CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — This is not how Miami would have scripted its season.
Then again, no one could script this.
The unbeaten quarterback wasn’t exactly favored to win the job. A hurricane canceled a game and displaced the team for several days. The best running back has probably played his last college game. The top wide receiver has been an injured spectator. The guy with dramatic flair was an afterthought entering the year. And in each of the last three games, the opponent was winning at halftime.
Miami is still unbeaten and rose to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday. The Hurricanes (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are one of eight undefeated teams left in major college play, and their 10-game winning streak is not only the second-longest active run in the country but also the school’s longest since a stretch spanning 2003 and 2004.
“It’s a lot of belief,” linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said. “It’s a lot of buy-in to the process. I feel as though, if you walk around to any of our players, you just feel an aura by them because we just really bought into the process.”
That’s the closest thing to an explanation for what the Hurricanes are doing.
Take Darrell Langham, for example. This is his fourth year at Miami and his first time being a factor. His touchdown catch with 6 seconds left got Miami past Florida State 24-20 on Oct. 7. This weekend, Langham delivered again with a fourth-down, falling-down , keep-hope-alive grab for 28 yards that set up a chip-shot field goal as the Hurricanes rallied to beat Georgia Tech 25-24.
He’s gone from secret to stellar in two weeks.
“It means a lot,” Langham said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. I haven’t really played much. I’m happy to help the team out in any way.”
The surprise stories don’t stop there.
Miami has outscored opponents by a very ordinary 64-45 margin in first halves (take away a 24-6 half against Bethune-Cookman, and Miami’s first-half edge over fellow FBS competition is only 40-39). But in second halves, Miami has outscored opponents 109-48.
“We just kept fighting and believing and scrapping,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “And that’s a tremendous trait for a football team.”
Quarterback Malik Rosier is now an unflappable 6-0 as Miami’s starter, after coming into the season with many expecting him to remain in the backup role he filled behind Brad Kaaya before the Hurricanes’ all-time leading passer turned pro last winter. Rosier has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,371 yards, with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in 171 attempts.
Top running back Mark Walton’s season — possibly his last in college — is over because of ankle surgery, but Travis Homer ran for 170 yards and scored twice in his debut as the starter on Saturday. Ahmmon Richards had 934 receiving yards and was a freshman breakout star last year; he’s gotten only seven catches this year and been limited by a bad hamstring for nearly two months.
When linebacker Michael Pinckney went out in the first half Saturday with a chest injury, Miami was down six starters against Georgia Tech and found a way to win anyway.
“It’s just a tribute to our players and our leadership of the team and the coaches — everybody,” Richt said. “There’s something going on that’s really good right now. Who knows where it’s going to go from here? I have no idea. The train could come off the tracks at any time.”
The Hurricanes have Syracuse (which just knocked off defending national champion Clemson), No. 13 Notre Dame and No. 14 Virginia Tech awaiting them over the next four weeks. Each of those games is at home, and the Virginia Tech matchup looks like it will loom very large in the ACC’s Coastal Division race and help decide who will go to Charlotte for the conference title game on Dec. 2.
“We’re focusing every week,” Quarterman said. “Everybody wants to jump forward and say, ‘Oh, the ‘Canes, when they go to Charlotte, this and that,’ but we’re focusing by game. As long as we do that, then we’ll get to Charlotte.”