Harris poised in defeat

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's still too early to deem Jacory Harris Miami's starting quarterback for 2009, but even in defeat, the true freshman proved Saturday night he is definitely capable of the job.

With suspended starter Robert Marve momentarily in the background, Harris played with poise in his second career start and further validated what coach Randy Shannon has been trying to tell everyone all along -- he's got two quarterbacks.

Harris grew up right before our eyes, and the 24-17 Emerald Bowl loss might have been different had the Hurricanes had better clock management and not wasted precious seconds in the final minute of their final drive. That, though, falls on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, not his young quarterback. Nix has to have a two-minute drill Harris can handle as a true freshman, and Harris proved all game he can handle the pressure.

It was hardly a flawless performance, as Harris showed his youth with the interception, and should have held onto the ball more tightly in a critical fourth-quarter fumble that led to Cal's game-winning touchdown. But Harris' future is bright, as is Miami's. He finished with 194 yards and two touchdowns on 25 of 41 completions.

The biggest difference in this game was youth, and for the Hurricanes, that's hardly a bad thing.

Harris was occasionally a step slow with his timing, but for the most part did a good job recognizing coverages and was able to make plays out of nothing with his feet. He also threw the ball away instead of taking sacks. He gave his receivers catchable balls, but they didn't always return the favor (see Javarris James' drop in the end zone). As the game went on, Harris' confidence grew, and he began to take more chances.

Miami's offensive line struggled with both pass protection and run blocking early in the first half, and Cal controlled the line of scrimmage. As they settled down, though, so did Harris, and things began to open up for Lee Chambers and the running game in the third quarter.

As expected, Cal running back Jahvid Best racked up enough mileage to run back to campus.

Best was Mr. Inside AND Mr. Outside. He rolled off tackles, broke tackles, juked defenders and flat-out beat Miami with his speed in the open field.

He had to, because Cal's passing game was ineffective, and Miami's defense had a little something to do with that.

Miami wrapped up and tackled better than it did in its last two regular season losses to Georgia Tech and NC State, and the Canes got pressure on quarterback Nate Longshore as the game progressed.

Harris was easily the more productive of the two quarterbacks.

Aside from the poor clock management at the end of the game, Miami had nothing to be ashamed of in this game -- including the five suspensions.

The bowl appearance, the improvement on defense and Shannon's unwavering discipline all marked signs of positive change in his second season.