this.’’
For the past couple of days, the older Hurricanes have been reassuring some of the younger ones who erred on crucial plays — freshman receiver Braxton Berrios, for instance, on his drop in the corner of the end zone; sophomore tight end Standish Dobard’s fumbled reception that led to an FSU touchdown; freshman kicker Michael Badgley’s blocked extra point and missed 29-yard field goal — and more.
“We’re going upwards, starting with our quarterback, the leader of the team, the guy who a lot of pressure is going to be on throughout the years he’s here,’’ tailback Duke Johnson said. “The older guys are doing a good job coaching the young guys up. So next time we’re in a big situation like that we’ll be prepared as a team.’’
Tight end Walford, who fumbled early in the game, said he talked to Dobard for 10 minutes late Saturday night, telling him to keep fighting.
“You can’t hang your head low because of a mistake,” he said. “You just have to have a next-play mentality. I tell him every game, ‘You’re building your resume right now.’’’
Offensive coordinator James Coley said “it hurts’’ dealing with those mistakes when the players are young and down and vulnerable.
“Especially when we’re in meetings,’’ he said. “That’s the toughest time. As coaches we can hurt the day before and as we go and clean it up the second time around it’s bad, but it’s not as bad. And for the players with the corrections, it’s tough.
“But that’s in the meetings. When we come out here we ask them to wipe it off and let’s get going on Virginia. Hey, Brax has made that catch before against Georgia Tech. Same catch. He’s going to make it again.’’
Freshman running back Joe Yearby said the older players told him to stay strong. “I was disappointed and hurting for them,’’ Yearby said, “because they worked so hard for it and really wanted it. Next year it’s going to be different.’’