Harris: Despite turnovers, confidence still high

October 28, 2009

Not in a good way, either.

Harris has been intercepted 10 times through the season's first seven games. That's the most in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and only seven quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision have been picked off more than Harris - touted by some as a Heisman Trophy contender earlier this season.

Maybe the most alarming stat is this: Harris is throwing one interception every 18.9 attempts. Among quarterbacks in the league's major conferences, only Mississippi's Jevan Snead (one pick every 17.6 attempts) and Syracuse's Greg Paulus (one every 18.6) have been worse.

"Sometimes the ball doesn't fly the right way," Harris said. "Some are tipped. Some are Hail Marys before halftime."


And some, well, some are just flat-out mistakes.

He was intercepted three times in last week's 40-37 overtime loss to Clemson, a defeat that sent the 18th-ranked Hurricanes (5-2, 2-2) tumbling 10 spots in the AP Top 25 and all the way to fifth place in the ACC's Coastal Division race. The most glaring of those was obvious: DeAndre McDaniel's 23-yard return for a touchdown proved absolutely critical, since it helped the Tigers force overtime.

McDaniel didn't even have to work that hard for his seventh interception of the year. Harris essentially grooved it to him.

"It's tough to remember that he's a sophomore," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "He's our quarterback and we expect him to grow up quick and be a senior, a guy who's played three years of college football. And he's still a sophomore. It's a big learning curve for him right now. Too many turnovers."

When Miami visits Wake Forest (4-4, 2-2) on Saturday, it'll be only the 10th start of Harris' career. The Demon Deacons only have made five interceptions this year, but four of those have come in ACC games.

It's not all on Harris, of course.

He's also been sacked 18 times, 17 of those in Miami's last five games. Some interceptions happened with no receivers in the area, a sign of miscommunication somewhere. And at least two were deflected.

"It's a team effort," Miami center A.J. Trump said. "I know he gets the interception, but it's a little-things type of deal. It's one of those things. When turnovers happen, you focus on it and they get eliminated."

This is very much a new problem for Harris. As a two-year starter who went 30-0 in high school, he had 12 interceptions in 618 attempts.

He self-scouts himself on film all the time, and doesn't see any consistent theme in the interceptions. Some, he said, are bad reads. Some are just good plays by defenders. And sometimes, he should have just thrown the ball away.

Lessons learned, he said.

"We've got to get him out of it, and that comes by continuing to throw the ball," Shannon said. "He's watching the things he does wrong, the steps, his form, that sort of thing. Nobody's blaming Jacory for anything. That's the best thing about it. It just shows that when everybody's on the same page, great things happen. When not, bad things happen."

The interceptions aside, it's not as if Harris is having a sophomore slump.

He's connecting on nearly 65 percent of his passes, has already thrown for 1,774 yards and 13 touchdowns, and has shown an uncanny resiliency: On the very next play from scrimmage after the interception return by McDaniel, Harris threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin, lobbying offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to make that call beforehand.

Most importantly, Harris said his confidence has remained high - steadily high, not really changing much when things are clicking or when things aren't going his way.

"Mistakes happen," Harris said. "That's a part of football. We've won five games doing things correctly. We know we can do things the right way. We know we can get the job done."