ACC: Sooners-Canes 100309

Miami off to surprising 3-1 start

October, 4, 2009
10/04/09
1:18
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- There were some outside the program who thought Miami might start the season 0-4. Considering the unforgiving schedule which many had memorized since it was released in February -- at Florida State, against Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and home against Oklahoma -- it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

It was, however, out of the question for Miami.
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Miami running back Javarris James came up big for the Hurricanes against Oklahoma.

In fact, instead of celebrating their 21-20 win over No. 8 Oklahoma on Saturday night, the Canes were kicking themselves for not being 4-0.

“We’re pleased,” said Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, “but at the same time we wish we could have that one back.”

“That one” being last weekend’s loss to Virginia Tech, but even with that one blemish on their record, the Hurricanes have started the season a surprising 3-1, with wins over three ranked opponents including last year’s runner up for the national title. It was the kind of win that should push Miami back into the top 10 and separate the Canes from the rest of an average league. Saturday’s win over the Sooners was the biggest win under coach Randy Shannon, though the most emotion he would show in his postgame press conference was a smile and a few laughs.

For the usually stoic Shannon, though, that brief hint of happiness was the equivalent of a pep rally and parade all rolled into one.

Miami got what it needed from everyone tonight. Javarris James had 15 carries for a career-high 150 yards -- the most rushing yards ever by a Hurricane against the Sooners. Harris completed passes to a season-high 11 different players. The tight ends, running backs and receivers were all involved. The offensive line paved the way and played better than it did last week against Virginia Tech, this time against a better defense. Miami’s defense recorded a season-high three sacks, and linebacker Sean Spence had a game and career-high 10 tackles.

“It shows the type of talent, the type of coaching staff and what this program is all about,” said offensive tackle Jason Fox. “You don’t want to look backwards, but man we wish we could have that V-Tech game back. As you all saw tonight, that wasn’t us up there. When we want to play, we can play. Now we’ve got the first four games over with, now we just have to take it one game at a time.”

Based on the postgame conversation in the locker room, Miami fans shouldn’t have to worry about the Canes’ egos swelling the size of Land Shark Stadium.

Miami is changing the channel on the Hurricanes’ hype.

As Shannon walked out of the locker room last night, the last thing he heard was Harris telling the team the only thing they’re allowed to watch is SpongeBob.

Miami recently had new TVs installed in its locker room, and the majority of the time, ESPN is on. No more. Shannon said Harris declared only SpongeBob will tell the Canes how good they are.

“Sometimes (it’s) too much,” Harris said. “You don’t want to walk into the locker room and hear ‘Oh, the swagger is back at the University of Miami.’ You’re gonna stop and watch it. So now we’re just going to change the channel, watch 48 hours, some SpongeBob, things of that nature.”

If Miami stays grounded and consistent, their toughest games will remain behind them. There are no opponents remaining on the schedule the caliber of Oklahoma or Virginia Tech (which almost lost to Duke on Saturday). Though the strength of schedule makes it feel like Miami already played a full season, Shannon said it’s too early to declare “Miami is back.”

“We are going in the direction we need to be headed,” said Shannon, who is in his third season. “Our athletic department and trainers give us the full support on where we need to be, but we are not where we want to be. You know, this is not the 13th or 14th game of the season, so that’s why you can’t say Miami is back. After the 14th game of the season, then you make the decision on where we are and where we need to be.”

A 3-1 start shows the Canes are the closest they’ve been in a long time.

“We’re not done,” Spence said. “We’re far from done.”

Miami's Harris 'doesn't flinch' despite early struggles

October, 4, 2009
10/04/09
12:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris literally had to laugh.

After all, he had just thrown two picks on his first two possessions. What was he supposed to do, cry over it?

Not his style.
 
  Doug Benc/Getty Images
  Miami quarterback Jacory Harris shook off a rough start and rallied for the Hurricanes.
“I kind of let all the hype get to me,” he said. “I was sitting up there saying, ‘Man, I’ve got to make the big play, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that,’ but all I needed to understand was that I needed to let my teammates help. That’s something I came around knowing after I threw the second pick.”

Harris, coming off his worst performance of the season at Virginia Tech, opened up against Oklahoma by completing as many passes to the Sooners as he did his own teammates, but this time, he regrouped. He completed 19 of 28 passes for three touchdowns and 202 yards, leading the Hurricanes to a 21-20 upset of the No. 8 ranked Sooners.

And he didn’t surprise anyone in his locker room in the process.

“He had a couple of picks early in the game, but that’s Jacory -- he doesn’t let those things affect him,” said Miami offensive tackle Jason Fox. “He’s truly incredible. He stepped back, he told us, ‘Guys, I’m going to make up for that,’ and he did.”

