Coker, 'Canes relieved with win; plenty left to do

Updated: October 2, 2006, 7:56 PM ET
Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The work will continue this week at Miami. The Hurricanes freely acknowledge they are still error-plagued, hurting themselves with penalties, missed kicks, dropped balls and blown coverages.

Still, a measly one-point win over a big underdog made them feel much better.

No one in the Miami football camp would dare say that Saturday night's 14-13 win over Houston is a sign that the Hurricanes are rolling again, least of all coach Larry Coker. Yet at the same time, he sees a victory by any margin as a clear step in the right direction.

"They know what the score was and they know we won," Coker said Sunday morning. "We didn't play as well as we can, but that's OK. That's why we're here as coaches, to help get those things right. And when you win, it sets a more positive environment to correct that."

Miami (2-2) certainly could use a little less negativity these days.

The Hurricanes' win over the previously unbeaten Cougars did nothing to enhance their status in the AP Top 25 poll; Miami remained out of the rankings for the third straight week after seeing a run of 107 consecutive appearances in the poll end following its 31-7 loss at Louisville on Sept. 16.

Miami hadn't played since, until Saturday, when it rallied from a 13-7 third-quarter deficit and needed a huge fourth-and-inch conversion by quarterback Kyle Wright in the final minutes to secure the win.

On that fourth down, when Miami was on its own 38 and clinging to the 14-13 lead, Coker's first inclination was to punt. But he changed his mind after listening to his offensive players plead to remain on the field.

"Most of the time, I don't do that. Because players, when it's fourth-and-82, they always say 'we can make it,"' Coker said. "But I think it was the right thing to do."

Sure enough, it was. Wright got the first down, the 'Canes ran out the clock, and the win was sealed.

And that wasn't the only smart, gutsy call Coker made Saturday night.

Javarris James got his first start at running back and wound up with 148 yards and a touchdown in only his fourth collegiate game.

"Once I got in the flow I kept feeling it," James said. "And eventually I got on fire."

He and Charlie Jones got most of the carries for Miami, while Tyrone Moss -- the team's leading rusher last season -- spent virtually the entire game isolated from teammates, sitting alone on the bench with a towel draped over his head.

Coker said he decided "during the game" that Moss wouldn't play.

"Our two best backs now, we feel like, are Javarris James and Charlie Jones, so they'll get the bulk of the work," Coker said. "We need to play the best combinations we can to win games. This is not time to experiment."

Nor is it time to sulk, he added.

On a night where planes circled the Orange Bowl displaying banners with messages calling for his ouster -- Coker said he wasn't fazed by them -- his final pregame message to his team was simple: Relax, and enjoy.

"This is college football. It's the University of Miami. If you can't have fun playing college football here, you can't enjoy Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever we celebrate at Miami," Coker said. "I wanted them to relax a little bit and I think we were able to do that some."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press