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Hurricanes weathering early tests

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - At least two gentlemen showed up to LandShark Stadium on Thursday with the University of Miami logo shaved into their chest hair. By Saturday, the waxing menu at every spa on South Beach will look like this:

Bikini - $30

Brazilian - $50

Da U - $75

Why the extra charge? Because in the ultimate bandwagon sports town, the Hurricanes are so hot right now. They followed last week's nationally televised win at Florida State with a nationally televised, 33-17 (RECAP | BOX) wrecking of Georgia Tech that further illustrated how much this team has grown and how much some fresh coordinator blood can rejuvenate a program.

A few weeks ago, the Hurricanes and Coach Randy Shannon were supposed to be lucky if they split their first four games. If they lost all four, Shannon was almost certainly gone. Now, if Miami wins at Virginia Tech next week, we can officially start talking magic numbers for clinching the ACC Coastal Division title. A week later, we might see a situation where the only coach on the field in danger of starting the season 2-2 is Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

"A lot of people expected us to go 0-4," Miami strong safety Randy Phillips said. "I don't know what they were thinking. They hadn't seen this team play. They hadn't seen our offense. We're ready. We're ready for anyone. We embraced the schedule, and we're still embracing it."

So what, exactly, is different about these Hurricanes? Everything. "Different team," Phillips said. "Different mentality. Different scheme."

Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is a former Philadelphia Eagles assistant who as a head coach led UMass to the 1998 Division I-AA national title. If a clandestine, planned-but-never-consummated August 2000 meeting with then-Rutgers athletic director Bob Mulcahy had never become public knowledge in November 2000, Whipple probably would be coaching the Scarlet Knights instead of Greg Schiano.

Instead, Whipple is designing plays for sophomore flamethrower Jacory Harris and a group of linemen that refuses to allow defenders to even breathe on their quarterback. Georgia Tech had no sacks, no hurries and no chance. Harris carved up the Yellow Jackets, completing 20 of 25 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. "They're taking [Whipple's] mentality," Shannon said. "Whipple is a guy who feels like he can score 100 points every game."

Harris has an almost blind faith in Whipple's schemes. "I don't really recognize who I'm throwing to," Harris said. "I just know that this route against this coverage is going to be open."

That isn't to say Harris doesn't occasionally freelance. On one third-quarter play, he noticed that the planned route for 6-foot-8, 260-pound tight end Jimmy Graham was covered. He hoped Graham would notice the large area of open space that included a portion of the end zone and adjust. Graham, in his first year of football after four years on the Canes basketball team -- he once held Tyler Hansbrough to eight points and four rebounds -- remembered that in basketball, a shooter without the ball should float to an open space. He figured the same rule applied in football, so he tweaked his route. Harris hit him for his first career touchdown.

The part that should scare the ACC is that Whipple apparently has more tricks in his bag. Phillips said the new OC whipped up some mindbending stuff in spring practice, but no opponent has film of it yet. Harris confirmed that some of the playbook remains unused. "Mark Whipple is a very creative man," Harris said. "He has a lot in store for this season. I guess you'll have to sit back and watch what happens."

If Whipple is the mad scientist, first-year defensive coordinator John Lovett is the pragmatist. He knows he has faster players than anyone else, and he intends to use that to Miami's advantage by designing elegantly simple schemes that put those athletes in a position to make plays. Of course, most of those schemes go out the window against Georgia Tech, an option team that rolled up 472 rushing yards in a 41-23 win against Miami last year in Atlanta. Phillips, who was injured and missed the game, couldn't bear to watch. "Actually, I turned the game off at halftime last year," he said. "I was so disgusted."

But the Canes began working on the option in spring practice. They continued in preseason camp. Then, after beating Florida State, they spent nine more days drilling these mantras into their heads. If you're assigned to the dive back, hit the dive back. If you're assigned to the quarterback, hit the quarterback. If you're assigned to the pitch man, hit the pitch man. "We wanted to go out and work hard and hit 'em and hit 'em and hit 'em and make them quit," Phillips said. "It looks like we did that. A lot of their key guys went out of the game. I don't know why."

Tech B-back Jonathan Dwyer (shoulder) left the game in the second quarter and didn't return. Tech finished with just 159 yards rushing, and the Yellow Jackets had to abandon their style once Miami built a 24-3 third-quarter lead. "We pretty much got beat in every facet of the game," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.

The Canes would prefer everyone continue to doubt them, but two nationally-televised wins will make that impossible. Plus, if the Dolphins lose to the Colts on Monday and fall to 0-2, Da U will be the sole focus of South Florida's sports energy. So if you haven't made your appointment for your U-wax or your Sebastian the Ibis tattoo, hurry. The bandwagon is filling up fast.

"People who think we were going to go 0-4 or that we have a soft team or that we ain't ready, they'd better get ready for us," Phillips said. "The whole world, because we ain't playing. We're good. Everyone's seeing that. We ain't cocky, but we know what we have going on here. ... The University of Miami is back."

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