Harris leads Miami to upset of Oklahoma
After Jacory Harris threw his second interception of the opening minutes, Miami's sophomore quarterback went to the sideline with a most unusual reaction.
Rattled? Not in the slightest.
Harris settled down, the Miami defense got rolling - and the result was the Hurricanes' biggest win in years. Javarris James ran for a career-best 150 yards, Harris threw for three scores and No. 17 Miami knocked off No. 8 Oklahoma 21-20 on Saturday night - in what will join some games from the 1980s as another Hurricanes-Sooners classic.
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"Big, huge win for us," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "It's huge."
With Oklahoma's reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford watching from the sideline, still out with a right shoulder injury, Miami (3-1) scored 21 straight points to take control.
And then they held on, running out the final 4 minutes because James - who still beats himself up over a fumble that turned the tide in Miami's 51-13 loss to the Sooners two years ago - churned up 38 yards against an Oklahoma defense that came into the game as the nation's best against the run.
"It's our time," said linebacker Jordan Futch. "We are back. We are still The U."
Oklahoma's last trip to the Hurricanes' home field was last January, when it lost the BCS national championship game to Florida.
This one almost certainly ended any Sooners national title hopes, too. Landry Jones threw for 188 yards and DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown combined to rush for 151 more for Oklahoma (2-2).
"They made the plays down the stretch that made the difference," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We couldn't come up with the plays to make it happen."
The Oklahoma romp over Miami two years ago shaped today's Hurricanes in a number of ways: For the older players, it was humiliating, and for the ones like Harris who were in high school at the time, it reaffirmed that they wanted to be part of the group that brought Miami back to prominence.
But Saturday surely didn't start the way Miami wanted.
Harris threw interceptions on Miami's first two drives, the first so easy for Oklahoma's Dominique Franks to grab that it wasn't even clear who was the intended receiver. Oklahoma turned that one into a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Cameron Kenney, and stretched the lead to 10-0 in the second quarter on Jimmy Stevens' 21-yard field goal.
Yet Oklahoma had to be disappointed at that point: A 95-yard drive mustered only three points.
"You have to give it to Miami's defense," Jones said. "They played great."
You name it, the Hurricanes did it wrong in the first half. They downed a punt inside the Oklahoma 1, only to let Brown get loose for a 48-yard run on the very next snap. Missed tackles were plenty, and Harris wasn't clicking. Some penalties were baffling - perhaps the most egregious was being offsides on a kickoff, when Oklahoma couldn't run it back to the 10.
So the ground game gave Miami a spark.
"We accepted this challenge," James said. "Big players have to do it in big games. And this was a real big game for us."
James ripped off his longest run since his freshman season in 2006, a 50-yarder midway through the second quarter. Two plays later, thanks to lineman Matt Pipho recovering Harris' fumble, Jimmy Graham - he of the two crucial drops last week against Virginia Tech - caught an 18-yard TD pass to help Miami claw within 10-7 at the half.
Barely a half-minute into the third quarter, the Hurricanes took the lead.
Joe Joseph went into the Miami locker room hobbling in the second quarter. He returned in the third, recovered a fumble on the Sooners' first drive, and Harris connected with Dedrick Epps for an 11-yard score that put Miami up 14-10.
And that's when Oklahoma got rattled. A pair of 15-yard penalties on the next Sooners possession led to a fourth-and-42 scenario, giving Miami the ball back - and Harris came through with it, hitting Benjamin for a 38-yard score and 21-10 lead as the stadium roared.
Still, Jones led a rally. Murray's 2-yard run late in the third got the Sooners within 21-17, and Miami's defense dug deep to hold Oklahoma to only a field goal on another drive in the fourth.
The Sooners never got the ball again. And Miami ended its run of four straight ranked opponents to open the season with three wins, which is three more than some pundits thought the Hurricanes would collect.
"Don't think I won't enjoy it," Shannon said. "I will enjoy it."