MIAMI -- The Canes are in Raleigh today to face the red-hot Wolfpack and are minus leading receiver Aldarius Johnson, who was suspended for violating a team rule and did not make the trip. The Canes are obviously playing for a better bowl game today. But it's N.C. State who has a lot more to play for -- they need a win to look up a bowl trip.
I'm here at home preparing to go watch Frank Haith's team take on Stetson at 3:30 p.m. at the BankUnited Center. But I'll be along for the ride in Raleigh, providing my thoughts on the game as it progresses. Our Susan Miller Degnan is up there checking in with me and says the skies are dark and the stadium lights are on at Carter-Finley Stadium. Let's hope that doesn't set the tone for Randy Shannon's team, which obviously doesn't want to end what has been a good season with back-to-back losses before bowl season.
The key to the game today is simple...
> Stop Russell Wilson. Bobby Bowden called him the mother of all running backs. Miami has to redeem itself after its debacle in Atlanta last week.
> Remember, DeMarcus Van Dyke will get his first start today opposite freshman Brandon Harris, getting his first start in over a month, at cornerback.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS/THOUGHTS
> Derron Thomas starts the game in the backfield -- call it a senior deal. Miami's offense fizzles and goes three-and-out on its first drive. Should we be surprised? The good news: Matt Bosher gets off a 61-yard punt to pin N.C. State deep in its own territory.
> Russell Wilson has turned out to be everything we've heard he was. He absolutely shredded UM on the Wolfpack's opening drive and then tossed a touchdown pass to Andre Brown with 7:42 left. It capped a 96-yard scoring drive. I smell a lot of trouble for UM today. This could get real ugly. N.C. State 7, UM 0.
> Patrick Nix isn't helping his cause. Another 3-and-out for the Canes on their second possession. Robert Marve tried to go deep to Sam Shields and he couldn't come down with the catch. The ball actually was thrown well. Shields has to snatch that ball out of the air.
> The Canes finally get off the field on third down after DeMarcus Van Dyke bats a pass away on N.C. State's second series. You got to give UM's secondary a little credit. They are getting very little support from the pass rush. It's tough to cover guys for 10 seconds.
> Someone blew some major coverage for N.C. State and the Canes are happy to take advantage. Dedrick Epps finds himself wide open and makes a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch for a 69-yard catch-and-run from Robert Marve. And just like that, the game is tied with 3:50 left in the first quarter. UM 7, N.C. State 7.
> Brandon Harris has finally made his first real big play as a Cane. N.C. State tries to run a trick play having Andre Brown throw the football and Harris steps in front of a Wolfpack receiver and returns it 24 yards to the N.C. State 45. Big play for Brandon.
> Javarris James makes his first appearance of the game on 4th down and 1 and picks up the first down. Maybe someone finally heard your complaints! Until then, we'd been seeing Graig Cooper on short running situations. Here's the best stat Baby J has -- only one carry for negative yardage this season.
> Baby J takes three consecutive carries and his last -- a dive into the end zone -- puts UM up with 13:09 left. Javarris has 4 carries for 42 yards. UM 14, N.C. State 7.
> Shades of Donovan McNabb, Russell Wilson just ran circles quite literally around Miami's defense, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown run with 10:44 left. He looked like Michael Vick in John Madden football 2003. Amazing. Miami's defensive line missed at least four opportunities to get to him. UM 14, N.C. State 14.
> Jacory Harris comes in on the fourth series (as usual) and moves UM downfield. But then, he makes a bad decision, trying to force the ball into triple coverage to Richard Gordon and DeAndre Morgan caught the tipped pass in the end zone for an interception.
> Miami's defense finally makes a play when Marcus Forston sacks Wilson on third down and five. And then, Sam Shields -- who had been playing great -- crashes into N.C. State's punter, giving N.C. State a first down. Tough play. Shields was trying to make a play and instead of getting flagged for running into the kicker, he gets roughing.
> Another great play by Marcus Forston keeps N.C. State out of the end zone. Forston just gets enough of Wilson on third down to sack him and forces the Wolfpack to settle for a field goal with 1:47 left. N.C. State 17, UM 14.
> By the way, it looks like defensive end Marcus Robinson suffered a groin strain on the previous series.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS/THOUGHTS
> Miami's defense just can't get a handle on Russell Wilson. Now, all of his first half running has opened up the passing lanes. The Canes were lucky Marcus Forston and company were able to hold the Wolfpack to a field goal on their opening possession. N.C. State 20, UM 14.
> Javarris James scored his second touchdown of the game giving Miami its second lead of the game. The Hurricanes ran the ball six times on the seven-play scoring drive, sprinkling a little Baby J with a little Super Coop. UM 21, N.C. State 20.
> So much for that lead. N.C. State takes less than a minute to answer Miami's scoring drive as Wilson carves Brandon Harris and the secondary. N.C. State 28, UM 21.
> We keep forgetting how valuable Travis Benjamin is to the return game. Graig Cooper, Brandon Harris and company have done a good job filling in. But Benjamin is the game-breaker who can make the difference in a game like this.
> With 8:57 left to play N.C. State might have sealed this one up with a 42-yard field goal. Miami's last two possessions have gone nowhere and if the Canes don't score on this next possession, we're probably going to be headed to San Francisco next month for the Emerald Bowl.
> No Canes comeback today. Jacory Harris gets picked for the second time with 5:23 left and it basically seals the deal for N.C. State, which basically has to run out the clock to hold on for the victory.