BURNS DOESN’T PLAY AFTER MOM’S FUNERAL
A week and four days after his mother, Dana Smith, died unexpectedly at 44, junior cornerback Artie Burns decided to sit out for the Virginia game. He did it in street clothes on the UM bench, surrounded by his teammates.
Burns entered Saturday leading the Atlantic Coast Conference with five interceptions, which tied him for fifth nationally and is already the most by a Hurricane in one year since Sean Taylor had 10 in 2003.
The funeral for Burns’ mother was Thursday at a church in Hollywood, where the team was bused, and former UM coach Al Golden spoke in tribute to Burns and his mother, who was close to the players.
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“We had to let Artie make a decision that he needed to make for his family,’’ UM interim coach Larry Scott said after the game. “That’s just the bottom line. There wasn’t much more than that. We didn’t want to put any pressure on Artie that he had to show up and play the game.
“At the beginning of the week when we were going through this and we played last week, for Artie I think it was a little bit kind of surreal. But when you go through the process of the funeral and you say your last goodbye, that’s a real emotion.
“His family needed him and he needed to be there for his family. Yet the kid still found a way to muster enough to be here with his team [Saturday] as well. I’m so taken with how strong that kid is and the strength that he exemplifies in his approach toward everything. He communicated, he was open, he was honest. He handled it like a professional.”
UM’s win over Virginia coupled with North Carolina’s 66-31 dismantling of Duke kept the Canes two games behind the Tar Heels in the Coastal Division race.
The Canes need to defeat North Carolina (8-1, 5-0 ACC) in Chapel Hill on Saturday, Georgia Tech at home on Nov. 21 and Pittsburgh on the road in the regular-season finale Nov. 27 to have a shot at winning their division and playing in the ACC title game.
North Carolina would also need to lose one more game — either at Virginia Tech on Nov. 21 or at North Carolina State on Nov. 28 – for Miami to get to the ACC title game.
In that scenario, Miami, North Carolina and Duke would each have two conference losses and the Hurricanes would own the tiebreaker.
Two recently graduated Hurricanes came to the game to support their younger brothers on homecoming. Shane McDermott, last season’s starting center, and Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting right guard Brandon Linder were there to watch UM left guard Kc McDermott and center Nick Linder.
Brandon Linder, whose last season with UM was 2013, is out for the NFL season after undergoing surgery for a torn left labrum four weeks ago. He said coming to Sun Life again was a “different” feeling.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Former UM running back Clinton Portis, named earlier this season as one of 14 former football greats named to the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Class of Football legends, was honored on the field in the first half.
So, you say he wasn’t in the ACC? Correct. But he is a legend, and what Canes fan doesn’t savor the photo of the Big East’s Portis kissing that crystal football after winning the 2001 national title in the Rose Bowl?
▪ On-field injuries included offensive tackle Trevor Darling; defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins; defensive tackle Anthony Moten; and defensive end Ufomba Kamalu. Outside linebacker Trent Harris also left momentarily but returned to continue his stellar game. Harris finished with eight tackles and his third sack of the season. Despite the injuries, the Canes finished with seven tackles for loss.
▪ Duke Johnson, UM’s all-time leading rusher who is now with the Cleveland Browns, was turned away at the Sun Life Stadium gate for having a backpack, which is prohibited. Johnson posted on Twitter that he was going home. “Let’s not make a big deal about it,’’ he later tweeted. “I don’t believe it was the school. Just think it was a misunderstanding of the stadium staff …’’
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
And DAVID FURONES