MIAMI (AP) – At a practice this week, Miami coach Larry Coker asked if anyone was emotionally drained and didn’t want to continue playing this season.

He said it would be understandable. He also said anyone feeling that way should step aside.

When no one left, the Hurricanes started prepping for tonight’s game against No. 18 Boston College. The scenario couldn’t be simpler for Miami: Win and go to a bowl; lose and take off the pads until spring practice.

“We’ve got a handful of guys that want this season to be over,” Miami quarterback Kirby Freeman said. “We’ve got a handful of guys that want to go out with a bang. So I’m trying to get the people in the right group, to get into this game, a night game that’s going to be watched around the nation.”

The game will be played on the 22nd anniversary of Boston College’s last win in the series, the “Hail Flutie” contest where Eagles’ quarterback Doug Flutie hit Gerard Phelan with a 48-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game to lift BC to a 47-45 victory – one of the greatest finishes in college football history.

Miami has won 14 straight against Boston College since that game, but the Hurricanes have a four-game losing streak entering the game. It’s Miami’s longest slump since 1997 – the last season the Hurricanes didn’t play in a bowl game.

Still, the Eagles worry.

“It’s the last home game there,” Eagles offensive lineman Josh Beekman said. “Whatever happened throughout the whole season I think they’re just going to come out and play Miami ball. … They’re Miami. They’re the ‘U.’ You still have to respect that.”

History will be on the minds of both teams – with one trying to make it, the other trying to avoid it.

Boston College (9-2, 5-2) would remain in the hunt for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a victory; the Eagles advance to the league’s title game with a win and if Maryland beats Wake Forest on Saturday.

Plus, beating Miami would give the Eagles their first 10-win regular-season since 1940.

“That’s something that everybody’s kind of been rallying on the past couple of weeks,” said Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, who leads the ACC in total offense and passing yards per game (253.1). “And it’s something I think hit home with everybody.”

Miami (5-6, 2-5) is trying to avoid finishing with the program’s worst record since going 3-8 in 1977.

It’s the Hurricanes’ first home game since the Nov. 7 death of defensive lineman Bryan Pata, who was shot and killed outside his apartment and would have been one of the Miami seniors feted tonight.

“Obviously, for this class and for all of us at this university, it’s been a disappointment from the standpoint of you come here to win championships, you come here to go to BCS bowl games,” Coker said. “And that didn’t happen. … It’s not unique, but it’s a bitter disappointment for me.”

Not even three months from saying the national championship was its ultimate goal, Miami needs a win just to have a chance of playing in a bowl game.

There’s also widespread speculation that this game could be Coker’s last at Miami.

A decision on his future looms.

A 58-15 overall record and the 2001 national championship might not be enough to save his job, not after losing 12 games in the past three seasons.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all,” Miami defensive lineman Teraz McCray said.

“But in today’s world, if you’re not winning, they want you out.”

AP-ES-11-22-06 1630EST



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