Miami at UCF Preview
Orlando, FL - After surging into the BCS conversation with success during a challenging first month of the season, Miami is hoping to avoid a letdown on an easier stretch of its schedule.
The No. 9 Hurricanes look to improve to 5-1 for the first time in four seasons by winning their second consecutive game against an unranked opponent Saturday night when they visit Central Florida.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Miami –14.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 84% of bets for this game have been placed on Miami –14.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Miami (4-1) played each of its first four games against a ranked opponent, and its lone loss in that stretch came at then-No. 11 Virginia Tech on Sept. 26. The Hurricanes rebounded with a 21-20 win over then-No. 8 Oklahoma on Oct. 3 and then routed Florida A&M 48-16 last Saturday.
The Hurricanes piled up 470 yards against the Rattlers in their first game against an opponent outside the Top 25.
"You need a game like this,'' said coach Randy Shannon, whose team has also defeated Florida State and Georgia Tech. "We came out focused and started the game fast."
Playing only the first 30 minutes as Miami had 303 yards and a 31-3 lead at halftime, sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris completed 16 of 24 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"Overall we had a good night,'' Harris said. "I made a couple of mistakes, but we put up points and made a lot of plays.''
With running back Graig Cooper sidelined with a lower extremity injury and leading rusher Javarris James carrying the ball once for four yards, junior Damien Berry rushed for 162 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown.
"I was a little nervous,'' said Berry, a former safety, after making his first collegiate carries. "My heart was going 150 mph."
Berry's rushing total was the most by a Hurricanes player since 2005, surpassing James' career-high 150 yards against the Sooners the previous week.
Cooper, who led Miami in rushing the last two seasons, is questionable for Saturday's game. He rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown in a 20-14 victory over UCF on Oct. 11, 2008, the teams' first meeting.
The Hurricanes held the Knights to 78 total yards in that matchup in Miami but needed a fourth-down stop with 1:52 remaining to seal the win.
Miami, looking to go 5-1 for the first time since opening 8-1 in 2005, is fourth in the ACC in rushing with 137.6 yards per game. It will face a UCF team with the nation's 15th-ranked rush defense, allowing 94.4 per game.
The Knights (3-2), who are coming off a bye week, are 0-19 against Top 25 teams since becoming a Division I program in 1996.
Central Florida has trailed at halftime in all of its games this season, including its 32-14 win over Memphis on Oct. 3. The Knights outscored the Tigers 29-7 in the second half to improve to 3-0 at home.
It was the Knights' highest point total in the second half of a game since they had 31 against Buffalo in a 45-21 victory on Nov. 9, 2002.
"The big thing is sometimes you need a wake up call," coach George O'Leary said. "Finally the offense started clicking in the second half."
Sophomore Brynn Harvey, who carried 42 times for a career-high 219 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers, is third in Conference USA and 16th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 107.2 rushing yards per game.
Harvey caught one pass for four yards against the Hurricanes last season, and Knights quarterback Brett Hodges - a Wake Forest transfer - will face Miami for the first time.
Harris and the Hurricanes started looking toward this game immediately after their last one.
"I know that Central Florida's going to be a sold-out game in Orlando, it's a night game and that's something we love playing in," Harris said last Saturday night. "We're going to go up there, just have fun and endure this three-hour-long bus ride."
Miami will be without sophomore linebacker Jordan Futch for the rest of the season after he injured his knee last Saturday. The Hurricanes also announced Monday that senior cornerback Ryan Hill (shoulder) and freshman defensive end Dyron Dye (left knee) will not play the remainder of the season.
Posted: 10/13/09 4:58PM ET