No win, no ACC title game, no BCS bowl game.
The Hurricanes (7-3, 4-3) went to Chapel Hill, N.C. looking to extract revenge on former Miami head coach Butch Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels but lost another heartbreaker as the Canes fell short 33-24.
“We had a shot at it,” said head coach Randy Shannon, who is 0-3 against Davis’ Tar Heels. “I give credit to these guys on this football team – they won’t ever back off. We fought back, got back into it. We just had four turnovers.”
Shannon did not put the blame on sophomore Jacory Harris despite throwing a career-high four interceptions against the Tar Heels (7-3, 3-3). Two of Harris’ interceptions were returned for touchdowns while Miami was threatening to take the lead.
“We’re all in this together,” Shannon said. “Jacory will bounce back. This team will follow him, believe in him, and he’ll bounce back next week.”
Harris took responsibility for his four key errors in the face of throwing for 314 yards.
“I blame everything on me,” said Harris, whose 16 interceptions lead the ACC and are second in the nation. “I went out there and made some bad throws, all mental mistakes. I just put my team in the worst-case scenario and North Carolina took advantage of it.”
Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has had experience coaching interception-prone quarterbacks.
While Whipple was the quarterbacks coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in interceptions the year after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings and is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Harris still has full support from his teammates and so does his coaching staff.
“Jacory is a warrior,” said Damien Berry, who had 41 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving, and leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns this season. “Jacory’s a great player, he’s a great quarterback, a great leader. I commend him on standing there and fighting. It was all of us. It wasn’t just on Jacory.”
No interception was more costly than Harris final turnover. With the Canes trailing 23-17 and on the verge of taking the lead, Harris was picked off by North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney for the third time. Burney ran 45 yards before fumbling into the hands of teammate Melvin Williams, who ran 44 more yards for the touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 30-17 lead.
The play was reviewed as it appeared there was a forward lateral the ball which is illegal. Officials determined that the call on the field was indeed a fumble.
“To me, it looked like he pitched it forward, but I can’t get involved with it,” Shannon said. “I mean, it’s a game. One play shouldn’t make a difference in a game. It is what it is.”
Down by six points with seven minutes to go, Miami couldn’t get a defensive stop and North Carolina was able to run the clock down two minutes and made a field to make it a two-possession game, ending a Canes comeback.
The Hurricanes evening ended dismally but the afternoon was just as bad. Duke had a 10-0 lead but allowed 49 unanswered points to Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jackets solidified themselves a trip to Tampa Bay for the ACC Championship game with the 49-10 win.
The Canes play Duke Saturday at noon. The game can be heard on 90.5 FM.
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.