Published November 20, 2014
Quarterback Jacory Harris got No. 16 Miami ahead. Cornerback Brandon Harris made sure that lead stood up in the Hurricanes' Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Jacory Harris tied a career best with four first-half touchdown passes while teammate Harris stuffed Andre Ellington on fourth down to end Clemson's best chance to rally back in Miami's 30-21 victory on Saturday.
The Hurricanes (3-1, 1-0 ACC) have long grown accustomed to Jacory Harris' heroics. This time, they saw a second Harris and their top-ranked ACC defense take center stage.
"It may be? I'd say it is" the play of the game, Miami cornerback Ryan Hill said.
Ahead 27-21, Brandon Harris stopped Ellington on 4th-and-1 from Miami's 20 with 8:20 to go, ending the Tigers comeback bid.
The Hurricanes followed with a mistake-free, 68-yard drive that finished with Matt Bosher's clinching 29-yard field goal.
"As a player here in Miami, those are the situations you want to be in," Brandon Harris said. "Come up and make a big stop for your team."
It didn't seem like Miami would need its defense to shine after Jacory Harris threw three touchdowns to Leonard Hankerson and one to Mike James to put the Hurricanes ahead 27-14.
And the lead could've been larger if not for two Jacory Harris' interceptions, one in the end zone on a 3rd-and-goal from the Tigers 4.
But Clemson's defense clamped down on Harris and the 'Canes, turning an easy game into a nail-biter.
"It was just one of those games where I thought our guys really stayed focused and played hard and didn't stress," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "Defensively, they really showed a lot of poise in the second half."
Clemson (2-2, 0-1) came into the game with the ACC's fewest turnovers — just two its first three games. But Miami forced the Tigers into three fumbles and three interceptions.
"There is no way to have an effective offense with flaws like these," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Jacory Harris finished 13 of 33 for 205 yards with the two interceptions. His touchdown throws matched his personal high set against Duke in 2008.
Hankerson had seven catches for a career high 147 yards. No Miami receiver has had as many touchdowns in a game since Santana Moss did it against Rutgers in 1998.
Hankerson said Miami's offense is glad it's backed up by an equally potent defense.
"The defense, they stepped up two weeks in a row, got us the ball and we scored point," Hankerson said.
The past three games between Miami and Clemson all went to overtime, highly entertaining back-and-forth affairs people didn't want to leave.
Harris and the Hurricanes, though, looked like they had put this one away by halftime after Hankerson's 7-yard TD catch with 10 seconds left before the break put Miami ahead 27-14.
But then in the second half Harris showed why he can both amaze and frustrate fans of "The U."
He was called for intentional grounding near his goal line, forcing Miami to punt from the end zone. Clemson took advantage of the good field position that followed with the last of Ellington's three touchdowns to cut the lead to 27-21.
Harris then escaped a game-changing mistake when Hurricanes lineman Seantrel Henderson, a 6-foot-8, 355-pound freshman making his first start, covered up the quarterback's fumble.
Hankerson said Harris knows how to forget about his errors and focus on what Miami must do to win.
"If he thinks about the picks, it's going to hurt us in the end," Hankerson said. "So (Jacory) put it behind him, made plays, made throws ... and we won the game."
Harris, who was not available to the media following the game, showed off his skills in the first half.
When Clemson moved in front 14-7 on Ellington's second TD run, Harris answered back three plays later with a textbook throw to Hankerson for a 65-yard score to tie the game.
In the second quarter, Harris followed a badly overthrown interception a series later with a perfect lob to Mike James for an 18-yard touchdown.
Harris made a second bad error when, on third-and-goal, Marcus Gilchrist intercepted his throw into the end zone. But Harris made up for it right before halftime with two nifty passes to Hankerson, the second for his 7-yard TD.
Clemson looked like it had figured a way through Miami's defense as Ellington dashed off two TD runs, the first a 71-yarder in the first quarter that was the Tigers longest in three seasons.
Ellington rushed for 107 yards. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker was just 14 of 33 for 149 yards. He was sacked three times and ended the Tigers final two drives with a fumble and an interception.