But the undefeated and defending national champion University of Miami Hurricanes- owners of the nation’s current longest streak and one victory away from setting a new school record for consecutive wins- are not making too much noise about the lofty status that awaits them with another ‘W’ this Saturday afternoon, Nov. 2, against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Jonathan Vilma doesn’t want to hear about it and is only concerned with improving as a football team- especially on run defense. Brett Romberg rather wait until his career is over to reflect on the accomplishment. Coach Larry Coker says another victory will just get the Hurricanes closer to their ultimate goal- that national championship.
Regardless, the 7-0 and top-ranked (AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls) Hurricanes are gunning for their 30th triumph in a row and with another victory would shatter the mark of 29 established from 1990-93.
The Hurricanes current win streak began at West Virginia in the third game of the 2000 season. The last time the Hurricanes lost was at Washington a week before facing the Mountaineers. Miami, under coach Dennis Erickson at the time, started a 29-game winning streak at Texas Tech on Oct. 27, 1990 a week after losing at Notre Dame. That streak carried over into the second month of the 1993 season before the Hurricanes suffered a 28-10 defeat at Florida State.
Pretty amazing. But the Hurricanes apparently have bigger things weighing on their minds. Miami, still second (6.69) in the BCS standings behind the Oklahoma Sooners, is intent on winning the rest of their games and claiming one of two spots in the national-title Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona on Jan. 3.
“This is just another game,” says Vilma, who leads the Hurricanes with 69 tackles. “We’re not worried about any streak right now. We’re just focused on Rutgers and getting another win. Getting a win at Rutgers is going to put us a little closer to playing for the national championship. And that’s all that matters at this point. Anything else doesn’t matter.”
“Obviously, it (the streak) will be something that we can reflect on later on after our careers are over. But if we start putting all the focus on how many games in a row we can win then we’re going to be in serious trouble.”
Vilma added that despite all the media attention and fan-interest surrounding the winning streak the Hurricanes have spent little time, if any, talking about it. The junior middle linebacker said that Coker has not brought it up at all with the team.
“We know it’s something that’s there, but we don’t discuss it. This football team has a lot of other things to worry about.”
Just like most of his players, Coker has never tasted defeat since taking over the Hurricanes at the start of the 2001 season. Coker has a 19-0 record at Miami, the best start for any first-time head coach in the ‘modern era’ of college football for wins without a tie or loss. Barry Switzer guided Oklahoma to a 21-0-1 start from 1973-74.
The start for Coker is the best by a first-time Division I head coach since Walter Camp led Yale to 28 consecutive victory in the late 1800’s. The last time Coker lost a game as a head coach was in 1978 at Claremore High School in Oklahoma.
But Coker agrees with Vilma.
“I’ll mean a lot if we’re one of two teams in Phoenix- actually Tempe, Arizona- playing for the national title,” said Coker. “You know I’ll have my 12-year old grandson at the game with me and it’s something that I can share with him down the road. It’s an honor to even be mentioned with some of those Miami teams, but it’s not something we’re focused on. All I know is this ‘If we win all our games, we’ll be in position to win a national championship.’ I really believe that.”
Senior offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli also said that the winning streak hasn’t served anything positive for the Hurricanes. Haji-Rasouli wants to keep winning, but only to get to the national championship game.
“That should be the only thing guys should be worried with right now,” said Haji-Rasouli. “But it’s difficult sometimes to get everybody thinking on the same page. Some of the young guys wearing (national title) rings don’t know how hard you have to work to get one of those.”
The Hurricanes are concentrating on winning the rest of their games. But it has nothing to do with any kind of streaks. Miami barely held off Notre Dame (6.99) in the BCS standings released earlier in the week. But with eight Division I teams still undefeated, there is still a possibility that the Hurricanes could be left out of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 Fiesta Bowl even if they win the rest of their games.
The Fighting Irish, coming off an impressive victory over Florida State on Saturday, are less than a third of a point behind the Hurricanes. Oklahoma, ranked second behind Miami in the AP and coaches’ polls, have a form hold on the BCS lead with 3.33 points. But the final BCS rankings (Dec. 8) could again create tons of controversy if four or more teams are still undefeated by then.
It would appear that Notre Dame could pass Miami in the BCS standings this coming Monday with a victory over Boston College this weekend because the Hurricanes play Big East doormat Rutgers. Although Notre Dame still has Rutgers and Navy remaining on their schedule and the Hurricanes have yet to play undefeated Virginia Tech.
The mediocre seasons being put together by both Florida State and Florida- Miami opponents- could also work against the Hurricanes in the strength of schedule category when the time comes to decide the No. 1 and No. 2 BCS teams.
Still, Coker remains confident that the system will workout by the end of the season.
“It’s still fairly early,” Coker said. “The system is designed to try to put the best two teams together at the end of the year. I know we’re talking about all these undefeated teams. But as it all transpires, it seems to be those losses come in. I know the last two years we’ve only had one undefeated team at the end of the year.”
LIPS SEALED: The Hurricanes run defense allowed 296 yards against Florida State and 363 yards against West Virginia in a 40-23 victory on Saturday, creating plenty of critics in the last several weeks that have questioned defensive coordinator Randy Shannon’s ability to adjust and defensive schemes.
But Vilma is tired about the whole thing.
“You guys worry about that stuff,” said Vilma, when asked about the Hurricanes recent problems in stopping the run. “I’m not worried about the run defense. We just have to tackle better and hold our ground. That’s it. I’m not going to bother with that anymore.”
Said Coker, about Avon Cobourne and the 363 rushing yards West Virginia gained Saturday: “Just because a running back makes a run doesn’t mean the defense is bad. You have to understand that great running backs are going to make runs. One thing is if the tackles are being double-teamed then the ends have to make plays. We haven’t done enough of that. The ends could be playing better.”