Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hurricanes' run at Orange Bowl ends with visit by No. 23 Virginia

AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- More than a few Miami players wish they could smuggle their lockers from the Orange Bowl as souvenirs. Some will sneak onto the turf after this farewell game to pluck some blades of grass as
keepsake items.

Randy Shannon wants to take something away, too. "A win," the first-year Miami coach said. "Simple." That truly is what the Hurricanes need most from their matchup with
No. 23 Virginia on Saturday night, when Miami's 70-year run of calling the historic Orange Bowl home comes to an end.

A loss would further jeopardize Miami's chances of reaching a bowl game, and end whatever hope might remain of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference. After losses in their last two home games, the 'Canes (5-4, 2-3) sound desperate to close this era with a victory.

"It's real important and it's kind of a motivating factor knowing that this is going to be the last game ever played in the Orange Bowl," Miami center John Rochford said.

"So you want to bring your best effort out there. You're going to see guys really laying it on the line."

Virginia (8-2, 5-1) will do the same. The Cavaliers hit the eight-win mark earlier on the calendar than ever before. And a team that wasn't even bowl-eligible last season has eyes on a Bowl Championship Series spot -- the one bestowed to the ACC champion -- after a mindboggling string of nailbiting wins.

Virginia has three wins by one point, two wins by two points. No team in major college football history has ever won so many games in the same season by such a slim margin.

"Sometimes you have to have what they call luck," Shannon said. "But they create their own luck."

A play here, a play there, and Virginia could be in far worse shape. The reverse can be said for Miami. There's some statistical eeriness between the teams in everything but their won-loss record. Virginia has scored 220 points, Miami 219. Both teams have allowed exactly 192 points. But it's the Cavaliers sitting atop the ACC's Coastal Division, while the Hurricanes are sputtering and on the cusp of missing the postseason.

"It's a different feeling than we've had around here in a while. You can't deny that," standout defensive lineman Chris Long said. "We're in a place that we haven't been before."

Still, Virginia coach Al Groh, whose alma mater is 0-15 all-time in Florida, doesn't expect this one to be easy.

"To this point, Miami is overall the most athletically gifted team that we've played," Groh said.

And Groh knows the Hurricanes will get an emotional lift from the Orange Bowl farewell, so he's concerned.

"When you have a highly talented team such as Miami, that maybe isn't accomplishing quite what they want, sometimes a really galvanizing event like this brings out the very best in them," Groh said. "That's what we are assuming is going to be the case and we will have to have our team ready play at that particular level."

He's right on this count: Saturday's game will be an event. The Hurricanes began playing at what's now known at the Orange Bowl in 1937 and won three of their five national titles on that field. Miami will move to Dolphin Stadium next season to begin a planned 25-year stay there, and the Orange Bowl will soon be demolished.

To commemorate the occasion and all that history, Miami has invited all former players back to form the pregame tunnel for players to run through as they emerge from the locker room. Grammy award winner Jon Secada, a Miami grad, will sing the national anthem. A special halftime ceremony is planned, and there'll be postgame events as well.

Winning would make the sendoff even sweeter. "We're playing for all the millions of people who've walked through that Orange Bowl and saw a game and all the old players, whether they're still here or not," said Miami quarterback Kyle Wright, who'll
start despite a nagging left ankle sprain. "We're playing for a lot.

It's going to be a special night."

Source: A.P. Wire; Photo Credit: University of Miami Sports Media Relations Office