CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) – Duke Johnson’s season is over. Miami’s season is not.
In simplest terms, that’s reality for the 14th-ranked Hurricanes. The undefeated record is gone, their best player’s right ankle is broken and neither will be back until 2014. Johnson will have surgery in the coming days, school officials said Sunday, one day after he got tackled on a fourth-down play that ended both a Miami drive and their star’s season.
“I’m disappointed for Randy because he was really starting to understand how to be a good running back,” Miami coach Al Golden saidSunday, referring to Johnson by his given name. “He was really starting to convert talent to skill.”
So on Sunday, the regrouping from both a 41-14 loss to No. 3 Florida State, and the loss of their top threat was already underway in earnest for the Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who will meet Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) this weekend in a game that could go a long way toward deciding the league’s Coastal Division race.
Golden tried to keep his players out of the team facilities for the most part Sunday, saying that at this point in the season he wants them to rest both their minds and bodies whenever possible. Practice resumes Monday morning, when the matchup with the Hokies – not the loss to the Seminoles, and not any looming surgery – will start becoming the focus.
“There are no excuses in this building today,” Golden said. “We’ve got to get it fixed.”
By that, Golden meant the problems on the field, and not his running back’s right ankle. Miami was down 21-14 at the half against the Seminoles, then got overmatched in the second half. The Hurricanes’ defense, which has been vastly improved this year over 2012, allowed Florida State to convert a whopping 11 times in 15 third-down opportunities.
And there’s no time to lick wounds, either. Virginia Tech hasn’t lost consecutive games to Miami in more than a decade, and the Hokies remain very much in the Coastal mix as well. The Hokies will be facing a Miami offense that was already without wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee) and now has Dallas Crawford in the feature-back role with Johnson sidelined.
“There’s a lesson in every loss.. Learn from it.. and move on,” Crawford wrote on Twitter early Sunday.
Once again, the buzzword in Miami is adversity. After the NCAA scandal surrounding a former booster ended last month, the Hurricanes hoped the worst was over. Instead, now a new problem arises.
Johnson was handling the season-ending injury in stride, talking to teammates Saturday night about how they still have things to play for this season – including a chance to win the Coastal. Golden said the interactions he, doctors and trainer Vinny Scavo were having with Johnsonon Sunday were positive. And Johnson’s family said Sunday that, all things considered, the situation could have been worse.
“Duke is in good spirits,” his mother, Cassandra Prophet-Mitchell, wrote on Facebook.
Johnson was hurt late in the third quarter, when Miami was trying to climb out of a 35-14 deficit. It appeared the Hurricanes changed the fourth-and-2 play at the line, and Johnson got hit near the line of scrimmage. His right leg bent awkwardly on the tackle, and then a mass of bodies – both Seminoles and Hurricanes – tumbled over him.
The tackle was clean. The luck was awful.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” Golden said.
Johnson had 97 yards against Florida State, giving him 920 for the season. He is the second player in Miami history with consecutive seasons of at least 900 yards rushing; Edgerrin James is the other.
Crawford, Eduardo Clements, Gus Edwards, Walter Tucker and Mo Hagens will all get more carries now, Golden said. Combined, that group has 621 yards this season – 299 less than Johnson – though Crawford does lead the team with nine rushing touchdowns.
“As a team, we have to move forward,” Golden said. “And we’re going to have to move forward quickly because of this team we’re going to play.”