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November 21, 2005

Hurricanes look to regroup



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MIAMI - With the Miami Hurricanes eliminated from national title contention, quarterback Kyle Wright says there's still a season to salvage.

A 14-10 loss Saturday night to Georgia Tech ended the Hurricanes' bid for a berth in the championship game, and it may cost them a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, too. Instead, Miami (8-2, 5-2 ACC) will probably settle for a second-tier bowl for the second year in a row.

The Hurricanes, who sank to 10th in this week's poll from third last week, conclude the regular season Saturday against Virginia (6-4, 3-4).

"It'd be easy to have everybody hang their heads and pack it in and lose one more game and go play in the Dust Bowl," Wright said. "I don't think that's the mentality of our team right now. We've got one more game to play, and we've got to finish strong."

For the second straight year, the Hurricanes failed to come through in a late-season game at the Orange Bowl. Last year their bid for a Bowl Championship Series berth ended with a loss to Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale.

By beating Georgia Tech and Virginia, the Hurricanes could have clinched a trip to Jacksonville for the ACC title game Dec. 3. The only way they can make it now is to win Saturday while Virginia Tech loses at home to North Carolina.

"When the championship is on the line and the University of Miami has to win a game at home, we didn't do it," coach Larry Coker said Sunday. "And we didn't do it last year."

After losing the season opener at Florida State, the Hurricanes had won eight games in a row. In both defeats, poor pass protection and an erratic effort by Wright doomed Miami.

Georgia Tech blitzed on nearly every play and totaled seven sacks. Wright missed open receivers even when given time, and the ground game was little help, with running back Charlie Jones held to 50 yards in 18 carries. Miami converted one of 14 third-down situations and went 0-for-2 on fourth down.

"That's horrendous," Coker said.

Miami's defense, ranked No. 1 in the nation, gave up scoring marches of 68 and 61 yards and committed a costly penalty on each drive.

Even so, the Hurricanes nearly rallied in the fourth quarter. Trailing 14-10, they reached the Yellow Jackets' 12-yard line with 7 1/2 minutes, but Coker decided against sending out field-goal kicker Jon Peattie on fourth-and-1, and Jones was stuffed for a 3-yard loss.

Three completions by Wright gave the Hurricanes a first down at the 27 with 1:46 to go, but an ill-advised pass into coverage was intercepted - Miami's lone turnover - to seal the defeat.

Two field goals would have won the game, and Coker said he should have tried a kick at the 12.

"As it turned out, it was a coaching mistake," he said. "That was a coaching error. That was on me. It wasn't a lack of confidence in Jon Peattie. I just didn't want to leave it on the table and lose 14-13."

Several Hurricanes said they weren't distracted by the furor created over a lewd rap song that surfaced last week on the Internet. The 2-year-old recording performed by a group including several current and former players prompted Miami's athletic director to apologize.

Coker said the issue didn't affect the way the Hurricanes played.

"I don't think so at all," he said. "From inside, it's tremendously old."

Still, Coker acknowledged that his team's resilience will be tested by the defeat.

"How deep is the ocean is how low we are," he said. "That has to get rectified. We have something to play for. As a coaching staff and football team, we have to get back on track."

For more coverage of the Miami Hurricanes, check out CaneSport.com.


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