allCanesBlog guest columnist Scott Alan Salomon talks about Miami’s spirited finish at Duke, where the Hurricanes stand after a win in Larry Scott’s first outing and the challenged of possibly being Brad Kaaya-less again, with Malik Rosier getting his second consecutive start under center.

After Saturday night’s heart-stopping win over Duke that catapulted the Canes right back into the thick of things in the ACC Coastal Division, they look to face a Virginia team that has always caused them fits. They are working hard to make sure that they do not have a let-down after the show stopping miracle that they pulled off on Halloween night.

“Take it back to Sunday, I think the guys came in with a lot of energy. Of course, naturally, that’s what you hope to get from them – a real positive attitude about moving forward. They did a good job,” said interim head coach Larry Scott. “They played hard, they played with the passion we wanted, they played with the energy we wanted. Now we have to challenge them to raise that to another level. We’re going to continue to press that envelope, and take it as far as we can.”

It is interesting that the Atlantic Coast Conference suspended the officials from the Miami-Duke game due to the last call of the game when Corn Elder ran a million yards to score the game-winning touchdown, but they went ahead and voted Elder as the Specialist of the Week for his efforts. On one hand they slapped the officials for not calling the play dead, but on the other hand they celebrated the touchdown and praised Elder for his efforts. This is another example of the world taking on the Canes and looking to keep a good team down, but also shows the ignorance of the conference.

Did they also not see the fact that when Duke allegedly scored with six seconds left the quarterback was nowhere near the end zone and that the ball never crossed the plane. There were so many things in the game that just made you ask yourself if the ACC wanted Duke to win the game at any cost.

The Canes took Monday off and dedicated the day to rest and to academics. They also needed to get their blood pressure down from the eight-lateral play on Saturday night that delivered the big win at Duke.

“Monday was a day off for them. They needed that. They needed an academic day. They needed a day where they could get their bodies healed a little bit. That was a physical game – a physical, four-quarter game,” Scott said. “And it was emotional. It was very emotional…a lot went on from that standpoint. Having yesterday off, it was a real good day for them to just heal and take care of academics and get done what they needed to as students.”

Scott likes the way they came back on Tuesday and felt that there was an extra jump in their step and that they are ready to face the rest of their schedule.

“They had a great attitude. They were alert, had a lot of good questions, and they know what we need to do in that area. They were fired up about that opportunity. From there we went into group meetings – offense and defense – laying out the plan for how to attack Virginia this week,” Scott said.

“There were a few changes made to the practice schedule, by just moving some things around to being energy. One of the things we want to make sure we’re always doing is starting fast, playing physical and finishing fast. That’s the way we’ve structured the practice schedule. We moved some special teams around and made it flow more like a game, so that things don’t catch guys off guard or by surprise – some sudden situations we’re throwing into practice that you have to be prepared to handle as they come up, as you make a push like this for the final four games. They were juiced, they had a lot of energy.”

One problem that the Canes do have to face today is determining who is going to play quarterback. Brad Kaaya missed the Duke game due to concussion protocols and Malik Rosier, who filled in admirably in Kaaya’s absence, stayed in North Carolina overnight for tests due to an upper body injury that he sustained, but played through, in the first quarter.

“Brad was out [there] today. He did some things with the team. He’s still questionable [for Saturday]. This is one of the final pieces to the protocol with that. He was out, did some things, looked good, but the doctors are evaluating that situation closely. We’ll follow their feedback from this afternoon when they have a chance to look at how he did and visit with him,” Scott said. “We’ll go from there. Malik was there today too. He was out at practice today. He did a little bit, still getting through some soreness. He’s still listed questionable as well right now, until we figure out where he is. We should know better definitely by tomorrow on Malik.”

If Kaaya cannot go, but Rosier is cleared, Scott is confident in what he has in Rosier and he believes that the redshirt freshman has another victory in his bag of tricks.

“I think the biggest thing for Malik was that was a heck of a learning experience. In the first week he had a chance to play against Clemson, he wasn’t prepared…now he understands that everyone has to be prepared as a starter,” Scott said. “That’s the biggest thing Malik got from that. I think he understands the role is really defined by preparation. Just be prepared all the time, compete in practice, take advantage of every rep that you’re given – whether you’re splitting reps or taking the majority of the reps with the first team or second team, or however we slice it up – make sure you’re ready for your opportunity when you do get out there. And you have to demonstrate that performance in practice. He played well this week for us, so we’re excited about his progress. But we want everybody to be prepared to play.”

Should the top two signal-callers both have to miss the game against Virginia, the disaster plan would be for Vincent Testaverde to see his first extended action as a Miami Hurricane. It would bring number 14 back onto the field for the first time since the late 80’s when his famous Heisman Trophy-winning father wore the jersey and led Miami to a national title appearance.

“[Vincent] Testaverde would probably be the next guy to go in. We’ve still got that position kind of competitive. We’re repping everybody right now. Evan Shirreffs is another guy [getting reps] there too,” Scott said. “That’s the decision that we’re making as we pair down the reps, as we see where guys’ health is and see where we’re at.”

Another guy that is questionable is Chad Thomas. Scott said that he is questionable for Saturday and that he might not be able to go.

“Chad is just a little sore, a little banged up right now…he’s questionable [for Saturday] with his health. Chad knows that he wants to play,” Scott said. “We’re going to treat him, we’re going to take care of him, make sure we’re smart with him and get him well. I anticipate he’ll do a little bit more tomorrow, then he’ll do a little bit more Thursday with our walk-through, mentally. I think he’ll be ready to go.”

When it comes down to it, Scott has been preaching that football is supposed to be fun and that is why the guys continue to play the game that they love. After the big win over Duke, when they faced so much adversity all week, he just wants the kids to have even more fun this week against Virginia.

“Wasn’t that fun? How about that? I said that to them too. I said, ‘Guys, when did football become not fun? When did it become a chore instead of a release,” Scott asked rhetorically. “I said that to them and they looked at me kind of funny, they shook their heads and it puzzled them. I said, ‘Why is that puzzling?’ Let’s just go have fun.’

“Saturday is [when] you’re prepared to go unleash and let it rip, and go have fun. I think that’s what they did. To make that reference for them, I said, ‘Do you remember when you were in third game, the bell would blow for physical education, and somehow like Superman you were already in your P.E. outfit? You were already ready to go,” Scott said. “That’s the kind of enthusiasm and passion we need. That’s the kind of energy you need to have to play this game at the level we need you to play it at, especially at the University of Miami.’ That’s what it is. It was fun.”

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