|Getting back to a bowl game not enough for Miami|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 02 November 2008 09:28|
In time, that will change.
But on Sunday, what mattered most to Miami coach Randy Shannon was his team staying in the wild Atlantic Coast Conference title picture - not the fact that no matter what happens from here, a bowl game awaits the Hurricanes, who missed the postseason last year.
``We still have a long way to go as far as being a total team and a real good team,'' Shannon said.
Yes, but big strides are being made.
Saturday's 24-17 overtime win at Virginia got the Hurricanes within a half-game of the ACC's Coastal Division lead behind Georgia Tech. It also gave freshman quarterback Jacory Harris a signature comeback victory, and strongly suggests this year's Miami club is far improved over the team that stumbled to 5-7 last season.
``This football team has come a long way,'' Shannon said.
drive in the final moments, to be exact.
Some around the Miami program already are likening what Harris accomplished on that march to what Ken Dorsey did against Florida State in 2000 - in Hurricane lore, it's called ``The Drive'' - when he engineered a game-winning series that planted the seeds for what became a national title season in 2001. With little time left, Dorsey went 67 yards in seven plays, helping Miami earn a 27-24 victory.
Harris' dramatic series wasn't as fast, but the results were the same.
He methodically went 110 yards in 15 plays, if one counts the false-start penalties against three Miami offensive linemen on the way to that tying touchdown, and showed the sort of poise that made it easy to forget he was in high school at this time last year.
A third-and-13 from Miami's 2?
Harris found Sam Shields for exactly 13 yards, a pinpoint pass to the marker.
Second-and-14 from the Miami 49, as the Virginia crowd roared?
Harris hit high school teammate Aldarius Johnson for 18 yards.
Then came the capper, a third-and-15 from the Virginia 26, a play on which Harris rolled left and released the ball at the very moment his 185-pound body was crushed by 254-pound linebacker Clint Sintim, expected to be in the NFL next year. Laron Byrd - another true freshman - was interfered with twice in the end zone and made the touchdown catch anyway with 55 seconds left.
were trying to tackle him before the ball came down,'' said Harris, who will continue splitting time with starter Robert Marve, but has been Miami's closer at quarterback in three of the past four games. ``But I knew if I threw it up there, someone in the white jerseys would catch it.''
Harris was 7-for-10 for 88 yards on that drive late in regulation, then did it again in overtime, finding Johnson with a TD strike.
From there, he went to the sideline, saying he knew Miami's defense would win the game.
He only had to wait one play.
Miami senior Lovon Ponder stripped the ball from Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman on the Cavaliers' only play of overtime. Romeo Davis fell on it, the game was over, and Miami was bowl-bound for the first time since going to Boise, Idaho, for the MPC Computers Bowl two years ago.
No offense to Boise, but the Hurricanes are shooting for something a little more prominent this time around.
``This feels real good, man,'' Davis said, his emotions getting the better of him. ``I can't even explain it, to tell you the truth.''
Miami's next two games are Thursday night affairs, starting Nov. 13 at home against Virginia Tech, then at Georgia Tech on Nov. 20. Virginia Tech has won two straight over the Hurricanes, and Georgia Tech has beaten Miami three consecutive times.
Bowl isn't exactly going to be easy for Miami.
But at this time last season, the Hurricanes were barely clinging to hope. Now, they've got hope in bunches.
``Everybody's starting to have confidence in everyone,'' Shannon said. ``Everybody's starting to figure out their role for this football team and how we're going to win games.''
Notes: Of the prominent Miami players injured on Saturday, Shannon said LT Jason Fox, RT Chris Rutledge and RB Javarris James all should be ready for the Virginia Tech game. ... DB Randy Phillips, who had knee surgery earlier this season and was hoping to miss only six weeks, is still struggling with rehabilitation and ``might'' not be able to return this season, Shannon said. No final determination has been made.