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Duke beats Carolina, heads to ACC Title game; UM shifts focus to final exams, bowl practices, recruiting

Al Golden said he wasn't going to lose his mind Saturday scoreboard watching or "become a slave to the TV for seven hours" to see if the University of Miami would get the help it needed to reach next weekend's ACC championship game.

Duke made sure the agonizing only lasted three and a half hours for everyone else who bleeds orange and green.

The Blue Devils, who beat Miami for the first time since 1976 two weeks ago in Durham, punched their ticket to Charlotte and a date with second-ranked Florida State Saturday afternoon thanks to a late 27-yard field goal in a 27-25 win at North Carolina.

Had Duke lost and Virginia upset rival Virginia Tech, UM would have began preparing for a rematch with the Seminoles Monday. Instead, the focus for the Hurricanes (9-3) now shifts to final exams, a few days off and the team's first trip to a bowl game since Golden was hired in December 2010.

> Golden said "it's tough to quantify" what missing 30 to 35 December practices under self-imposed bowl bans did to hurt the program over the last two years and he's definitely looking forward to having them this year.

"Having all the [recruits] in South Florida come watch bowl practice and watch us operate and be around our team and players," will be big for the program moving forward, Golden said. Getting to 10 victories with a bowl win -- at likely either the Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta (Dec. 31) or the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando (Dec. 28) -- is also important, Golden said.

> What did Golden like and not like about Friday's effort in chilly Pittsburgh?

"The kids competed; they had a great attitude," Golden said. "It meant something to them which is so important. I think we’ve all seen instances where it’s like, all right, nobody cares. We’re not in this bowl game or that bowl game. Or we’re letting external influences impact our judgment or our attitude or how we play. That didn’t happen [Friday], which was awesome. They wanted to finish on a positive note."

Golden cited Miami's continuing woes on third down (UM was 4 of 11 on offense; 6 of 14 on defense), special teams breakdowns on kick return and kickoff coverage, and a few instances of poor tackling as negatives in the Pitt win. He did, though, credit linebacker Denzel Perryman, safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush and cornerback Antonio Crawford as having better tackling performances Friday.

"There are so many things we have to fix and continue to fix," Golden said. "One of our goals in the postseason is clearly to push a lot of young players along that have not had the benefit of this time of year -- to be pushed at this time of year."

> Golden said UM came out healthy from the Pitt game and he expects cornerback Ladarius Gunter and defensive end Dwayne Hoilett, who missed Friday's game, to return for bowl practices. Linebacker Alex Figueroa, who has missed UM's last three games, could return but must be cleared by a doctor.

"If we were playing next Saturday Fig would not be ready," Golden said. "There’s a good chance for the bowl game. That would be awesome for him and great for him to have that opportunity."

> Golden said freshman running back Gus Edwards is "practicing better and starting to become more comfortable" in Miami's system. Edwards ran 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown Friday.

"We can’t live in the past but there’s a young man that missed however many practices in training camp, a good bunch of them," Golden said. "Gus is a young man that is really going to continue to improve. He should be fresh. His play count is  not as high as Brandon Linder or Clive Walford or some of those guys. He should bring some energy to us and we expect him to continue to improve.

"He’s got deceptive speed but I thought he did a great job with his vision and his lateral cuts [Friday]. He really made the right cuts. He stayed with his cuts, he didn’t freelance at all. And when he got to the second level he made some guys miss. We’ve got to continue to get his pads down and get that stiff arm going but we’re hopeful that Gus will continue to improve."

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