- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2008

CHARLOTTESVILLE | Jacory Harris couldn’t afford to be nervous.

Instead, Miami’s freshman quarterback was as clutch as can be, completing a desperation 26-yard pass to tie Virginia in regulation, and then throwing another scoring pass that proved to be the game-winner when the Hurricanes’ defense came up with one more critical stand, stripping the ball away in overtime to seal an improbable 24-17 victory against Virginia.

“If [teammates] look into your eyes and see that you’re scared, then they’re going to be scared themselves,” said Harris, whose tying touchdown pass came as he scrambled away from pressure and found Laron Byrd in the back of the end zone with just 55 seconds remaining.

In the overtime, he hit Aldarius Johnson for a score from 9 yards out before Lovon Ponder stripped the ball from Cedric Peerman and Bruce Johnson recovered for the Hurricanes.

While Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) wasn’t quite ready to declare a return to its national championship-winning ways on Saturday, the victory could well be a start.

“It was why you sign up to play football,” right guard A.J. Trump said. “That locker room. That win. It was something that I personally will never forget. It was that awesome.”

Miami moved into good position in the tight battle to win the ACC Coastal Division - and a spot in the conference championship game. Becoming bowl eligible was nothing to celebrate, Trump said, not even after last season ended with a 5-7 record that sent Miami home for the holidays.

“We expect a lot more,” Trump said.

Virginia, meanwhile, was left wondering what might have been after squandering numerous chances to seize control of the game and leaving it available for the Hurricanes to steal.

“It hurts,” said receiver Jared Green, whose 2-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave Virginia a 17-10 lead that held up until the very end. “It hurts really badly.”

The Cavaliers (5-4, 3-2) went into the game in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division, and now have to find a way to lift themselves up for the second time.

“We’ve been through adversity before, and we bounced back tremendously,” Verica said, noting the four-game winning streak that ended. “We’re going to try to do the same this time.”

It hurt more knowing they had only themselves to blame for causing two second-half turnovers in Miami territory and failing to score a point off either, and then having a drive for a potential regulation victory end when Verica was stripped at the Miami 32-yard line.

“When you don’t take control of a game, that’s what happens,” Verica said.

Limited all game by Virginia’s defense, Harris and Miami put together a 15-play, 95-yard march to tie it. Harris connected with Sam Shields on a 13-yard pass on a third-and-13 play at the beginning, and the touchdown came on a third-and-15 prayer from the Cavaliers’ 26.

“I think we had to have it as a team,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “These guys came out and they never quit. They kept fighting, they kept trying to press on and every time we put ourselves in a bad situation with penalties, they found a way to get it done.”

In the overtime, Harris faced a third-and-5 from the 9 when he passed to the 6-foot-2 Johnson, who beat 5-9 cornerback Vic Hall for the ball to give the Hurricanes the lead.

Hall also was beaten on the tying touchdown when safety Byron Glaspy fell down.

Johnson, who fell on Peerman’s fumble, also recovered the one by Verica earlier, rendering unimportant the fact that Virginia’s defense dominated for much of the game.

“They closed it out in the end,” linebacker Clint Sintim said. “They deserved to win.”

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