No. 19 Miami Tops USF, 31-10
Nov. 28, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Javarris James rushed for two touchdowns, Jacory Harris threw for two more, and No. 19 Miami took a big early lead on the way to beating South Florida 31-10 on Saturday.
Dedrick Epps and Leonard Hankerson caught touchdown passes for Miami (9-3), which ran out to a 21-3 halftime lead and capped its first nine-win regular season since 2005. A bowl victory - destination undetermined, but undoubtedly boosted by Saturday's performance - would give Miami its first 10-win season since 2003.
Damien Berry rushed for 114 yards and Graig Cooper added 83 more for Miami, which played without ill left tackle Jason Fox and still rolled.
A.J. Love caught a 12-yard touchdown pass for South Florida (7-4), which closes its regular season at Connecticut next Saturday. The Bulls fell to 7-28 all-time when allowing at least 31 points and 10-2 against teams from the state of Florida, with both those losses against Miami.
The schools were meeting for just the second time, with plans calling for the teams to play in late November annually until 2013, by which time another true Sunshine State rivalry could be born.
It's not there yet, and to the chagrin of 66,469 - the second-largest crowd in South Florida history - Miami wasted no time pointing that out.
A 12-play, 81-yard drive on the opening series set the tone, fueled by a gutsy call and Damien Berry's 6-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the USF 17. On the very next play, Hankerson made a juggling catch in the right side of the end zone, and the Hurricanes were well on their way.
Darryl Sharpton forced USF quarterback B.J. Daniels into a fumble later in the opening quarter, Randy Phillips recovered and James went in from 5 yards out three plays later for a 14-0 lead.
Midway through the second quarter, James struck again, a 2-yard scoring burst to wrap up a 10-play, 61-yard drive and put Miami up 21-3.
Eventually, South Florida's defense stopped making things easy for Miami.
The Hurricanes ran 36 plays for 233 yards on their first four drives, with three touchdowns. Their next four drives went three-and-out every time, netting a total of 8 yards, with Harris - already nursing a tender thumb on his throwing hard - getting his throwing arm twisted a bit by USF defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on the last of those possessions.
Daniels hit Love on third-and-goal from the 12 to make it 21-10, and Miami seemed in trouble.
That is, until Harris engineered Miami's sixth touchdown drive of two plays or less this season.
Berry ran for 18 yards on the first play and Harris did the rest, putting the football right into the chest of Epps, his 6-foot-4, 253-pound senior tight end who easily hauled it in for a 28-10 advantage late in the third quarter.