CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A return to Duke might be what cures everything that ails Jacory Harris these days.
Miami's quarterback is hurting in more ways than one, his maladies including a sore shoulder, pulled groin and bruised ego after last weekend's four-touchdown loss to archrival Florida State that knocked the Hurricanes (3-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) out of the Top 25.
The Seminoles silenced Harris, not letting him throw for a touchdown. Miami coach Randy Shannon has silenced him as well, since the often-gregarious Harris hasn't spoken publicly in nearly a month. And Harris' struggles — 32 of 70 passing in his last two games — have led to inevitable questions about how the junior is dealing with a season that's already had its share of rocky moments.
Worry not, the Hurricanes say.
J12 is just fine.
"He's back to normal," wide receiver LaRon Byrd said Tuesday. "I think he's doing good right now. He's ready for Duke. He's preparing, doing the things we need him to do for us to win."
That's probably not what the Blue Devils (1-4, 0-2) wanted to hear.
Duke was in position for what would have been a colossal win two years ago, taking a 24-14 lead against Miami in the third quarter. Then Harris just took over, first running for a 15-yard touchdown, then throwing TD passes to Aldarius Johnson, Travis Benjamin and Byrd, all in a seven-minute span, as the Hurricanes pulled away to a 49-31 win.
Harris accounted for a career-best five touchdowns in all that day, and did so without even starting the game.
"He's just big, smooth, fluid, fast, tremendous arm," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "He's got great vision down the field and puts the ball in unique spots. He seems to see the big receivers. They're all eye level, for one thing. (Leonard) Hankerson and those guys look at him eyeball to eyeball. They're the only ones on the field who are that tall. He's just got great poise, a very fluid athlete."
True, the 6-foot-4 Harris does possess the edge of having receivers like the 6-foot-4 Byrd, 6-foot-3 Hankerson and 6-foot-3 Johnson at his disposal.
But it's not receivers' height that's on Shannon's mind right now. It's their hands.
The stats say Harris has completed 87 of 166 passes so far this season, a modest 52 percent success rate. By Shannon's math, Harris is accurate 73 percent of the time — when factoring in 34 drops that the Hurricanes have had this season.
"It is what it is and it's not just one person," Shannon said. "If it was one person, you could fix it. But it's running backs, tight ends, receivers, everybody. So what can you do about it? Just keep working. I keep saying it, but just keep working."
Harris' only score against the Seminoles came on a bootleg late in the first half, a play where he seemed to be almost dragging his leg across the field to get into the end zone. Harris aggravated his groin early in the game and was limping all night, though never came out until the debacle was out of reach in the final minutes.
Shannon made this clear Tuesday: Harris is still Miami's leader.
"He's the same Jacory because he's a competitor," Shannon said. "He knows what pain is and he plays with it and he understands it. There's pain and there's hurt. Hurt, you cannot play. He's in pain. We know that. But you know, like anything, it's a part of football. It's muscles that he has hurt. It's not bones or ligaments or stuff like that. So there's a big difference."
Shannon and Harris both have a strong idea of what Duke will try this weekend. The Blue Devils will blitz, and often, especially after Harris struggled mightily when Florida State sent blitz packages at him last weekend.
Harris has nine interceptions in five games, and Duke plans on adding to that total.
"He's a great quarterback. He can take off on you. He's somebody that you definitely have to contain," Duke defensive end Patrick Egboh said. "But I feel like if we just put some pressure on him, he'll throw up a couple picks."
Pressure on game day, that's one thing.
Pressure on game week is something else. And the Hurricanes say that their quarterback isn't showing any signs of buckling under it yet.
"That guy, you wouldn't know if something bad's happening to him or not," cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke said. "He keeps the same smile on his face, same character every day. He's still Jacory. Confidence is still there."
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C. contributed.