Coker says Hurricanes' morale great despite close game at Duke

Sunday, October 22nd 2006, 1:20 pm
By: News On 6

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) _ Miami coach Larry Coker said Sunday he feels the Hurricanes' morale is still strong, despite a near-loss against winless Duke and lingering fallout from an embarrassing on-field fight.

Miami _ which had 13 players suspended for their involvement in the Oct. 14 fight against Florida International _ beat Duke 20-15 on Saturday, barely outlasting a Blue Devils team that entered the game ranked 116th out of 117 Division I-A teams in total offense.

The Hurricanes avoided the upset when safety Willie Cooper intercepted Thaddeus Lewis' pass in the end zone and ran out the clock with an 85-yard sprint to the Duke 15 yard-line.

Miami (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) now has a four game win streak after starting the season 1-2.

``As you look around the country, a 20-15 win is a good win on the road, especially with all the adversity that we experienced in the last week, minus several players,'' Coker said.

Twelve of the suspended players are expected to return for Saturday's conference game at Georgia Tech. Defensive back Anthony Reddick remains on indefinite suspension.

Coker said the team discussed its mission to keep winning on the flight back home from Durham, N.C.

``Morale is great, we are right where we want to be,'' Coker said.

``Not being disrespectful to anybody, the focus will be different for Georgia Tech,'' he added. ``We have a better team than Duke that's why we won. Obviously they did a great job and gave themselves a chance to win. But we're going to have to be in our best and play our best to beat a team like Georgia Tech.''

Coker said he is still upset about the national criticism directed at his program following the brawl against Florida International. The Golden Panthers, which were idle on Saturday, suspended 16 players for their road game at Alabama October 28 and dismissed defensive backs Marshall McDuffie and Chris Smith from the team.

``Every day we move past the incident the better,'' Coker said. ``It was a draining thing on everybody that loves this program and the players we are trying to recruit.

``To hear some of the malicious comments that were totally out of character and wrong _ about thugs _ you hear that enough, yeah it bothers you.''