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Miami rally falls short in 28-21 loss to Virginia

Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco (16) prepares to pass against Miami in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Miami, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco (16) prepares to pass against Miami in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Miami, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
By Tim Reynolds
AP Sports Writer / October 28, 2011

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MIAMI—Jacory Harris understood the reality. Barring some sort of series of miracles, his senior class will leave Miami without a single championship.

That did not sit well with the Hurricanes' quarterback.

After a 311-yard, three-touchdown night -- most of that coming on passes to high school teammate Tommy Streeter -- Harris looked ahead and tried to explain what went wrong as Miami saw any realistic hopes of contending in the Atlantic Coast Conference likely slip away after the Hurricanes fell to Virginia 28-21 on Thursday night.

"Got to win out," Harris said. "Can't let anybody stop us again."

Even that might not be enough for Miami (4-4, 2-3) now. The Hurricanes will need plenty of help to get back into the Coastal Division race -- one where Virginia, which won its first conference road game in more than two years, finds itself now control of its own destiny. If the Cavaliers win out, they're headed to the ACC title game.

"All you can ask for," Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco said.

Virginia got big plays in bunches, and needed every one of them to beat Miami.

A fake field goal. A halfback option for a touchdown. A 53-yard catch-and-run on a screen for a score, and 78-yard reception by a running back who slipped out wide for another. Rocco passed for 226 yards and two scores, running back Perry Jones threw one touchdown pass and caught another, and it was enough for Virginia.

"All that matters is the people who believed in this team," Virginia coach Mike London said.

On a night where the explosive play carried the Cavaliers, simple, gritty football saved the day. LaRoy Reynolds stopped Miami's Mike James in the backfield on fourth-and-2 at the Virginia 15 with 2:10 remaining, and the Cavaliers (5-3, 2-2) held on from there.

Harris completed 21 of 30 passes for Miami, which saw its two-game winning streak snapped. Streeter caught seven of Harris' passes for a career-best 176 yards and two touchdowns for the Hurricanes.

"I really don't focus on what I did," Streeter said. "I just want to help the team win. Obviously I didn't do a good enough job of that."

Miami took over with 7:12 left, needing a touchdown to tie, and went 37 yards in nine plays. Reynolds got past the Miami line and wrapped up James on the game's biggest play, and the Hurricanes didn't get the ball back until 25 seconds remained after a Virginia punt.

And for Miami, it was a little bit of deja vu. In all four losses this season, the Hurricanes had chances in the fourth quarter -- all those defeats coming in one-possession games, where one failed play made the difference.

"We can't have the penalties and the mental breakdowns that we did," Miami coach Al Golden said. "We weren't sharp and we didn't execute as well as we needed to and that starts with me, period."

Still, the Hurricanes nearly tied it with 9 seconds left, Harris looking for Streeter in the end zone, a 45-yard pass that was barely tipped away -- and had Harris going to the sideline in pain after the play. Stephen Morris came into the game and got Miami to the 32 with 4 seconds left, then scrambled and found Eduardo Clements inside the Virginia 10 as time expired.

"Faith, family and football," London said. "Those are the things. ... It's a great win. Road victory against a really good team."

Harris said he was fine after the game, declining to say much in the way of specifics about what ailed him in the final moments. Golden said his quarterback has been aching for the past couple weeks.

Virginia's first score came on a play that seemed harmless at first -- a quick throw from Rocco to Darius Jennings, who caught the ball in the flat about four yards behind the line of scrimmage.

He made the rest look easy.

With plenty of downfield blockers, Jennings took off on what became a 53-yard touchdown play, the first in the big-play barrage by the Cavaliers, who went deep into their bag of tricks while running out to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.

A fake field goal -- holder Jacob Hodges fielded the snap, then got up and ran 20 yards -- set up a 22-yard kick by Robert Randolph later in the drive that put the Cavaliers up 10-0. And with 4:15 left until halftime, Jones' first career throw became one he'll likely never forget. Rocco faked a handoff before pitching to Jones, who rolled to his right and passed to Tim Smith for a 37-yard score and a 17-point lead for the Cavaliers.

Virginia's second touchdown drive was set up by a bit of Miami misfortune. Harris had the ball slip out of his hand at the Virginia 15, the fumble being recovered by the Cavaliers' Jake Snyder.

Harris atoned on the next Miami possession.

A 20-yard pass to Streeter on third-and-11, followed quickly by a 39-yard throw to Travis Benjamin got Miami down to the Virginia 3. He and Streeter -- old high school teammates from Miami Northwestern -- did the rest, Streeter stretching high to haul in a fade for a touchdown that got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard with 35 seconds left until halftime.

Down 20-7 with less than a minute left in the third quarter, Streeter went over two Virginia defenders for a 51-yard touchdown catch, getting the Hurricanes within six.

Right on cue, Virginia came back with yet another big play -- Jones slipping out wide, then darting back into the middle and catching a short pass that turned into a 78-yard touchdown from Rocco that put the Cavaliers up by 14 with 14:08 left.

"I'm tired of doing this," Harris said. "Tired of always having to do a comeback victory. We're always putting ourselves in bad situations. We've got to come out and do better."