No. 18 Miami Rallies Past Wake Forest 28-27
By AARON BEARD, AP
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Miami’s offense didn’t do a lot for most of the game while the defense couldn’t seem to stop Riley Skinner and the Wake Forest offense.
Yet none of that mattered, thanks to Jacory Harris and his opportunistic Hurricanes teammates.
Harris threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin with 1:08 left and No. 18 Miami rallied past the Demon Deacons 28-27 on Saturday.
Harris threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns for the Hurricanes (6-2, 3-2 ACC), who trailed 27-14 going into the final period. Despite being outplayed most of the way, Miami hung around thanks to some mistakes by Wake Forest — then made its move when the Demon Deacons made a few too many.
The biggest was a muffed punt near the goal line that the Hurricanes recovered and quickly converted into a short touchdown. While the Demon Deacons still led 27-21, it gave the Hurricanes some momentum in a game that seemed to be slipping away only a few minutes earlier.
“That was key because it gave us the opportunity to put some points on the board after we just had a three-and-out,” Harris said. “It was like God sent something from the heavens.”
After getting the ball back with 2:40 to play, Harris directed an 82-yard scoring drive in the final minutes — which included a 29-yard catch by Aldarius Johnson on fourth down — that ended with Benjamin’s diving catch near the left pylon.
It was a heck of a way to bounce back from last week’s overtime home loss to Clemson.
“We went through a lot of stuff my first year,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “We would get behind or things would go bad, and we weren’t really able to respond. Well, we responded on this night when things went bad for us.”
It was a frustrating finish for the Demon Deacons (4-5, 2-3), who scored the first 17 points and looked to be in control. Skinner looked sharp in leading their offense, throwing for 349 yards and touchdowns to Chris Givens and Tommy Bohanon while keeping Miami’s defense off balance with quick and accurate throws.
He also ran for a 7-yard touchdown that made it 17-0 early in the second quarter, but everything changed when he took a hard hit on a keeper that ripped off his helmet and broke his facemask with about 6 minutes left in the game. The 12-yard gain moved the chains to keep the Demon Deacons in position to melt the clock, but Skinner was slow to get up, then dropped to a knee after making his way back to the huddle.
The four-year starter left the game with what might be a concussion, forcing backup Ryan McManus — a former walk-on with five career pass attempts — into the game to direct Wake Forest’s offense the rest of the way.
“You don’t want anybody to get hurt,” Miami defensive tackle Allen Bailey said, “but it played in our favor. … Three people hit him. I turned around and he looked kind of dazed. I was like, ‘He ain’t right.'”
McManus got the Demon Deacons across midfield on their final desperate drive to set up a 60-yard field goal attempt from Jimmy Newman, but the kick fell well short and wide on the game’s last play. Newman also missed a 45-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, one of a line of mistakes that included several dropped interceptions by the defense and Devon Brown’s botched catch in the rain on one of Matt Bosher’s numerous booming punts.
That put Miami at the 2, and Harris connected with Tervaris Johnson on the next play to make it 27-21 with 11:47 left.
“You want to try and field every punt that you can,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “With the rain coming down, it got over his head a little bit. He’s really sure-handed, it just got away from him.”
Demon Deacons outgained the Hurricanes 555-356 and converted nearly half of their third-down chances. Now they head into next week’s trip to No. 11 Georgia Tech with three straight losses and uncertainty about whether Skinner will be ready.
“We’ve had a lot of heartbreaks this year, a lot of close losses, and this is another one,” Grobe said. “This is one where we played pretty good football for four quarters. We just got beat by a really good football team.”
Received 10/31/09 09:02 pm ET