’Canes show­ing sec­ond-half met­tle

Ge­or­gia Tech will again chal­lenge UM

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - SPORTS - By Christy Cabr­era Chiri­nos Staff writer

CO­RAL GABLES — With 1:24 left in Tal­la­has­see last Satur­day, Malik Rosier trot­ted onto the field at Doak Camp­bell Sta­dium, looked at his team­mates and de­liv­ered a sim­ple mes­sage: The Hur­ri­canes had plenty of time to score, plenty of time to win and plenty of time to end a frus­trat­ing seven-game los­ing streak to the ri­val Semi­noles.

The Hur­ri­canes quar­ter­back de­liv­ered on his prom­ise, en­gi­neer­ing a drive that moved Mi­ami down­field and cul­mi­nated with Dar­rell Lang­ham catch­ing a 23-yard touch­down pass with six sec­onds left that lifted the Hur­ri­canes to an emo­tional 24-20 vic­tory over Flor­ida State.

It was as thrilling a fin­ish as Mi­ami has put to­gether since Corn El­der scored on an im­prob­a­ble eight-lat­eral kick­off re­turn at Duke in 2015.

But for those who have been watch­ing Hur­ri­canes foot­ball in re­cent sea­sons, it was more proof that in its sec­ond year un­der Mark Richt, Mi­ami has be­come a team that can’t be counted out af­ter first-half strug­gles and early deficits. The Hur­ri­canes no longer seem to be daunted by in-game ad­ver­sity.

Al­ready this year, Mi­ami has

over­come a lack­lus­ter first-half ef­fort and the loss of sev­eral key starters, in­clud­ing run­ning back Mark Wal­ton, re­ceiver Ah­m­mon Richards and right guard Navaughn Don­ald­son.

Against Toledo, the Hur­ri­canes ral­lied af­ter briefly los­ing Wal­ton to an in­jury and fall­ing be­hind at the half to even­tu­ally beat the Rock­ets, 52-30.

In four games this sea­son, Mi­ami has outscored op­po­nents 97-38 in the sec­ond half. They outscored op­po­nents by 136 points in the sec­ond half in 2016. That’s a marked im­prove­ment from 2015, when they outscored op­po­nents by a to­tal of 91 points in the sec­ond half and from 2014, when op­po­nents outscored them 166-151 in the third and fourth quar­ters.

Have Richt and his staff made bet­ter half­time ad­just­ments than Mi­ami’s pre­vi­ous staff, led by Al Golden? Has con­di­tion­ing im­proved? Have play­ers changed their ap­proach in games?

It’s been a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, play­ers and coaches said as the 11th-ranked Hur­ri­canes went through prepa­ra­tions for Satur­day’s Coastal Di­vi­sion matchup against Ge­or­gia Tech at Hard Rock Sta­dium.

“I think the only thing that changes is the way we ap­proach the game. We were in the same sit­u­a­tion two years ago, and the mind­set was just dif­fer­ent. There was not one sec­ond in this game [against FSU] that we sat and thought, ‘Oh my God, we might lose this game,’ ” se­nior left tackle Kc McDer­mott said. “Ev­ery time we headed for the bench — whether we had a suc­cess­ful drive or not — we sat there know­ing that we are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful and that we were go­ing to win this game. It’s def­i­nitely a men­tal­ity that has been in­stalled not just by the coaches but by the play­ers as well dur­ing sum­mer con­di­tion­ing and dur­ing the off­sea­son.”

Added Richt, “I would say, this year in par­tic­u­lar, I don’t know if we’ve made great ad­just­ments, but I know we don’t panic at half­time. I know we don’t start chang­ing ev­ery­thing at half­time. I think it’s more of a re­in­force­ment to do what we did all week — just re­lax a lit­tle bit, take care of busi­ness and do what you’re sup­posed to do.”

The Hur­ri­canes (4-0, 2-0 ACC) will likely have a chance to test their re­siliency yet again this week­end against the Yel­low Jack­ets (3-1, 2-0).

Ge­or­gia Tech puts to­gether ex­tended drives that can keep op­pos­ing of­fenses on the side­lines for long stretches. The Yel­low Jack­ets also have the na­tion’s sixth-ranked de­fense, al­low­ing op­po­nents an av­er­age of just 260 yards per game.

And Mi­ami en­ters the game banged up; Wal­ton is out for the year with an an­kle in­jury. The Hur­ri­canes will also be with­out Don­ald­son, cor­ner Dee Delaney and safety Sheldrick Red­wine. Richards’ sta­tus is in ques­tion as the re­ceiver con­tin­ues deal­ing with his nag­ging ham­string in­jury.

Satur­day, ad­ver­sity could come for Mi­ami well be­fore half­time. But the Hur­ri­canes en­ter the game know­ing that so far this sea­son, they’ve an­swered ev­ery chal­lenge, in­clud­ing an ex­tended Septem­ber lay­off be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

“Last year, we were just get­ting to­gether with a new staff and ev­ery­thing. Now we have con­fi­dence in each other and we have trust in each other, which al­lows us to play for each other,” line­backer Shaquille Quar­ter­man said. “Even if there are missed as­sign­ments, we fix ev­ery­thing with our ef­fort and our ef­fort is un­ques­tioned be­cause we just love each other so much. I re­ally play for my team­mates and they play for each other and we all play as a team.”

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