CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -Even on the brink of a losing season, Miami coach Randy Shannon still has hope.
His team has lost four of its last five games, is coming off a 48-0 embarrassment against Virginia in its Orange Bowl finale, has plummeted down the Atlantic Coast Conference standings and still isn't bowl-eligible.
Not exactly what the first-year coach expected.
``You can't let it beat you up,'' Shannon said.
So now, Shannon - who was in a jovial mood Tuesday, despite all the recent woes - is presenting his team with a simple challenge: Forget the past, and find a way to go into Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday and beat No. 10 Virginia Tech.
A daunting test, for certain, considering Miami is a whopping 17-point underdog.
``Anything's possible. Joe Namath proved that in the (Super Bowl) when he predicted a win,'' Shannon said. ``I'm not going to quit on this team. I'm not going to sit up here and let you tell me that we should quit.''
Players feel the same way.
``If you don't, then everything's really going to go in the tank,'' senior quarterback Kyle Wright said. ``We've still got two games left. Potentially three. We can come out here and go through the motions for two weeks and not give a crap, but I know I have a lot more pride in what I do and guys on this team have a lot more pride in what they do.''
There's no more chance of Miami winning the ACC title. The 'Canes will almost certainly go the entire season without ever being ranked for the first time since 1979. Message boards are howling with talk from anonymous bitter fans, incessantly regurgitating every problem that's plaguing this team.
Still, the stunned Hurricanes say those are no reasons to give up on what's left of the season now.
``I'm not worrying about getting any accolades or championship rings or Heisman Trophies or anything like that,'' defensive back Chavez Grant said. ``I just want to win games. I still feel like it can turn around. I still feel like we can win games. But does it blow my mind? No, because I live in reality and this is our reality right now.''
That reality isn't exactly a fun place, either.
Miami ranks 10th in the 12-team ACC in total offense, sixth in total defense, last in passing yards per game, 10th in scoring, eighth in both kickoff and punt returns, eighth in scoring defense ... the list goes on and on, and what all that shows is the Hurricanes aren't truly dominant in any area.
Stats aside, though, Shannon continues to have the belief that Miami can break through, win that sixth game of the season and send its 21 seniors to a bowl game.
``Let's go out there and have fun these last two games and let's enjoy it,'' Shannon said, recalling what he told his team in its first meeting of the week after the Virginia debacle. ``Don't put all the pressure on yourselves of saying we've got win the ACC, we need this game, we need this victory.''

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