Miami running back Mike James has been through good times and bad times during his Hurricanes career. But now, his team is standing on the precipice of making history, and none of that is lost on James.
As one of the few seniors on the team, he has taken it upon himself to remind his younger teammates what is at stake for the remainder of the season, beginning Saturday at Virginia. If Miami beats UVa and Duke, it clinches its first Coastal Division title since joining the ACC in 2004.
"Of course it would be a great honor to go to the ACC championship first and foremost," James said Wednesday in an interview with ESPN.com. "My biggest challenge is making sure everybody else knows that. If I can spread the word and make sure everybody else knows that, and they're not looking forward or thinking about what’s going to happen if we win out and if we are allowed to play in it, then I can make sure my head is in the right place, too."
Miami is one of the youngest teams in the country, with 21 freshmen (16 true freshmen) having played already this season. James is one of two senior starters listed on the depth chart for this week, and one of just five on the entire two-deep for offense and defense. So one of the biggest challenges for Miami coach Al Golden is to make sure his young players do not lose focus on the ol' one-game at a time mentality.
"Our team understands you’re not guaranteed anything, you’re not promised anything in this game," coach Al Golden said Wednesday on the ACC coaches' call. "You can have the type of team that can go 12-1 next year, and the one game you lost prevents you from having an opportunity to win the Coastal and play in Charlotte. So our guys understand there’s urgency here, and these games are important in November. We’re trying to teach them this process and impart to them that this is the only thing that holds up this time of year, is the discipline and the regimen and the process."
And he has spread that message with the help of his dedicated senior leaders.
"We need that guidance, because it’s something that hasn’t been done," Golden said. "For all the great players that have come through here over the last eight years, we have not won our division. The only thing we can do about it today is practice well, and then obviously play well on Saturday."
Miami comes into the game after an impressive 30-12 win against Virginia Tech last Thursday night that gave it a leg up in the Coastal Division. James said of the win, "To be able to beat them the way we did, it speaks volumes about the guys in the program and the way coach prepared us to play."
But Virginia comes into the game with a little bit of its own momentum after a shocking 33-6 win against NC State last week. Plus, the Hoos have played well against Miami, winning two straight and four of the past six.
That gives Miami even more motivation headed into Saturday.
"They’re a good ball club," James said. "You should get jacked up for this one. They beat us four out of six times we’ve played them. If that doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what does. We’re looking to get that monkey off our back."