The Miami Hurricanes showed something against Ohio State on Saturday.
They can hang with the big boys. In a game that was closer than the 36-24 final score suggests, a handful of mistakes and missed opportunities did "The U" in.
They are not quite there yet.
As usual, most of the blame falls on the quarterback, in this case Jacory Harris.
Harris completed 22 of 39 passes for 232 yards, with one touchdown. What jumps out from his stat line are his four interceptions. While two of his picks seemed to be the fault of receiver Travis Benjamin, he nonetheless threw two others, including one deep in Buckeye territory when Miami had a chance to cut it to a one possession game.
Harris also missed two seemingly easy touchdown passes when he under-threw Benjamin in the first and overthrew Leonard Hankerson in the third. Even with four interceptions, those two plays could have swung the game in the Hurricanes' favor.
Aside from a higher completion percentage and better decisions with the ball, Miami fans should want Harris to run more.
While his ability to escape the rush and keep his eyes downfield is a strength for the junior quarterback, there are times he would be better served taking off and getting some yards on the ground.
If you have the legs, you may as well use them.
The defense cannot be let off the hook here, however.
They must also learn to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. There were a few times throughout the game when Miami players had chances to intercept Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and swing momentum.
A third down play late in the second quarter highlights this. The defense had forced Ohio State into a third and long, got pressure on Pryor forcing him to throw up a lame duck pass, but the Miami defensive back mistimed his jump and the play resulted in a long first down completion, eventually leading to a field goal.
Had he at least knocked the pass down, OSU would have punted with the score still tied.
The Hurricane’s defense also had several opportunities to get Pryor down in the backfield for a sack, but let him slip out of their grasp, giving Pryor the opportunity to showcase his running ability.
This generally led to a big Ohio State play.
Those instances were basically a microcosm of Miami’s day, as their tackling was nothing short of atrocious and they consistently failed to sustain momentum. The Hurricanes had two touchdown returns on special teams, on a kickoff and a punt, yet turned right around and gave up big returns on the ensuing kickoffs, squashing any shot at keeping the positive vibes going.
It is not all doom and gloom for Miami, though.
They have over a week to get ready for a big Thursday night game against the Pitt Panthers on September 23rd. That gives them more than enough time to see what went wrong and improve upon it.
Miami can still have a very successful season if Harris improves his accuracy, the defense makes some timely plays and they generally keep momentum going in their favor.
The ACC does not look particularly strong this year and Miami could very well win the conference and make it to a BCS game. The 'Canes would need to win all of their remaining games in impressive fashion to have an outside shot at the National Championship Game.
It will be up to Harris and the defense to bring the team back amongst the elite.