CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Damien Berry is in some select Miami company.
Only four Hurricanes — Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Frank Gore — have had three straight 100-yard rushing games in their Miami careers, an exclusive club that Berry joined last week.
Extending that streak isn't Berry's goal this weekend. Seeing another streak end, that's his only real priority.
Berry will aim for his fourth straight 100-yard game when the 25th-ranked Hurricanes (4-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) host North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) in a critical Coastal Division matchup on Saturday night. His bigger concern is making sure that the Tar Heels don't beat the Hurricanes for a fourth straight season — because if that happens, Miami's ACC hopes will be in serious trouble.
"The streak feels really good, but it'll feel even better knowing that I led my team to a BCS bowl," Berry said. "I want to be a part of that."
The Hurricanes won't secure a BCS spot Saturday night.
They could lose all realistic hope for one, however.
A second defeat in the division now would put Miami behind North Carolina in the standings, plus possibly leave the Hurricanes two games in the loss column back of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, depending on other results this weekend.
So it's easy to see why Berry and Miami have a now-or-never sense about them this week.
"Most definitely, it's just time for all the seniors to step up," Berry said. "We just need to go out there and play Hurricane football, plain and simple."
The numbers suggest Berry's doing his part.
He leads Miami in rushing with 539 yards, accounting for 56 percent of the Hurricanes' total yardage on the ground this season by himself. Berry — a converted defensive back — ran for 101 yards at Clemson on Oct. 2, posted exactly the same total a week later against Florida State, then had 111 yards last Saturday in a win over Duke.
"Man, Bill Clinton could run behind our line for that many yards," Berry said. "They're blocking great. They're doing phenomenal things."
Berry's numbers may be taking some pressure off quarterback Jacory Harris, who's been bothered by an array of minor injuries like a sore shoulder and groin. And his penchant for trying to run over defenders instead of around them — "Why waste time?" Berry asked, a sly grin on his face — has gotten the Miami sideline fired up more than once this season.
"When a running back runs that hard, it's fun blocking for a guy like that," Miami center Tyler Horn said.
It'll likely take some hard running for Berry to get anywhere on Saturday.
North Carolina couldn't stop anyone in the first two weeks of the season, giving up a combined 534 yards on the ground in losses to LSU and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels are 4-0 since — having allowed a total of 393 rushing yards in those four games, and only one runner (Virginia's Keith Payne, last week, thanks largely to a 49-yard run when the outcome was long decided) has topped the 55-yard mark in a game against North Carolina during that span.
"Whoever the running back is, whatever the scheme, our whole objective is to dominate the run, be physical up front and take away the lanes with our linebackers and safeties," said North Carolina safety Deunta Williams.
It hasn't been a flawless year for Berry.
He took the blame when Miami lost to Ohio State, after running the wrong route led to a key interception. And in the loss to Florida State, Berry fumbled the ball away early, a play that put the Hurricanes in a quick two-touchdown hole from which they never escaped.
It's those plays, Miami coach Randy Shannon said, that are driving Berry to keep doing more.
"He's running hard, running tough," Shannon said. "Damien's always been tough and hard-nosed. It's like I told him: If there's a 4-yard gain, protect the ball and don't make it a negative play. And he figures that he's a senior and seniors are supposed to lead this team. Guys feed off what he does in the game."