Miami was determined not to lose to a school more known for its basketball prowess again.
Even though the 19th-ranked Hurricanes (8-3, 5-3) trailed against Duke until the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes rallied and defeated the Blue Devils 34-16. Miami scored 24 unanswered points on Saturday to end the game and prolonged Duke’s bowl drought to 15 years.
“It was a huge win because it lets us finish [strong] in the ACC,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “We’ll be at 5-3, which is huge for us. That’s a starting point. We’re better than we were last year.”
The biggest spark against Duke (5-6, 3-4) came when junior running back Damien Berry entered and the Canes were down 16-13. Berry carried 10 times for 58 yards on the momentum-changing drive with the echoes of “Ber-ry, Ber-ry” being chanted by the crowd of 38,200. He capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run, putting Miami in front for good. Berry was even teased by his Hurricane teammates.
“We were in the shower and they were saying it,” Berry said of his teammates mocking the chant. “It was kind of funny. I love these guys.”
Shannon has truly paid attention to Berry as he has scored in seven straight games and has a team high eight touchdowns.
“Damien had worked at it,” Shannon said. “The more he improves, the better we are as a football team. If you notice, we always put Damien in to tire teams down. He is a banger.”
The hot topic of the week was on the condition of sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris’s right thumb. Harris struggled throwing in the first half as he was 14-for-28 while throwing an interception in the red zone.
The potent running attack in the second half allowed Harris to persevere. He was efficient going 11-for-15 with 156 yards passing and two touchdowns.
“[Berry] established the run game, threatening the safeties,” Harris said. “The safeties had to come down and respect the run. That kind of opened everything up in the second half.”
After the interception Harris was encouraged by sophomore linebacker Sean Spence, and during halftime junior Graig Cooper chimed in with spirited words as well.
“[Spence] told me this is not you. You’re not having fun,” said Harris, who finished with 348 yards and became the first quarterback since Ken Dorsey to throw over 3,000 in a season. “Coop told me the same thing during halftime. He told me ‘This is not you. Go out there and have fun.’ So I did.”
Two of Harris’ targets had career days as junior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson caught eight passes for 143 yards and senior tight end Jimmy Graham had five catches for 73 yards.
Miami put things out of reach with a 44-yard touchdown from Harris to Hankerson to make it 27-16 with 7:37 left in the game.
Senior linebacker Darryl Sharpton had a special ending on Senior Day. Sharpton intercepted Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown. It was Sharpton’s first career interception and touchdown. He also had a tied career high with 12 total tackles.
“I caught the ball and I saw an opening,” the Coral Gables High alumnus said. “After that, it seemed unreal to me, all the fans watching me and screaming. It was something that you dream about as a kid. I just ran straight ahead full speed for a touchdown like Forrest Gump.”
Up next, the Canes travel to University of South Florida in Tampa to battle the Bulls for an inner state match-up and their final game of the regular season. The Hurricanes and the Bulls have only played once with Miami defeating USF 27-7 in 2005.
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at email@example.com.
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