By COREY LONG Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The 18th-ranked Miami Hurricanes hope to redeem themselves when they face Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl.
A lopsided loss to end the regular season cost coach Manny Diaz’s team a spot in a major bowl. Instead, the Hurricanes (8-2) will finish their best season in years on a smaller stage on Tuesday night.
Rebounding to win a postseason game for the first time since 2016 will not be easy against an Oklahoma State offense that features one of the nation’s best running games, especially considering Miami yielded 554 yards on the ground to North Carolina in a 62-26 setback on Dec. 12.
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That loss likely kept the Hurricanes out of a New Year’s Six bowl game. Diaz said his team will be motivated to bounce back.
“It always starts with controlling the run,” Diaz said. “It’s simple, basic football. It’s a lot easier trying to hand the ball off than it is to drop back and throw it; a lot more things can go wrong when you go to throw the ball than run it.”
Oklahoma State (7-3) averaged 194.7 yards per game rushing this season.
Although the Cowboys will be without All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, who opted out the remainder of the season earlier this month, they have several options to fill the void against Miami.
Senior running back Dezmon Jackson likely will start. He rushed for 235 yards in a 50-44 victory over Texas Tech on Nov. 28. Freshman Dominic Richardson could get significant playing time, too, after running for 169 yards against Baylor this month.
“I’ve been very impressed with the other backs and at times not seen a dramatic difference — and that’s no offensive against Hubbard,” Diaz said. “But they have other guys that can make big plays happen as well. They want to pound the football and control the game.”
Oklahoma State is trying to finish on a positive note after starting the season 4-0 and climbing as high as No. 6 in the AP Top 25.
The Cowboys went 3-3 over their final six games and eliminated themselves from a possible New Year’s Six bowl consideration with a loss to TCU on Dec. 5.
Coach Mike Gundy said despite being without Hubbard, he believes the Cowboys are in position to close with a strong effort and earn the program’s fourth bowl win in five years.
A victory would likely lift Oklahoma State back into the AP rankings. The Cowboys landed at No. 21 in the final CFP poll of the season.
“I think if you watched our football team and how hard they played in the games and continued to compete with injuries and players that stopped playing during the year … we played really good football in our last game against Baylor,” Gundy said.
“I mean it’s been a very, very unusual season,” the Oklahoma State coach added, “and I don’t think there’s any question when you stick together as a group like we did that it does make your bond stronger.”