Miami off to surprising 3-1 start

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

MIAMI -- There were some outside the program who thought Miami might start the season 0-4. Considering the unforgiving schedule which many had memorized since it was released in February -- at Florida State, against Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and home against Oklahoma -- it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

It was, however, out of the question for Miami.

In fact, instead of celebrating their 21-20 win over No. 8 Oklahoma on Saturday night, the Canes were kicking themselves for not being 4-0.

“We’re pleased,” said Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, “but at the same time we wish we could have that one back.”

“That one” being last weekend’s loss to Virginia Tech, but even with that one blemish on their record, the Hurricanes have started the season a surprising 3-1, with wins over three ranked opponents including last year’s runner up for the national title. It was the kind of win that should push Miami back into the top 10 and separate the Canes from the rest of an average league. Saturday’s win over the Sooners was the biggest win under coach Randy Shannon, though the most emotion he would show in his postgame press conference was a smile and a few laughs.

For the usually stoic Shannon, though, that brief hint of happiness was the equivalent of a pep rally and parade all rolled into one.

Miami got what it needed from everyone tonight. Javarris James had 15 carries for a career-high 150 yards -- the most rushing yards ever by a Hurricane against the Sooners. Harris completed passes to a season-high 11 different players. The tight ends, running backs and receivers were all involved. The offensive line paved the way and played better than it did last week against Virginia Tech, this time against a better defense. Miami’s defense recorded a season-high three sacks, and linebacker Sean Spence had a game and career-high 10 tackles.

“It shows the type of talent, the type of coaching staff and what this program is all about,” said offensive tackle Jason Fox. “You don’t want to look backwards, but man we wish we could have that V-Tech game back. As you all saw tonight, that wasn’t us up there. When we want to play, we can play. Now we’ve got the first four games over with, now we just have to take it one game at a time.”

Based on the postgame conversation in the locker room, Miami fans shouldn’t have to worry about the Canes’ egos swelling the size of Land Shark Stadium.

Miami is changing the channel on the Hurricanes’ hype.

As Shannon walked out of the locker room last night, the last thing he heard was Harris telling the team the only thing they’re allowed to watch is SpongeBob.

Miami recently had new TVs installed in its locker room, and the majority of the time, ESPN is on. No more. Shannon said Harris declared only SpongeBob will tell the Canes how good they are.

“Sometimes (it’s) too much,” Harris said. “You don’t want to walk into the locker room and hear ‘Oh, the swagger is back at the University of Miami.’ You’re gonna stop and watch it. So now we’re just going to change the channel, watch 48 hours, some SpongeBob, things of that nature.”

If Miami stays grounded and consistent, their toughest games will remain behind them. There are no opponents remaining on the schedule the caliber of Oklahoma or Virginia Tech (which almost lost to Duke on Saturday). Though the strength of schedule makes it feel like Miami already played a full season, Shannon said it’s too early to declare “Miami is back.”

“We are going in the direction we need to be headed,” said Shannon, who is in his third season. “Our athletic department and trainers give us the full support on where we need to be, but we are not where we want to be. You know, this is not the 13th or 14th game of the season, so that’s why you can’t say Miami is back. After the 14th game of the season, then you make the decision on where we are and where we need to be.”

A 3-1 start shows the Canes are the closest they’ve been in a long time.

“We’re not done,” Spence said. “We’re far from done.”