Canes Convert Big 4th Down, Win 14-13

MIAMI, Fla. - With 2:41 remaining in the game, the University of Miami faced a fourth down and one situation at their own 38 yard line with a slim 14-13 lead.

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Head Coach Larry Coker called timeout after initially sending punter Brian Monroe and decided to go for the first down—and go for the win.

"A Houston field goal would have beaten us," Coker said. "I have much respect for their offense. I think the defense could have stopped them, but I would hate to put the game in their offense's hands."

So with inches to go for the first down, quarterback Kyle Wright called his own number and sneaked his way to a first down. Miami used the drive to run the clock out and win the game.

The only bright spot for UM, offensively, in the ugly 14-13 win was the play of Javarris James. The true freshman was a steady force for the offense, finishing the game with 18 carries for 148 yards—setting a true freshman record for yards in a game—and one touchdown.

"I felt pretty good out there," James said. "I wasn't as nervous as I was in the Florida State game. The offensive line did real good job. They had holes the whole game. It was easy to read them like I was in high school."

Quarterback Kyle Wright went 16-for-27 for 190 yards while throwing one touchdown and two interceptions. Lance Leggett led all receivers with 72 yards on two catches.

The defense, once again won the game for Miami. UM limited the high powered Houston attack, allowing just 276 yards of total offense and holding quarterback Kevin Kolb to196 yards passing and no touchdowns.

"We studied up pretty well and saw how Houston plays offensively," Coker said. "I am very pleased with our defensive football team. Our defense did a great job of stepping in and shutting down their offense. I think they showed a lot of character and a lot of heart tonight."

James touched the ball six out of the first seven plays of the game on the seven play, 80-yard touchdown run. The drive was highlighted by a 45-yard pass to Leggett, bringing the ‘Canes to the Houston four yard line.

Houston responded early in the second quarter after the Cougar defense forced an interception. The key play of the drive came on a fourth and two conversion at the UM 35 yard line. Kolb hit receiver Jeron Harvey for a 24-yard gain with Bruce Johnson in coverage.

Kolb ran the ball in for a four yard touchdown, leading the Cougars on a methodical 12 play, 66-yard drive that chewed up 5:09 off the clock.

Houston took a 10-7 lead with 11:39 to go in the second quarter after Wright's pass was tipped by intended receiver Greg Olsen and intercepted. UM's defense held Houston to a 38-yard field goal.

On the next possession, UM caught a break on third down and 22 yards from their own 13 yard line, when an apparent fumble by James was ruled to be an incomplete pass. If James fumbled, the ‘Canes would have turned the ball over on three straight possessions.

In the first half, UM committed way too many turnovers and penalties that killed drives and allowed for Houston to lead 10-7 at the half. Miami committed seven penalties for 55 yards, while Wright threw for two interceptions in the opening half.

The most noticeable difference in the team came from the defensive line. The line never let Kolb get comfortable and finished the game with four sacks for a loss of 21 yards.

"I don't know how many sacks we had, but it felt like everybody got one," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "We applied a lot of pressure out there and everybody was real emotional. We did what we had to do to get it done."

Houston opened up the second half with an eight play, 52 yard drive that was capped by a 35-yard field goal, putting Houston up 13-7. Houston ran the ball effectively up the middle of the defense on the drive, running for 33 yards on the short drive.

Lovon Ponder made the big play that UM needed to turn the game around when he forced a fumble with 4:04 left in the third quarter and UM recovered on their own 16 yard line. Houston was on the verge of taking at least a 16-7 lead when Ponder made the play.

"It was the turning point in the game," Coker said. "The defense forced the turnover and our offense converted. It was a huge play in this game."

Miami responded with an eight play, 84-yard touchdown drive that was kept alive by two key third down conversions.

James converted a third and two into a first down with a 35 yard run that took UM to the Houston 15 yard line. Then, Leggett caught a 27-yard pass that converted a third and 24 to Houston's two yard line setting up two yard touchdown reception by fullback James Bryant.

Jon Peattie missed a field goal wide left with 8:16 left in the game that would have given UM a four point lead. The drive was a promising one with the ‘Canes converting two key third downs and chewing nearly eight minutes off the clock.

On the final drive of the game, Miami went for a fourth and one at their own 38 yard line with 2:41 remaining in the game. Wright was able to pick up the first down on a quarterback sneak and extend a drive that would eventually end the game.

"There were a lot of things going through our head at the time," Wright said. "We new that if we got the first down we would have put ourselves in better position for the win."

David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

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