MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Barely a few minutes removed from Miami’s lopsided loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season-opener for both teams last weekend, Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz was looking ahead.
And he made a prediction of sorts.
“This team’s story is not even close to being written yet,” Diaz said. “And we’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of pride to make sure it goes the way they want it to.”
That process for the 22nd-ranked Hurricanes (0-1) starts Saturday night, when they play host to Appalachian State (1-0). It’ll be Miami’s home opener and the first time about half the roster — quarterback D’Eriq King included — plays at Hard Rock Stadium with a real crowd in attendance, as opposed to the smattering that was allowed last season.
Miami lost 44-13 to the Crimson Tide in Atlanta last weekend.
“You have to give credit Alabama there,” Diaz said. “In the six years that I’ve been here they’ve by far the best football team that we’ve played, the most complete football team that we’ve played in my time here.”
It was 27-0 Alabama early, putting the outcome in no doubt, and raised tons of questions if Miami can truly contend for Atlantic Coast Conference honors this season. And Week 2 isn’t exactly a cupcake; Miami rolled past Appalachian State in the schools’ lone other meeting five years ago, but the Mountaineers — winners over East Carolina in Week 1 — have more wins since 2015 than any other FBS team other than Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
“They’re used to winning,” Diaz said. “They expect to win.”
Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark described the difference between the Mountaineers and the Hurricanes this way: He considers his team fast, and Miami as faster.
“When you put this videotape on for Miami it’s a lot different team speed than what we’ve seen from some other Power 5 programs,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup, and one that our team is looking forward to, but I go back to the team speed ... and again, it’s going to be tough.”
Any instance of the Mountaineers facing a big-time program still brings back memories of the win at Michigan in 2007, the 34-32 thriller over the fifth-ranked Wolverines. Appalachian State is 0-9 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 since, including a 45-10 home loss to Miami in 2016.
And Miami’s lopsided loss to Alabama didn’t seem to change Clark’s opinion of the Hurricanes.
“They’ve got great running backs, great receivers, quarterback is outstanding, kicking game was great,” Clark said. “There’s really no holes that I see on the team — except they played Alabama.”
NEED A WIN
The Hurricanes are seeking to avoid a four-game slide, something they last experienced in 2018. The last time Miami lost more than four consecutive games was an eight-game drought in 1977 and 1978. The Hurricanes are also trying to avoid a second 0-2 start in the last three seasons; before opening with two losses in 2019, Miami’s last 0-2 beginning was in 1978.
I KNOW U
Appalachian State QB Chase Brice — formerly of Clemson and Duke — will be facing Miami for the second time in his last four games. He completed 20 of 25 passes against the Hurricanes on Dec. 5, but that added up to just 94 yards and the Blue Devils lost 48-0. There hasn’t been any other game in the last 20 years where a quarterback threw at least 25 passes, completed at least 80% of them, and didn’t reach 100 yards.
Going back to last season Miami has allowed at least 37 points in three consecutive games. It’s the third time since World War II and the fourth time overall the Hurricanes have endured such a stretch, with the others coming in 2013, 1984 and 1944. The 143 points allowed in the last three games is the second-most in any three-game run in Hurricane history, behind only the 156 yielded in the final three games of the 1944 season.
Appalachian State — which beat North Carolina and South Carolina in 2019 — will continue facing at least one Power 5 school in each of the next four seasons. It opens at home against North Carolina before going to Texas A&M in Week 2 next season, visits the Tar Heels in 2023, goes to Clemson in 2024 and is set to play host to South Carolina in 2025. There are also three games against Wake Forest that are agreed upon but remain unscheduled.
AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE
For the second consecutive game, Miami and its opponent will both feature an Australian punter. The Hurricanes have Lou Hedley, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season and a favorite for the award this year. Appalachian State counters with Xavier Subotsch. Hedley, Subotsch and Alabama’s James Burnip — who the Hurricanes saw last week — are all products of the Prokick Australia school run by coach Nathan Chapman.
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