ACC: Canes-Tigers-100210

Miami good but not great

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
6:17
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Miami Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon called it the play of the game. Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney called it a “stone cold knockout.”

On fourth-and-1 from Miami’s 20-yard line in the fourth quarter, Miami cornerback Brandon Harris changed the game when he stopped Clemson's shifty running back, Andre Ellington, short of the first down.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Hankerson
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireLeonard Hankerson scored three of Miami's four touchdowns Saturday.
“It was a huge play,” Harris said. “As a player here at Miami, those are the situations you want to be in -- come up and make a big stop for your team.”

It was one example of Miami’s potential to be a great team. There’s only one thing standing in the way: Miami. As long as the Hurricanes continue to make mistakes -- namely turnovers and penalties -- the Canes will have to settle for being a good team.

Miami took a major step forward in the conference race with its 30-21 road win over Clemson in the first ACC game for both programs. There were plenty of positives for Miami to take into Saturday’s game against rival Florida State, but if the Hurricanes are going to be a championship team, they have to eliminate a trend of eight interceptions in the past three games and 12 penalties for 105 yards against Clemson.

“We have to minimize some of those mistakes on offense, try to minimize the turnovers, and on defense, not give up that big 70-yard run they had,” Harris said. “You have to eliminate those types of plays if you want to be a great team.”

If Miami fans are frustrated watching this year’s offense, they are not alone.

“It does, it really does,” Shannon said when asked if the mistakes frustrate him. “And it frustrates the players because they know we work hard and keep improving every week. They know that if we eliminate the little mistakes it will help us out.”

Mistakes like back-to-back 15-yard penalties on punt returns for kick catch interference -- both on Tommy Streeter who has never been in that situation before. Miami’s defense forced six turnovers, something they’ve been stressing and improved upon since last year, but the Canes couldn’t get anything going on offense in the second half.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris finished with four touchdown passes and two interceptions and completed just 13 of 33 passes. Fortunately for Harris, Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker fared worse, he completed 14 of 33 passes for no touchdowns, threw three interceptions and had three sacks. It was a game in which Shannon said both teams made “bone-headed missed tackles and turnovers.”

This time, Clemson just happened to make more.

“You just can’t win without good ball security, especially with six turnovers,” Swinney said. “It was a disappointing loss. We dug ourselves into a hole in the first quarter with our defensive mistakes. This was a tough game because in the past, we’ve been taking care of the football very well and then today we didn’t do that.”

Clemson had just two turnovers in the three previous games combined. Miami, though, had gotten used to it.

“We don’t want the turnovers,” Shannon said. “But he made some great plays today. The one thing we can’t do is go shell-shocked. We won’t do that at Miami. We feel like we’ve got a great quarterback who’s going to give us a chance to win a lot of games here and we’re going to continue to stress make sure you take what they give you and understand the game.”

Despite Harris’ turnover tendency, there is a contagious confidence about him. No matter what he does on the previous play, he gets into the huddle and says, “J12 checking in.” The other players following, rattling off their numbers and “checking in.” Harris threw an interception in the second quarter, but the defense got him the ball back and Harris threw a touchdown pass for the 20-14 lead on the following possession.

“He bounces back,” said receiver Leonard Hankerson.

In turn, so does Miami.

Video: Brandon Harris on his key stop

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
5:45
PM ET


Heather Dinich talks with Miami defensive back Brandon Harris about his fourth-down stop that helped Miami hang on for the win.

Video: Dabo Swinney interview

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
5:43
PM ET

Heather Dinich talks with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney about the turnovers against Miami.

Video: Miami's Randy Shannon

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
5:28
PM ET


Randy Shannon breaks down Miami’s 30-21 victory over Clemson.

Final: Miami 30, Clemson 21

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
3:54
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- It wasn't pretty -- there were turnovers and penalties for both teams and enough reviews for a rerun of the entire game -- but Miami avoided an upset in Death Valley. I'm heading down to the locker rooms now. Check back later for more.

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Miami's offense hasn't done a thing in this half. The Canes have been too busy getting whistled for penalties to make any big plays. The defense has to be getting worn out. Clemson's defense deserves credit for playing four quarters today. It has been inconsistent (See: third quarter, Auburn) but kept the Tigers in the game today despite the offense's turnovers.

Turnovers adding up

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
3:05
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson turned the ball over just twice in the first three games. The Tigers have now turned it over four times today -- two interceptions and two lost fumbles. The question is whether or not Miami can capitalize without giving it back. Miami just fumbled, but recovered it. Still, it was a blown possession.

