Miami’s 24-20 victory over Florida State lifted a big weight off the program.
The 11th-ranked Hurricanes are hoping that snapping a seven-game losing streak to their Sunshine State rival leads to bigger success in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Miami (4-0, 2-0) though will have to go the rest of the season without running back Mark Walton. The school announced Sunday that the junior — third in the ACC with 107 rushing yards per game — will have surgery on his injured right ankle. Sophomore Travis Homer played during the fourth quarter and had three carries for 29 yards.
The Hurricanes has won their first two ACC games for the first time since 2013, but if they are going to win the Coastal Division for the first time there remain challenges. The first one comes Saturday against Georgia Tech, which also is 2-0 in conference play, followed by Virginia Tech on Nov. 4.
“We obviously have a long way to go but being 2-0 is a good start,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “We’ve got meat of our Coastal Division coming up. Obviously, Georgia Tech is resting up pretty good while we have exerted every ounce of energy you could hope for. There is a long way to go as far as that race.”
Miami has had its season defined recently by its performances against the Seminoles. In 2014 and last year, losses to FSU started four-game skids. Two years ago, it started a run of three losses in four games and the subsequent firing of Al Golden after a 58-0 loss to Clemson.
“The past few years when we lost (and) it was like the luck changed,” defensive end Chad Thomas said. “I know we won and everyone back home is praising us, but the biggest thing is we have to stay focused.”
Walton’s injury isn’t the only one Miami is dealing with. Starting right guard Navaughn Donaldson (leg) and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards (hamstring) also are questionable.
Darrell Langham, who caught the 23-yard, winning touchdown pass with 6 seconds remaining, came in and played where Richards would usually line up.
What Miami does have though is confidence in Malik Rosier. The junior quarterback, who won a four-man competition during the preseason, was 19 of 44 for 254 yards but did throw three second-half touchdown passes.
The defense leads the conference in sacks per game (3.75) and is second in tackles per loss (9.0).
Rosier’s biggest concern is preventing a letdown and making sure the Hurricanes are focused on Georgia Tech quickly. The Yellow Jackets will be coming off a bye week and their triple-option offense usually prevents problems.
“We have to let this win go as quickly as possible. We can’t be in so high that we go into the next game thinking about it,” he said. “Tech is physical and fast. We are going to have to be ready.”
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