It wasn't quite a "Miracle on the Mountain" but Miami's 34-31 victory Saturday over No. 13 West Virginia was awful close to one.
Scott Covington hit Daryl Jones with a 3-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 left Saturday to give Miami its first victory over a ranked team since 1996. It also was the first time Miami rallied in the fourth quarter to win a game since its "miracle" 10-7 victory in Morgantown two years ago on a blocked punt in the final minute.
Edgerrin James rushed for 162 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns for Miami (4-2 overall, 2-1 Big East), which stayed alive in the chase for Big East title. Syracuse is the only team left unbeaten in conference play.
"There has to be something special about this group. God, I'm proud of these kids," Miami coach Butch Davis said. "The offense had one of the finer nights in the four years I've been here."
Miami rolled up 456 yards of offense as James consistently broke tackles. He also caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
"It would behoove us to tackle," West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said.
West Virginia (4-2, 1-1) appeared to have the game sealed after stopping the Hurricanes on fourth and inches at the Mountaineers 20 with 5:27 left and leading 31-27. Covington was stopped short on two quarterback sneaks.
"That call was my fault," Davis said"I almost cost us the ball game. I thought he got it both times, but it turned out it came up short. Our players backed me up by scoring and our defense held them."
West Virginia was forced to punt after three plays and Miami took over at the West Virginia 46. Miami needed five plays and 1:38 to drive for the score, the key James Jackson's 41-yard run to the West Virginia 5.
"It's easy when you haven't won a big game like this for minds to go back to what they're used to," Covington said. "But I looked at my guys in the huddle and they had one thing on their minds -- we're going to score. That's great to see."
West Virginia had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds and send it to overtime but Jay Taylor's 53-yard field goal attempt into the wind was wide left and short.
West Virginia looked early like it could take control with experienced receivers up against Miami freshman cornerbacks Markese Fitzgerald and Mike Rumph. Marc Bulger threw for three first-half touchdowns as West Virginia built a 21-17 lead after two quarters. Bulger finished with a career-high 380 yards on 32-of-43 passing. Mountaineers tailback Amos Zereoue rushed for 113 yards.
But Miami used James to match West Virginia almost blow for blow on the scoreboard and took a 27-24 lead in the third quarter on James' 10-yard touchdown reception and Andy Crosland's 24-yard field goal. The Hurricanes also took advantage of West Virginia's 11 penalties for 130 yards, numbers that did not sit well with Nehlen.
"I hate to see officials have a lot to say about the outcome of a football game. Let the kids decide that," Nehlen said.
For West Virginia, the close loss was too familiar to the 10-7 loss to Miami here two years ago.
"Our guys just didn't tackle today or got beat up or something," said West Virginia defensive tackle John Thornton, who said he cried in the locker room. "There's no defense that we can call that will work if guys don't tackle."
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