James sparks Canes' running game

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

There’s no shortage of confidence from Miami running back Javarris James.

“I go in every game thinking it’s going to be a big one,” he said.

In 2007, though, when Miami lost to Oklahoma, 51-13, nobody really had a good game for the Canes, including James, who had a momentum-changing fumble that Reggie Smith returned 61 yards for a touchdown. It was the third-longest fumble return in Sooners’ history.

On Saturday, in Miami’s 21-20 win over Oklahoma, James redeemed himself. His career-high 150 rushing yards were the most a Miami player ever racked up against Oklahoma, and the running game was key in the Canes’ upset of the No. 8-ranked Sooners.

“I come into this game, I knew it was going to be a big game for myself to show people what I’ve got,” James said. “I still feel like I’ve got it.”

After an unimpressive 2007 season and an injury in 2008, James proved on Saturday against one of the top programs in the country that he does indeed still have “it.” His 50-yard carry in the second quarter set up a touchdown by tight end Jimmy Graham and was James’ longest run since a 62-yard run against North Carolina in 2006. That year, James was a standout freshman who caught the nation’s attention as Miami’s leading rusher, but he’s only had five 100-yard games in his career -- including Saturday’s.

“Oh, man, Javarris gave us a big lift [Saturday],” quarterback Jacory Harris said. “We knew that we’d need to have that running game. When he came through and made some late runs during some clutch situations, it really showed us that we could feed off him.”

James missed four games last year with a high-ankle sprain, and Graig Cooper stole the show. Even with their combined talents, though, Miami’s running game has been one of its problems as the program has been under reconstruction. Last year, the Canes averaged just 129.2 rushing yards per game. They haven’t finished better than 65th in the country in rushing offense in the past five seasons. And in their loss to Virginia Tech this year, the Canes were held to just 59 yards rushing.

Behind a much improved effort from the offensive line against Oklahoma, the door was open.

“Our success as an offense starts with the run,” said Miami coach Randy Shannon. “Coming in after halftime, I knew what we had to do to get going was to get the running game going. If we get good runs, it will open up the pass game, it will get the safeties coming up and we can get big plays. That’s our offense -- we make you stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, then we are going to just keep pounding and pounding.”

That’s exactly what James did. He said the offensive line “blocked their tails off,” and he still thinks he should’ve scored on that 50-yard run.

“That’s the only way we were going to win that game, keep getting first downs, keep running the ball. The offensive line, they did an excellent job. Everybody was talking about Oklahoma’s D-line, and they’ve got some great players, but I feel like our offensive line, they were ready for the challenge and they put up a big fight. They learned from their mistakes last week. They made it real easy for me and Coop and Mike [James].”

And they made it look easy.