No. 19 Miami romps by Pitt, 31-3, behind Harris
Thursday, September 23, 2021 11:19 PM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By ALAN ROBINSON

PITTSBURGH - Seven years after they last played as Big East members, nothing's changed at all in the Miami-Pitt series.

Jacory Harris led quick touchdown drives to start each half and No. 19 Miami dominated Pittsburgh much like it did when the schools were conference rivals, winning 31-3 on Thursday night.

Harris had two more floater-type interceptions like the four he threw in the Hurricanes' 28-14 loss to No. 2 Ohio State two weeks ago, but shook them off to throw for two scores and 248 yards while going 21 of 32. Damien Berry did the rest by running for 87 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in an offense that outgained Pitt's 348-232.

The Hurricanes (2-1), faster, deeper and more athletic than the Panthers (1-2), never gave Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri any time to throw in his third college start, and he was pulled in the fourth quarter after completing 8 of 15 passes for 61 yards.

Dion Lewis, the nation's leading returning rusher, was given little running room by an overwhelmed offensive line and ended with 41 yards on 12 carries. Lewis, coming off a 1,799-yard season as a freshman, has been held to 143 yards in three games.

Miami's plan was simple and effective: Strike early, strike effectively, then let its defense and special teams do the rest.

Again, it was a bad day for the Big East, which is 1-7 so far this season against nonconference opponents from BCS conferences. Pitt is 1-11 against ranked nonconference teams since 1996, while Miami has won 33 in a row against unranked nonconference teams.

With the Hurricanes up 17-3 early in the fourth, they forced a fumble by punt returner Cam Saddler. Harris took advantage to throw a 10-yard TD pass to Travis Benjamin that wrapped up Miami's seventh consecutive victory against Pitt and its 15th in 16 games dating to 1984.

Harris also found Leonard Hankerson on a 19-yard scoring pass play on Miami's fourth play from scrimmage in the second half, finishing off a 51-yard drive set up by a 26-yard punt by Pitt's Dan Hutchins. Harris hit Benjamin for 20 yards on first down.

The teams hadn't met since Miami left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, but, as usual, the Hurricanes made it look easy.

Pitt didn't advance inside the Miami 30 until the next-to-last play of the third quarter, and that was on a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty. Lewis gained only 5 yards on the next plays carries, and Hutchins kicked a 27-yard field goal to avoid Pitt's second shutout loss of the Dave Wannstedt era.

By then, many in the announced crowd of 58,115 had taken off for the parking lots as Pitt lost its second game to a team currently ranked in the Top 25. The Panthers began the season with a 27-24 overtime loss at now-No. 15 Utah.

Pitt also lost a key player to injury, middle linebacker Dan Mason with a dislocated right knee midway through the third quarter. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Harris, operating against little pressure from Pitt's pass rush, completed passes of 39 yards and 13 yards to Benjamin and 10 to Berry on an impressive 80-yard, 10-play drive following the opening kickoff that ended with Berry's 1-yard touchdown run with only 3:25 gone.

Miami made it 10-0 midway through the second quarter on Matt Bosher's 28-yard field goal after Hankerson couldn't hold onto Harris' pass into the end zone on second-and-9 from the 11.

At that point, Miami led 12-0 in first downs, 161-1 in passing yards and 204-22 in total yards, and it didn't even look that close.

Pitt's offense didn't show any life until Ray Graham replaced Lewis, who gained only 6 yards on his first four carries. Graham ran for 20 yards in his first four carries, drawing loud cheers from Pitt's larger-than-usual student section when he ran for the Panthers' initial first down with slightly less than 6 minutes left in the half.

But Pitt's only sustained drive of the half was set back by an 18-yard loss when receiver Greg Cross took a handoff and was tackled before he could throw a pass, and Hutchins later missed a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Graham finished with 100 yards on 14 carries, many of them late in an already decided game.

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