ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—By the end, about 5,000 fans were all that remained from the biggest crowd ever to see a game in Central Florida’s stadium.
Seemed like all of them were from Miami.
Jacory Harris survived six sacks to complete 20 of 26 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown, Javarris James rushed for another score on the way to topping the 2,000-yard mark for his career, and No. 9 Miami methodically pulled away to beat Central Florida 27-7 on Saturday night.
Damien Berry added a fourth-quarter touchdown run for the Hurricanes (5-1), who matched their best start since 2005.
“We’re on the right track,” Harris said.
Brett Hodges threw for 163 yards for UCF (3-3), but the team’s top rusher— Brynn Harvey, who was coming off a 219-yard effort against Memphis—was held to 25 yards on 12 carries.
UCF is now 0-20 against teams in the AP Top 25 since moving to Division I-A in 1996. Miami held nearly a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession, had 26 first downs to UCF’s 11, and outgained the Knights 363-229.
“Our defense did a great job of keeping us in the game,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “But offensively, we just did not capitalize.”
It was a perfect day for Miami in the ACC: Not only did the Hurricanes win their third straight, they got help in the Atlantic Coast Conference race when Georgia Tech knocked off Virginia Tech earlier Saturday. Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech now all have one ACC loss, with Virginia (2-0) leading the Coastal Division.
“Kind of made me smile a little bit,” James said, acknowledging that he checked the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
Although Miami scored the game’s first 17 points, getting past UCF wasn’t easy, not with Harris getting hot so often.
UCF had chances, none better than getting the ball at the Miami 2 midway through the third quarter after a snap sailed over Miami punter Matt Bosher’s head.
Bosher retreated and kicked the ball soccer-style out of the end zone, which turned out to be brilliant.
On third-and-goal from the 6, Jared Campbell got to Hodges just as his arm was going forward, the easy pop fly was intercepted by Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy, and the Hurricanes knew they just dodged a bullet.
Bosher kicked a 46-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, putting Miami up 20-7.
The outcome wasn’t in doubt again.
“We got a positive out of something that could have been negative,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “Tough situation for the defense, but they held in there and got the turnover. Those sort of changes are really big for us right now.”
Until Hodges’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Rocky Ross with 9:15 left in the third quarter, the Knights had been scoreless in all 21 of their offensive possessions against Miami. UCF’s two touchdowns in last year’s 20-14 loss came off interception and kickoff returns.
That streak nearly ended much earlier, and might have changed UCF’s fortunes, too.
Hodges connected with Kamar Aiken for a 35-yard gain on UCF’s first possession, getting to the Miami 18. But the drive stalled, Nick Cattoi’s 32-yard field goal try was wide left, and the game remained scoreless.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities,” O’Leary said.
From there, Harris was surgical.
He completed his first seven passes, got the scoring going with a 23-yard pass to Leonard Hankerson, and the Hurricanes were on their way.
And early in the third quarter, after shanked UCF punt, Harris was at his best.
He found LaRon Byrd perfectly for 32 and 14 yards on Miami’s first two plays of that drive, and James went in from 5 yards out on the next play for a 17-0 lead.
“We concentrated more,” Harris said. “We tried to stay focused. We tried to pay attention to what we had to get done and just executed our plays, made the right reads and made the right blocks.”
James finished with 65 yards on 17 carries, giving him 2,032 for his career. He’s seventh all-time at Miami but still No. 2 in the family; cousin Edgerrin James rushed for 2,960, topped only by Ottis Anderson’s 3,331.
“It’s a good accomplishment,” James said. “But I’m happy we won. I’m more excited with the win.”