It takes until overtime, but Miami finds reasons for hope in a 36-30 win over Clemson.
By KEVIN BRAFFORD
Published September 18, 2005
[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
Tyrone Moss leaps over Clemson defender's during Saturday's ACC game.
CLEMSON, S.C. - Miami got more than the victory it so badly needed Saturday at Clemson.
Though it took three overtimes for the 13th-ranked Hurricanes to stave off the No. 20 and previously unbeaten Tigers 36-30, Miami gained immeasurably from the additional work it put in.
It took overtime for quarterback Kyle Wright to finally seem comfortable, and that, coupled with the rushing performance of junior Tyrone Moss - 31 carries for 139 yards - bodes well for a struggling offense.
"I think we've been searching for a little bit of an identity," offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "I think we found it today, and in a very tough place to play."
Moss' third touchdown of the game, a 25-yard run around right end on second and 10, gave the defense another chance.
Though that unit had played well most of the night, it had been flagged for eight of the Hurricanes' 14 penalties and had allowed the Tigers to force overtime by scoring 10 in the final three minutes. Jad Dean's 27-yard field goal tied it at 20.
"It was disappointing that we couldn't close it out in regulation," safety Brandon Meriweather said. "We had a couple of plays we didn't make that we should have made. Fortunately, we were able to redeem ourselves."
In the second straight year these new Atlantic Coast Conference teams have played overtime - Clemson won 24-17 last year at the Orange Bowl - the Hurricanes defense at last came up big.
And it needed to, as there was little margin for error. NCAA rules stipulate that once a game goes to the third overtime, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after each touchdown.
After Moss scored to provide a 36-30 lead, Wright's pass was deflected by Gaines Adams.
"We wanted to keep them from scoring a touchdown because then you're down to one play to win or lose," Meriweather said.
It never came to that, thanks to senior defensive end Thomas Carroll and freshman free safety Kenny Phillips.
On second and 10 from the Miami 25, Carroll beat left tackle Barry Richardson and bore down on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who had rolled right.
Carroll got hold of Whitehurst and was about to drag him to the ground when the quarterback tried to force a throw, which overshot a receiver and found Phillips' waiting hands.
"I didn't know who caught it at first," Carroll said. "I heard the crowd roar, but I couldn't tell who it was for. Then I turned and saw Kenny had the ball. I just wanted him to go down, because I knew the game was over."
Phillips said it was a play he'd made often in high school.
"I just wanted to make sure I caught it," he said. "At that point, your instincts take over. You don't have a chance to do anything but react."
The come-from-behind win - Miami trailed 10-6 after an offensively inept first half - took some of the sting out of the season-opening loss to Florida State which, because of an off week, had festered for 12 days. It also allowed the Hurricanes to avoid their first 0-2 start since 1978.
"This is a huge, huge win for us," coach Larry Coker said. "It was definitely a test of our character, and I like the way we responded."
Wright, who was under constant pressure from the Clemson defense, was a pedestrian 16-for-26 for 152 yards. But he wasn't intercepted and made his three best throws in overtime, augmenting a running game that appears to be Miami's best first option.
"Kyle is only going to get better with more experience," Coker said. "Being able to run the ball effectively is the best way to help out a young quarterback."