Ohio State picks apart Miami’s Harris en route to 38-24 win

Published 12:23 am Sunday, September 12, 2010

COLUMBUS — Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and the 12th-ranked Hurricanes came into their showdown with No. 2 Ohio State confident and comfortable.

Four interceptions later, they were deflated and defeated.

Terrelle Pryor ran for 113 yards and a touchdown and passed for another score Saturday as the Buckeyes took advantage of Miami’s miscues to hang a 36-24 loss on the ’Canes.

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“Feeling good doesn’t always end up good,” Harris said.

Eight seasons after their later, the rematch of the 2002 national championship game wasn’t nearly as close. The last time the teams had met at the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, with the Buckeyes taking a dramatic and controversial 31-24 victory in double-overtime.

This one was no work of art, with numerous sloppy plays and bad tackling. But it kept the Buckeyes (2-0) perfect and prevented the Hurricanes (1-1) from making a case they belonged back among the nation’s elite.

It all came down to mistakes.

“When you can create four takeaways, you’re going to have a chance,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “And when you have zero giveaways, you’re going to have a real good chance.”

In what was billed as a Heisman Trophy showcase, Pryor completed just 12 of 27 passes for 233 yards but kept alive drives with many of his 20 carries and scored on a 13-yard run. Harris was 22 of 39 passing for 232 yards and a touchdown but had the four interceptions — three of which could easily have been caught.

“Two of them the receivers ran the wrong route,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “But, still, if the receiver runs the wrong route then throw the ball out of bounds.”

It was the last interception which proved to be particularly costly for the ’Canes.

Trailing 26-17 at the half, Miami took the kickoff and drove to a first down at the Ohio State 6. But on third-and-goal, Harris’ pass over the middle was wide of the mark and intercepted by burly Buckeyes defensive end Cameron Heyward, who had dropped back into pass coverage. He rumbled 80 yards with the ball.

“I was trying to take it to the house,” said the 6-foot-5, 288-pound Heyward, the son of former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. “They caught me. That shows they didn’t give up, and shows I’m not that fast.”

That was OK with his coach.

“They were going to bring it down to a one-score game,” Tressel said. “I was shocked how far he got. I kept thinking that someone was going to catch up to him and strip the ball. Oh, man I was petrified. That was a long run for a big guy.”

It set up Pryor’s touchdown run. He rolled right, looking to pass, then reversed field and scored untouched.

The Hurricanes, whose earlier TDs both came on kick returns, scored on Harris’ 9-yard pass to Chase Ford on the first play of the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 36-24.

Miami got the ball just once more, marching down the field only to lose it on downs at the Ohio State 39 with 7 1/2 minutes left. The Buckeyes, with Pryor picking up big yardage on runs, then played keep-a-way the rest of the game.

Devin Barclay tied an Ohio State record with five field goals.

The first half had to leave both coaches exasperated.

The Buckeyes dominated, piling up 260 yards to just 104 with three turnovers for the Hurricanes. But Miami twice returned kicks for long scores. The first was Lamar Miller’s 88-yard kickoff return.

After Ohio State seemed to grab control at 20-10 on Dan Herron’s 4-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, Travis Benjamin brought a punt back 79 yards for another score.

It was the first time in 121 years of football that the Buckeyes surrendered a touchdown on punt and kickoff returns in the same game.

The first interception Harris threw was tipped by Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett, into the hands of Nathan Williams, setting up Barclay’s field goal.

The second was a result of receiver Benjamin not even looking for the ball, with Chimdi Chekwa grabbing it to set up Herron’s TD run. Then Harris hit Benjamin with a pass along the right sideline, but he bobbled the ball into Chekwa’s hands to set up yet another Barclay field goal.

Three times in the half, Miami defenders got their hands on one of Pryor’s passes but none of them were intercepted.

“Today was the most calm I’ve ever been,” Pryor said. “I was really comfortable. I feel like I made good decisions and I was thinking about not making turnovers — and I got that done.”

Harris couldn’t say the same.