UM not haunted by its past against North Carolina
Playing at UNC for the first time since a tough loss and facing former Canes coach Butch Davis won't be a factor today, Randy Shannon said.
Posted on Sat, Oct. 06, 2007
BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Superstitious University of Miami football fans will be glad to know that today is not Homecoming for the University of North Carolina.
The last time that happened, when most couldn't believe the Tar Heels would schedule UM for their Homecoming opponent in October 2004, UNC -- 3-4 heading into that game -- upset the No. 4 Hurricanes on a last-second 42-yard field goal.
''It was awful,'' UM senior guard Andrew Bain said this week. ``Ain't no other word to describe it.''
Today, unranked Miami goes into Chapel Hill for the first time since 58,000 Carolina-blue-garbed fans stormed Kenan Stadium in celebration as the dazed and battered Canes were left nearly speechless in their locker room.
UM (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won the past two games against UNC (1-4, 0-2) -- both in the Orange Bowl.
But this one, the third consecutive UNC sellout, has a different feel. This one has UNC coach Butch Davis facing a Miami program he resurrected from 1995 through 2000, and facing his former UM (and Dallas Cowboys) player and assistant, Canes coach Randy Shannon.
''Butch is a terrific coach,'' Shannon said. ``He's a great guy. Butch . . . wants to win, and he's going to be very energetic and enthusiastic and get his guys ready to play us.''
However, Shannon, as usual, has stressed that the past will have no bearing on the present -- even if Connor Barth, the UNC kicker who beat UM in 2004, is one field goal short of setting a school record for consecutive field goals (he is tied for first at 15).
''It's the University of Miami football team against the North Carolina Tar Heels football team,'' Shannon said. ``Not one single player here Butch recruited. The connections are not there.''
Davis spoke to reporters this week about his pride in recruiting players at UM who ``were able to change the so-called image of the program, that it became the place to go to school rather than the place to avoid going to school.''
But, like Shannon, he said those years have nothing to do with today's game.
''I have been away from Miami for six years, and it is all new players,'' he said.
Those players are eager to show, that, unlike last week's inconsistent victory against Duke, they can stay focused for four quarters. A young North Carolina team has lost three of its four games by seven or fewer points.
''They play hard,'' tight end DajLeon Farr said. ``You don't see the score when you see the record. This is not a game to sleep on. One of the problems we had last week was people got relaxed in the middle of the game. We have to do a better job of fighting and pushing each other the entire game.''
North Carolina's 99th-ranked offense will be more than challenged by UM's 19th-ranked defense. The Tar Heels' running game has been poor.
But given UM's penchant for allowing big passing plays -- the Canes have allowed 10 passing touchdowns in five games compared to nine all of last season -- expect UNC redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates (85 of 140 for 1,168 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions) to throw often.
''We won't underestimate them,'' said safety Randy Phillips, who watched the 2004 game on television as a high school senior. ``We know Coach Butch Davis is going to have his team ready to play.''
Senior guard Derrick Morse was in Chapel Hill that night, making his first career start.
''It was a rough time,'' Morse said. ``They tore the field goal post down. That's something I don't forget. And guys who weren't there I'm going to remind. I remember them driving at the end of the game and kicking that field goal with no seconds left on the clock.''
Said Bain: ``Awful. When it was over, I didn't know what to do with myself.''