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Miami QB remains confident

Brock Berlin avoids reading newspapers or listening to sports talk radio, dodging the persistent criticism that has dogged him since becoming Miami's starting quarterback.

Yet when Miami coach Larry Coker uses words such as "disappointed" while assessing his quarterback and says the backups might play more, Berlin pays close attention.

Sure, the fourth-ranked Hurricanes are off to another 3-0 start, extended their dominance over Florida State and have outscored opponents 102-23. Berlin, however, is coming off one of the worst games of his career, 13-for-23 for 99 yards against Houston on Thursday.

"Brock knows that he can play better," Coker said Tuesday. "Some of it was protection problems, but some were ones where receivers were open. We just have to make those plays, have to make those throws."

And if Berlin, who has completed 43 of 73 passes for 476 yards and two touchdowns, struggles again when Miami returns to ACC play at Georgia Tech on Saturday, his team's perfect start and his job might be in jeopardy.

"The expectation level is very high here, and that's what we want it to be," Berlin said. "We came here knowing what it was like. We expect a lot more out of ourselves than people expect from us."

Against Houston, Miami scored 38 points. But that included two turnovers returned for touchdowns and masks how much the Hurricanes offense struggled.

Berlin was sacked a career-worst five times, and for the fifth time in his past nine starts, he didn't throw a touchdown. Since becoming Miami's starter last season, Berlin has thrown 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

His teammates insist they remain squarely behind him.

"I think, honestly, the most popular person in town is the backup quarterback," center Joel Rodriguez said. "Brock is used to that.

"He knows it's part of the game, part of the job description. But he's going to be okay, and eventually, Brock's going to prove all his naysayers wrong. He's going to lead this team to a very good season."

Coker removed Berlin from the starting lineup for one game after consecutive losses to Virginia Tech and Tennessee last season. But he was back under center for the last three games and hasn't lost since.

"We're 3-0 right now. We're not going to sit here and apologize for anything," Berlin said. "We've won those games, and we plan on winning this next one."

_ ASSOCIATED PRESS

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