This game isn't over yet -- Clemson trails 27-21 and is just one touchdown away from taking the lead. But they can't do that if they keep giving Miami the ball.

Miami repeats mistakes

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
2:57
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Miami doesn't learn from its mistakes. Tommy Streeter was called for two catching interference penalties in the third quarter, adding up to 30 yards in Clemson's favor. Miami now has eight penalties for 60 yards, and Streeter has accounted for half of that. He's helped the Tigers' field position, and last time, Clemson was able to take advantage of it.

Slow start to second half

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
2:42
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- The second half has been defined so far by more penalties than scoring. There was an interference call on Miami when DeAndre McDaniel called for a fair catch, and an intentional grounding call on Jacory Harris on third down. Both of these teams have had trouble moving the ball forward in the third quarter.

One NFL scout's answer

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
2:06
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- At halftime here I approached an NFL scout to get his take on why Miami quarterback Jacory Harris throws so many interceptions.

"I couldn't tell you," he said. "I'm not watching him."

Ouch.

Halftime: Miami 27, Clemson 14

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
1:57
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Here's a quick analysis of the first half here in Death Valley:

Stat of the half: Five turnovers. Two interceptions for Miami quarterback Jacory Harris (that's eight in three games), and a fumble and two interceptions for Clemson. Who wants it? Buehler? Buehler?

Best player in the half: Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson. He had five catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns, including one with 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter for the 27-14 lead. The scoring drive, of course, came off a Clemson turnover. It took 14 seconds.

What Miami needs to do: Continue to make game-changing plays on defense. There's been a forced fumble, and a tipped pass for an interception. Every time Harris has put the defense back on the field with an interception, the Canes have answered. They're going to have to keep it up and continue to capitalize on Clemson's mistakes.

What Clemson needs to do: Quit turning it over. For all of the criticism of Miami's offense, Clemson is losing the turnover battle today while Harris has thrown four touchdown passes. The Tigers also have to get their passing game going, but stick with the run first since that's what is working. Keep the ball in the playmakers' hands, and today that's Andre Ellington.

Time to question Mark Whipple?

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
1:37
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has had a seemingly untouchable reputation since arriving on campus, hailed as the answer to Patrick Nix. He sure knows a heck of a lot more about the game than I do and has been in the game long enough that he's very respected by his colleagues and players. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has likened him to a father figure.

But why line up in the shotgun and throw the ball from Clemson's four-yard line when you've got guys like Damien Berry more than capable of punching it in and a quarterback with the uncanny ability to throw interceptions? Whipple is off-limits to the media, so it's impossible to ask him such questions, like why he continues to chance deep throws into coverage with Harris. Whipple is a smart guy, which is why it makes plays like that even more baffling.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Jacory Harris isn't the only quarterback completing passes to the other team today. Miami linebacker Sean Spence tipped the ball and Marcus Forston intercepted Kyle Parker. The play led to an immediate 18-yard touchdown pass giving Miami the 20-14 lead.

As expected, turnovers will continue to be key in this game. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win. It seems as if both of these offenses are operating in all-or-nothing mode today. They're either hitting home-run plays, or three strikes and out.

One more thought -- Harris deserves credit for shaking off that interception and coming right back and throwing a touchdown pass. The kid has ice in his veins. That's why offensive coordinator Mark Whipple isn't afraid to gamble with him. His greatest strength, though, is also his biggest weakness.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Miami coach Randy Shannon has defended quarterback Jacory Harris since the Ohio State game. There has been plenty of blame to go around, and Shannon has even thrown his receivers under the bus in taking the heat off Harris. But there's no denying this one was on Harris. He was off-target and threw it to a wide-open safety, Rashard Hall.

It's those kinds of gifts that will be the difference -- if not in this game, then another one. Harris has now thrown seven in three games. And it's only the second quarter.

Andre Ellington one to watch

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
12:57
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Why isn't anybody talking more about Clemson running back Andre Ellington? He had a career-high 140 rushing yards AT Auburn, and now he's running all over Miami's defense. He just scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to give Clemson a 14-7 lead and already has five carries for 93 yards. He entered this game averaging 7.4 yards per carry and is No. 2 in the ACC in rushing. For all of the talk this offseason about how Clemson would replace you-know-who, Ellington deserves more credit for helping to make it a seamless transition.

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