After starting off the season 2-0 against two ranked teams, Harris’ name had worked its way into Heisman conversations, but that quieted quickly after he completed just 9 of 25 passes for 150 yards and one interception in a 31-7 loss to Virginia Tech last weekend. The Canes’ confidence in their sophomore quarterback never wavered this week, not even in the first half when Miami trailed 10-0.

“He doesn’t flinch,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “I’m being honest. He takes it in stride. He came back to the sidelines, found out what his mistake was, and he moves on.”

And because of that, Miami moves on with an impressive 3-1 record with wins over three ranked opponents.

Final: Miami 21, Oklahoma 20

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
11:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- A quick overview of the game:

Turning point: With about four minutes left, Oklahoma got as close as Miami’s 22-yard line and threatened with the go-ahead score, but Miami’s defense stopped Chris Brown twice for a loss of a yard. DeMarco Murray, who had put Oklahoma in position to score on that drive, was held to a 1-yard catch on third-and-12 and Miami held the Sooners to a field goal and clung to the 21-20 lead.

Stat of the game: Miami had 12 penalties for 115 yards.

Player of the game: Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. He regrouped after his two early interceptions on the Canes’ first two possessions and put Miami in position to win. He controlled the clock on the final possession in the fourth quarter and redeemed himself for his performance against Virginia Tech.

Unsung hero of the game: Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal. He came into the game with just three sacks, and had two sacks, a pass breakup behind the line of scrimmage and got pressure on Harris all night. He sacked Harris in the first quarter and later in the third for a loss of 4 yards, which eventually forced the Canes to punt.

What it means: Miami is a top-10 team. The Canes have knocked off three ranked opponents in four tries, including the No. 8 team in the nation in Oklahoma. Aside from getting a win over Virginia Tech last weekend, there’s not much more the Canes could do to get some national respect. It also means that Oklahoma is more than likely out of the running for the BCS national title, as two losses is usually an eliminator. (The 2007 season was the only exception to that in the BCS era.)

Miami's defense stifling in second half

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
11:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- This is the defense we saw against Georgia Tech that was missing against Virginia Tech. Miami's defense just forced a three-and-out in the fourth quarter, and has continued its momentum from the start of the second half when a forced fumble led to the 14-10 lead. It was the fourth time Oklahoma has had to punt this half on five possessions, and the Canes are stealing the spotlight from Oklahoma's defense. Clearly the Sooners aren't facing Idaho State or Tulsa today.

About that discipline ...

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
10:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- The reason I even mentioned discipline in the last post is because Miami has been killing itself with penalties tonight. No Sooner did I mention that then Joe Joseph was called for a 15-yard penalty for taking out Oklahoma's kicker. It aided Oklahoma on its scoring drive, and the Sooners just closed the gap to 21-17. So far Miami has nine penalties for 95 yards. That's more yards than they have rushing so far.

Miami looking in September form

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
10:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- That deep 38-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin was reminiscent of how Miami started this season -- in jaw dropping fashion. Benjamin was wide open, and Jacory Harris made a perfect throw to him, putting the Hurricanes ahead 21-10.

The players are beating their chests now, and raising their arms to get the already-excited crowd even more riled up here in the third quarter. Harris has regrouped, and aside from a tipped pass and his two interceptions, he's only thrown one incompletion today.

This is how Miami caught the nation's attention in September -- with wins over ranked opponents, and an offense that utilized so many weapons opposing defenses couldn't lock in on any one player. They've made use of their tight ends, running backs and receivers tonight. Eight different Hurricanes had at least one reception in the first half.

It's Miami's third chance to beat a ranked opponent this season, and a 3-1 start in this grueling four-game stretch would be huge for this program. Right now, Miami's got the confidence it needs to hold onto this win. We'll see if it has the discipline to match.

Oklahoma looking pedestrian

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
10:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- With Sam Bradford on the sideline in a hat, T-shirt and shorts, Oklahoma doesn't exactly have the look of a team that finished runner-up for the national title a year ago. Yes, Oklahoma is very good, and Landry Jones is doing a respectable job in the injured Bradford's absence, but the No. 8 team in the nation also looks beatable -- especially if the Canes cut down their penalties and turnovers this half.

Oklahoma's defense has done a good job of pressuring Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, but it's not getting away with a shutout today. Jimmy Graham's touchdown reception were the first points the Sooners have allowed in nine quarters (since giving up the game-winning touchdown to BYU with 3:03 left in the season opener). Remember, BYU is the same team that got thumped by a struggling Florida State team this year. If you subscribe to that logic, Miami can keep this lead.

