CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -The Miami Hurricanes were on bended knee in a semicircle, breathing heavily from a series of post-practice sprints. Assistant coaches shooed managers toting water bottles away, perhaps in an effort to shield them from what was coming.
Standing in the middle was first-year coach Randy Shannon, making no effort to hide his anger.
For the next few minutes, he pointed fingers, shook his fists, shouted and pleaded. A stunning loss at North Carolina last weekend - one where Miami was behind 27-0 at halftime against a team that hadn't beaten a major-college opponent all season - showed the Hurricanes are playing far from the level Shannon demands.
So he decided the time was right to let them know, in crystal-clear terms, that things must change.
``The way we've been practicing, the way we've been playing, it's just unacceptable,'' quarterback Kyle Wright said. ``I know he's tired of it. A lot of guys are tired of it. ... And if we're going to hope to win some football games, we can't come out like we did this past week and expect to win anything.''
Sound familiar?
It should, because the Hurricanes were talking the same way this time last season, too.
For the second straight year, Miami is 4-2 at the midpoint of its schedule. The Hurricanes will be playing their 17th straight game as an unranked team this weekend; the last time that happened was nearly three decades ago.
A sixth national championship trophy won't be coming this season. Another loss, and the Hurricanes' chances at finally winning an Atlantic Coast Conference title will probably be kaput as well. And this week's opponent, Georgia Tech, has beaten Miami in each of the past two seasons.
Again, a season that started with much promise seems on the brink of spiraling out of control.
``It's not trust, fellas. The word is believe. They've got to believe us and believe that we'll do what we need to get done to win,'' Shannon said. ``Believe in everything about Miami. ... Don't just say, 'Well, OK, we're going to go through the motions.' We're not going to accept that at all.''
But outside of making them run, showing them mistakes on film, fixing errors in practice and giving the sporadic pat-on-the-back when one is called for, Shannon and his staff can't solve all the issues themselves.
Knowing that, players are starting to take some responsibility as well.
Safety Kenny Phillips might be Miami's best player, a sure-fire first-round NFL pick if he, as expected, skips his senior season and comes out for next year's draft. He's the classic lead-by-example type, someone who tends to stay away from openly speaking his mind.
That all changed Sunday.
One day removed from the North Carolina loss, Phillips made an uncharacteristically emotional speech to teammates in a defensive meeting, reminding them of the problems that beset Miami in last year's 6-6 regular season and how they're on the cusp of making the same mistakes this year.
``Everybody's scared to make a mistake and they're not just turning it loose,'' Phillips said later. ``That's the biggest problem. Everyone's worried about making a mistake and not having fun. And that's definitely going to get flipped, right away.''
It better - or else.
At 1-1 in league play, Miami is already behind Virginia and Virginia Tech in the ACC's Coastal Division race. And the second half of the Hurricanes' schedule figures to be more difficult than the first six games, with trips to No. 21 Florida State, No. 12 Virginia Tech and No. 4 Boston College.
Shannon didn't come out and say so after his passionate speech, but his players did: It's now-or-never time for the Hurricanes.
``Losing is something the University of Miami is not used to,'' Phillips said. ``It's just not acceptable. Some of the guys, they just need to learn how to win, because that's something we don't know how to do right now.''

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