Loss against Virginia cuts ACC chances

Halloween came one day early for the Miami Hurricanes football team as it was dealt a major scare.

Its leader and captain, junior quarterback Jacory Harris, was knocked out of the game in the second quarter and never returned. He suffered a concussion and is questionable for Saturday’s game against Maryland.

With Harris out, the Miami Hurricanes (5-3, 3-2) fell behind and couldn’t catch fire until late in the game as they lost, 24-19, and the Virginia Cavaliers (4-4, 1-3) pulled the shocking upset.

This will be a loss that will sting the Hurricanes, as they no longer control their own destiny to an ACC Championship appearance.

Virginia picked up its first ACC win of the season and ended a nine-game conference losing streak. Before the win over UM, its best win of the season came against Eastern Michigan (1-8). Fans rushed the field in jubilation.

“It’s a tough loss, really, really tough,” said Shannon, whose team allowed Virginia to score 21 points off turnovers. “Guys came out, were playing, Jacory went down. No excuses, we just have to play better. We had five turnovers, which is too much.”

Despite being without their leader, the Hurricanes almost completed an improbable comeback in the fourth quarter. Virginia was up 24-0, and the Canes rallied off 19 straight points to cut the Cavaliers’ lead down to five.

True freshman quarterback Stephen Morris rallied the Hurricanes with a touchdown pass to senior captain Leonard Hankerson, rushed for a nine-yard score and nailed a 60-yard pass to junior wide receiver Travis Benjamin after an onside kick was recovered by senior kicker Matt Bosher.

With 4:39 remaining, the Hurricanes had an opportunity to get the ball back, but the defense couldn’t get off the field. Virginia was able to convert on back-to-back passing first downs.

“Two third-down plays we had opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t,” Shannon said. “That’s thing you consistently see with us. We’ll do some great things, have an opportunity and just don’t make the plays. It’s tough, it’s hard. Defensively guys are supposed to make those plays, get it done.”

Morris finished 9-for-22 with 162 passing yards and two passing touchdowns and one rushing interception. His only blemishes were two interceptions, one in the red zone and the other deep in Miami territory. Morris was the best quarterback during this year’s spring game.

He was in line to take a redshirt this season to create more of a gap between him and Harris, but with redshirt junior Spencer Whipple throwing two interceptions in the second quarter, Morris was forced to take the reins of the team in the second half.

“He has great athletic ability, great arm strength, is a guy that’s very smart,” Shannon said. “Morris spent time on the scout team during the course of the season. He made some good plays. Guys on offense really rallied around him, believed in him.”

If Harris is unable to go, Morris is more suitable to start than Whipple.

Harris has always laid it on the line for the Hurricanes since he has been at UM.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” redshirt junior center Tyler Horn said about seeing Harris on the ground.

Miami needs to win out and hope Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-0 ACC) loses to either Georgia Tech (5-3, 3-2 ACC), North Carolina (5-3, 2-2) or Virginia in order to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game.

Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at lledoux@themiamihurricane.com.