Momentum shift in Miami: Canes lead 14-10

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
10:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- The Canes came out of the locker room playing inspired football. Brandon Harris forced a fumble when he sacked Landry Jones, Joe Joseph recovered it, and Miami had the ball on the Sooners' 11-yard line. The Canes scored one play later. Finally, there was a turnover that went in the Canes favor. It was important for Miami to come out fast, and for the first time tonight, the Canes have the lead.

In a game as low scoring like this, it will be those kinds of plays that make the difference -- just as Jacory Harris' interception did in the first half. In a low-scoring game, all it takes is a special teams miscue or one great play to change the game, and that's what Miami just did.

Just remember, Miami came out of the locker room fired up at Virginia Tech, too, and it didn't last long.

Halftime: Oklahoma 10, Miami 7

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
9:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- A few quick halftime observations:

Turning point: Jacory Harris' first interception. On his second pass attempt of the game, Harris threw an interception to Dominique Franks, who returned it 12 yards to the Sooners' 16-yard line. Oklahoma scored on the ensuing possession, and so far, that score has been the difference in the game. It gave Oklahoma the momentum early, and it wasn't the start Harris needed after a poor performance against Virginia Tech.

Stat of the half: Prior to tonight, the longest run against Oklahoma had been 15 yards. Miami running back Javarris James changed that with runs of 17 yards and 50 yards. Considering how the Hurricanes are struggling to throw the ball, they need to be able to run it, and James has proven it's possible. If they continue to do that, it should open some things up for Harris, but his offensive line has to give him time to make the throws.

Best player in the half: Franks. His interception set the tone for the game, and Oklahoma's defense has been the most impressive, as both offenses are struggling.

Former hoopster keeps Canes in game

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
9:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- In the week prior to Miami's game against Virginia Tech, Hokies' defensive coordinator Bud Foster told me Miami tight end Jimmy Graham was getting ready to make "himself some money" someday. The former forward has proven he's more than just a guy adding depth to the roster this season. He's got two catches this year, and both of them were touchdowns, including his latest here in the second quarter. The Canes trail 10-7, but Graham and Jacory Harris just brought the crowd back to life here.

Miami's secondary struggling

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
9:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- The Hurricanes are beating themselves with two turnovers and four penalties. Sam Shields is having a particularly rough day. He missed a tackle on third down, got beat for the first touchdown of the game and was called for the facemask penalty that gave the Sooners a first down at the 11-yard line.

With JoJo Nicolas and Randy Phillips out, Miami's secondary needs all of the help it can get. Miami's defense held Oklahoma to a field goal on its last possession, but the mistakes on both sides of the ball are quickly adding up.

Miami looking like the rest of the ACC -- troubled

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
8:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- This is a chance for Miami to separate itself from the rest of the ACC against one of the nation's powerhouse teams. Instead, it's blending right in with the muddled mass of mediocrity.

I know, I know, it's only been one quarter, but there have been some big plays -- all in the Sooners' favor. Just when it looked like Miami could get some help with field position, Oklahoma running back Chris Brown took off 48 yards from the 1-yard line, and all of a sudden the Sooners are creeping up in the red zone again.

Landry Jones is treating his first collegiate road trip like a business meeting, and Miami apparently didn't get the memo.

Miami's Harris struggling

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
8:33
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- Two interceptions for Miami quarterback Jacory Harris on two possessions isn't even giving the Canes a chance to score. They're looking like Maryland did the past few weeks, completing as many passes to the opponent as they are to their own team. The band has completely drowned out the fans. It's like they're the only ones in the stadium right now. The defense is waving its hands to get the crowd back into it, but Oklahoma stole the ball -- and the momentum -- quickly in this game.

Rough start for Miami

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
8:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- Jacory Harris threw an interception on the Canes' first drive. It's too early for mistakes like that. It looked like a blown route, as there was no receiver in position to catch it.

Oklahoma is moving the ball quickly on Miami's defense and has already taken a 7-0 lead. It only took eight plays to go 84 yards. Sam Bradford may as well be playing.

If this is any foreshadowing of what's to come -- missed tackles on defense and mistakes on offense -- Oklahoma is going to have no trouble today.

Miami's lineup changes

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
8:01
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

MIAMI -- A few quick lineup notes for you for positions that were in question:

DEFENSE

LE -- Marcus Robinson

LT -- Joe Joseph

RT -- Josh Holmes

RE -- Andrew Smith

SLB -- Jordan Futch

RCB -- Sam Shields

SS -- Jared Campbell

FS -- Vaughn Telemaque

OFFENSE

Joel Figueroa will start over Harland Gunn at right guard.

Fullback Patrick Hill is out, so it's up to Graig Cooper and Javarris James.

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