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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Miami refocuses during bye

By Andrea Adelson

Miami has played eight straight games, so it is easy to see why the bye week comes at the perfect time.

The Hurricanes need this week to rest up and re-focus on their stretch run.

"It's critical," coach Al Golden said after Miami dropped its third straight game, losing 33-20 to rival Florida State on Saturday night. "We're hanging on by a thread. We need time off. Brutal schedule, eight weeks in a row, young team. We need time off."

Though the Hurricanes have gone from big surprise to middle-of-the-pack team in the last three weeks, they are still very much in the Coastal Division race. If Miami wins out, the Hurricanes will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC championship game. It is simple enough to see why: Miami only has three conference games remaining.

Two are against its biggest competition for the Coastal: Virginia Tech, which has two conference losses like Miami; and division leader Duke to close out the regular season. Miami returns off its bye to play the Hokies next Thursday night at home. Winning its remaining three league games would give Miami a 6-2 Coastal Division mark.

"We understand that we control our own destiny," Miami cornerback Brandon McGee said. "We won't put our heads down or hang our heads. We'll bounce back."

Miami appeared to make some strides defensively early on against the Seminoles, holding them to 16 points through three quarters. But as has been a familiar theme this season, Miami faltered down the stretch and just wore down. Florida State dominated in the fourth quarter, holding the ball for nearly 10 minutes, while rushing for 79 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

A bigger question that must be addressed is consistency on offense. After averaging 35.6 points per game in its 4-1 start, Miami has averaged 12.3 points in its three-game losing streak. Miami was held to a season-low 258 yards of total offense against the Seminoles. Quarterback Stephen Morris played with a sprained ankle in the game and was less effective as the game went on, finishing 25-of-43 with 223 yards with a touchdown and interception. The Hurricanes also lost freshman Duke Johnson to an undisclosed injury during the game. There has been no update on his status.

Miami has not nearly been as effective passing the ball during this three-game losing streak, after posting back-to-back huge games in shootout wins over Georgia Tech and NC State. Nor have the Canes been as effective on third down, converting just 32.6 percent of the time.  It is important to note two of the three losses have come against Notre Dame and Florida State, which field two of the best defenses in the nation. FSU ranks No. 2 in total defense; Notre Dame ranks No. 6.

"We're playing a lot of good teams," Golden said. "We certainly have to be more efficient -- that's fair. We have to do a better job on third down, I don't think there's any question about that. We have to make some plays on the ball. ... We have to take a deep breath. It's been a long 12 weeks against a really tough schedule playing a lot of young guys. We need to take a deep breath, get healed up and see where we're at over the next couple days ... and then get ready for Virginia Tech."