Jacory Harris and the Miami Hurricanes have been trying to not think too much about their long-awaited trip to Ohio State.
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It’s all they’ll think about for the next week — and Harris might be ready for the challenge.
Harris completed 12 of 15 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out the second half, and the 13th-ranked Hurricanes got their first shutout since 2006 by beating overmatched Florida A&M 45-0 to open the season Thursday night.
”I went out there and took care of my business,” Harris said. ”As a team, we came out there and did everything we had to do in the first half, and coach sat us out for the rest of the game. I guess it was well-deserved.”
Leonard Hankerson caught the first two of Harris’ TD passes and finished with 115 receiving yards, as the Hurricanes (1-0) ran out to a 35-0 lead in the first 25 minutes and wound up outgaining Florida A&M 405-110.
Looming for Miami: A trip next Saturday to visit the second-ranked Buckeyes, the first meeting between the schools since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, where Ohio State denied the Hurricanes what would have been their second straight national championship in a game best remembered for a late pass interference call in overtime.
Miami coach Randy Shannon said he wouldn’t start thinking about the Buckeyes until Friday.
”One thing you never do, never take a victory and not enjoy it,” Shannon said. ”I told the players and the coaches, ‘Enjoy tonight.”’
Harris needed just 1:40 to get Miami on the scoreboard, finding a wide-open Hankerson for a 19-yard score, and the Rattlers (0-1) quickly found themselves in trouble.
With Miami greats Michael Irvin, Edgerrin James and Ottis Anderson looking on, the Hurricanes spent much of the first half in a no-huddle offense. Of Harris’ 12 completions, 10 went for either first downs or touchdowns.
”That’s a tremendous football team. That’s the bottom line,” Florida A&M coach Joe Taylor said. ”To come down in this atmosphere and play against a team like that, that’s the way to get better. They are legitimately in the top 15, that’s for sure.”
Damien Berry made it 21-0 with a 32-yard catch-and-run early in the second quarter. Ray-Ray Armstrong had a 22-yard interception return for another score, and Mike James’ 1-yard plunge pushed Miami’s lead to 35-0 with 5:22 left until halftime.
Lamar Miller added a 5-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter for the Hurricanes.
Philip Sylvester rushed for a team-best 45 yards for the Rattlers, who have lost all eight of their matchups against Miami since 1980, now by a combined 400-49.
”We don’t take any opponent lightly,” Hankerson said.
Florida A&M had some chances, even early against Miami’s first-string defense. The Rattlers drove to the Miami 19 on their second possession, only to come up empty after Marcus Robinson and Olivier Vernon combined to sack Martin Ukpai for a 14-yard loss. Trevor Scott’s 50-yard field goal attempt was plenty long, but bounced off the right upright.
FAMU went 50 yards on 11 plays in that drive – and 20 yards on its other 19 plays of the half.
It was Miami’s first shutout since beating Florida International 35-0 on Oct. 14, 2006, the season before Shannon became the Hurricanes’ head coach. The 46-game span between shutouts was Miami’s longest since a 79-game stretch spanning from 1968 to 1976.
The Hurricanes never punted, either.
”At least Ohio State doesn’t know what we do in the punt game,” Shannon said.
A good night got even better for Miami late in the third quarter, when running back Graig Cooper – Miami’s No. 5 career rusher – got into the game.
Cooper badly hurt his right knee in the Hurricanes’ loss to Wisconsin at the Champs Sports Bowl in late December, prompting fears that he would miss the entire 2010 season. He finished with 11 yards on two carries, plus 13 yards on two receptions.
”He’s a guy who worked hard during rehab, was there every day and fought through everything,” Harris said. ”Just to see him get the ball and do what he do, it was amazing.”