Ailing arm and all, Jacory Harris put on a show that Miami won’t soon forget Monday night.
And the Hurricanes defense came up huge when it mattered most.
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The sophomore quarterback threw for 386 yards – including a 40-yard pass over double coverage to Travis Benjamin, setting up Graig Cooper’s 3-yard touchdown run with 1:53 left – and led the Hurricanes past No. 18 Florida State 38-34 in a wild, back-and-forth game on Monday night.
Florida State got to the Miami 2 with 14 seconds left. But Christian Ponder threw three straight incompletions, the last coming on a ball that Jarmon Fortson nearly caught in the end zone on the game’s final play, and Miami escaped.
Harris completed 21 of 34 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions. He got hurt on the second of those turnovers; Harris was drilled by blitzing cornerback Greg Reid and his throw on that play resulted in nothing more than a pop fly that Markus White ran back 31 yards for a 31-24 Florida State lead with 11:45 remaining.
Harris walked to the sideline, holding his right arm tightly to his chest.
He was fine. Better than fine, actually.
“It was just a bad funny bone incident,” Harris said. “My whole arm went numb. I had to fight through. I had to help this team win.”
Harris connected with Cooper for a 24-yard score to tie the game at 31, and after Florida State took the lead again on Dustin Hopkins’ 45-yard field goal with 4:11 left, the ‘Canes went back to work. They went 59 yards in six plays, Harris’ perfect lob to Benjamin accounting for most of them, and Cooper plowed in for the go-ahead score.
“This kid,” said Miami running back Javarris James, speaking of the sophomore quarterback, “he’s real poised.”
Ponder was, too.
Ponder, who ran for 144 yards against Miami last year, went 30 yards on a draw play to get deep into Hurricanes territory with 1 minute left. When Brandon Harris was flagged for pass interference, Florida State had 14 seconds to go 2 yards and win the game.
First down, Harris tipped the ball away from Fortson.
Second down, Ponder’s pass for Fortson sailed high.
Third down, Fortson got his hands on the ball as he hit the ground – and it squirted away. After review, Miami could celebrate.
“I was just thinking my team fought through this so long and so hard. All the preparation and it came down to this,” Jacory Harris said of watching the final series from the sideline. “Our defense, I know they was going to pull through at the end.”
Ponder completed 24 of 41 passes for a career-best 294 yards and two second-half touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to keep Florida State (0-1, 0-1) from losing for the fourth time in Miami’s last five trips to the state capital.
“You have to cast it aside and look at the errors we made,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. “If we don’t correct ’em, we’ll lose another one the same way.”
Miami outgained Florida State 476-404.
“A heck of a television game,” Bowden said.
Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s new schemes were an instant hit with the most important Miami fan: university president Donna Shalala, who beamed after Miami rolled up 229 yards on its 29 first-half plays, a 7.9 average.
“What’s not to enjoy?” Shalala said when Miami was leading 14-10. “We’ve got an offense.”
So did Florida State.
The Seminoles scored the first 13 points of the second half, with Ponder running in from 9 yards out to put Florida State back on top on the first drive following intermission – aided by, of all things, a 15-yard late hit penalty on the kickoff by Miami kicker Matt Bosher – then throwing to Taiwan Easterling for a 21-yard score for a 23-14 edge with 4:57 left in the third.
Just getting started.
Harris plunged in from the 1 early in the fourth for a 24-23 lead. He wasn’t hit often, but Reid’s corner blitz minutes later caught the Hurricanes napping – and set up another in the neverending series of momentum shifts, that being White’s interception return for a score.
Harris went to the sideline holding his right arm gingerly, and true freshman A.J. Highsmith started warming up.
But Harris never missed a play, and he was almost flawless down the stretch.
“When we got down, look to the sidelines, guys were still encouraging each other,” James said. “We came a long way tonight.”