CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It's already been a rough week for Miami.
Coaches skipped sleep after Miami's charter flight landed early Sunday morning following the 41-31 loss to Nebraska, choosing instead to head into their offices and get to work for several hours. Later Sunday, the university announced that coach Al Golden is dealing with a family medical emergency that would necessitate him rearranging his weekly schedule.
And things wouldn't figure to get much easier anytime soon.
A critical game for Miami's Atlantic Coast Conference hopes is looming, with the Hurricanes (2-2, 0-1 ACC) set to get a visit from reigning Coastal Division champion Duke (4-0, 0-0) on Saturday night. The Blue Devils have 14 wins since the start of last season; only nine other teams have more during that stretch.
Saturday's game is the first of six that Miami will have against Coastal Division opponents this season. But to lose a second conference game already would put the Hurricanes in big trouble in the league race.
"It's always tough," offensive coordinator James Coley said of the game-week grind. "And then you add on anything that's off-the-field, it complicates things, right? So it's that much harder."
Golden addressed reporters on a conference call Monday, briefly mentioning the personal matter and making it clear that he wants the details kept private. He was seen in the football facility minutes before the start of a weather-affected practice Tuesday, though was not available for the post-workout interview session with requested players and assistants.
Still, the Hurricanes insist that it's business-as-usual this week.
"Al's a professional," defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said. "He's going through something right now but he does a great job of being able to continue to get the message across to the team, be positive with the team, talk about the things that we did well, the things we've got to do better, really be consistent."
D'Onofrio has been extremely close with Golden for many years, and said the undisclosed issue is weighing upon him as well.
"There's no doubt," D'Onofrio said. "But at the end of the day, this is our job and there's a lot of people that depend on us."
Golden is expected to meet with reporters on Wednesday. There currently are no plans for him to miss the game against Duke or to be away from his team for any extended periods before that contest.
Meanwhile, there's much for Miami to clean up before facing a Duke team that scored 48 points and ran for a whopping 358 yards against the Hurricanes a year ago.
Much of what Nebraska did that worked last week is what Miami's struggling defense will face again this week. And that's on top of the fact that Duke already has Miami's number, as proven by the Blue Devils scoring 93 points against the Hurricanes in the last two seasons. Only Syracuse (with a total of 99 points in 1997 and 1998) ever scored more against a Miami team in a two-year span.
D'Onofrio's scheme has been the source of much debate in Miami over the past four years, the complaints on social media ramping up again after Nebraska ran for 343 yards — 6.4 per carry — last week.
"Talent is not enough," D'Onofrio said. "Execution is what you need."