Much like U, I'm getting ready to sit down and watch the final game of the Canes' 2008 season from the living room in my house. I'll be checking in with Susan Miller Degnan throughout the night for updates out in San Francisco. Meanwhile, I'll be here providing you with my thoughts on the game.
This game has plenty of storylines. But none bigger than freshman quarterback Jacory Harris, who for all intensive purposes will be the quarterback of this team going forward. We've heard the rumblings for weeks that Robert Marve (suspended for this one) would likely be heading elsewhere after this season. We heard from his high school coach who told me Marve's relationship with coach Shannon wasn't "buddy-buddy." So, tonight's game in a lot of ways, is a glimpse into the future of this program.
Harris is a kid I really believe will be able to help get this program back to the BCS level. He's a tremendous leader who has impressed me with his poise and knowledge since the day I met him in the 11th grade over at Miami Northwestern. Miami probably won't win tonight's game. This Bears team is playing at home and has far less holes on defense than UM does. But I've got a real good feeling Jacory is going to play well tonight and give U hope for the future.
So, feel free to join our in-game discussion below and give me your thoughts heading into this bowl game, during this bowl game and after it.
> By the way, nice win for the Canes today out in New York against St. John's. Miami definitely rebounded from that ugly Clemson loss. Coach Frank Haith wasn't around this week with the holidays to talk to reporters. But we know he worked his team hard after that loss. It paid off. Miami's three losses by the way are all to ranked teams. And the team's strength of schedule is No. 2 in the country right now.
> We learned shortly before the game Dedrick Epps will not play tonight after suffering a right leg contusion during practice this week. UM is already shorthanded at tight end. Richard Gordon and Tervaris Johnson were suspended earlier this week for violating team rules. That leaves UM with Chris Zellner as the only real available tight end. Tackle Tyrone Byrd will wear No. 84 tonight and play the tight end spot, mostly as a blocker.
FIRST HALF THOUGHTS...
> How about that? 18th-year senior Romeo Davis comes up with the first big play of the game, stripping Jahvid Best of the ball, allowing Jojo Nicholas to recover at the UM 49.
> Cal makes the second big play and this one means something. A 74-yard catch and run from Nate Longshore to Verran Tucker leads to a 2-yard Jahvid Best touchdown run that gives Cal a 7-0 lead with 7:15 left in the first quarter.
> So far, we haven't been able to see if Jacory Harris can throw the football. Miami continues to go backward on first down before deciding to run it on second and long.
> Best has his second touchdown. A 43-yard run makes it 14-0 with 4:55 left in the first quarter. This could end up getting real ugly quick unless UM's offense shows up. This UM team is not only short-handed, but they can't generate anything positive either right now in the first quarter.
> Got to love Tyrone Byrd battling for that ball from the tight end position. And then Javarris James for catching it off the deflection.
> After getting off to a slow start, Jacory Harris engineers a nice 10-play, 80-yard drive, capped with a 15-yard touchdown pass to LaRon Byrd. Harris converted a 3rd and 9 with a nice 11 yard run and found Leonard Hankerson for a big pickup.
> Canes defense stands tall right after UM's first touchdown by forcing a three-and-out for Cal. Glenn Cook makes a nice play on a blitz on third down, forcing the Bears to throw an incomplete pass. Except for two really bad plays (Best's 43-yard TD run and the 74-yard pass) and another pair of 9-yard Jahvid Best runs, UM's defense has done a good job tackling today and getting pressure on the quarterback.
> Jacory makes his first bad decision in the game, throwing into zone coverage and getting picked off by Michael Mohammed at the UM 42. The Miami defense is going to have to hold here.
> Jahvid Best has 106 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. But for some reason, Cal has continued to throw the football. Not sure why.
SECOND HALF THOUGHTS...
> Miami gets good field position to start the second half, but does nothing with it after Chris Rutledge gets flagged for a late hit. The penalty turned a 3rd and 1 to a 3rd and 16.
> Miami averted trouble on its first bad snap moments later when Matt Bosher fielded a bouncer and got his kick off.
> Cal has tried to completely avoid kicking the ball to Travis Benjamin. On three kickoffs now, they've gone short on kickoffs. Benjamin has only had the chance to return one punt and didn't get very far.
> Miami ties the ball game with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Thearon Collier with 7:34 left in the third quarter . Redshirt freshman Lee Chambers makes an appearance on the drive, picking up a key first down on a 18-yard third down run to the Cal 9 yard line. It caps a 10-play, 69-yard drive in which Jacory looked very, very good. Harris is now 17 of 27 for 145 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
> One thing Randy Shannon is going to have address after this season is how he used his timeouts. At the end of the first half, Miami used up the final minute and didn't use any of its three timeouts until there were four seconds left. Now, in the second half, Shannon has used two timeouts on defense.
> Cal puts together a 12-play, 76-yard drive to answer Miami's scoring drive. Jahvid Best once again is at the center of all the successful plays, starting the drive with a long run and then picking up 25 yards on fourth and 1. Cal had to settle for a field goal, though, after quarterback Nate Longshore gets stepped on by a lineman backing up out of the pocket and falls to the ground on third and goal.
> Matt Bosher makes his best play of the game yet at the start of the fourth quarter -- getting hit on a punt to give UM a first down.
> The five yard penalty leads to a game-tying 22-yard field goal from Matt Bosher. Lee Chambers comes up big again on the drive with a few long drives. Something not to be forgotten on the drive -- Graig Cooper recovering his own fumble deep in UM territory.
> People are probably going to forget about the play Glenn Cook made late in the fourth quarter to stop Cal running back Shane Vareen on third and one at the UM 17. But it was huge. Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 34-yard field goal with 4:24 left. But Cook's tackle was the play of the drive. OK, the second most important. Jahvid Best going out with an injured hand during the drive following a 20-yard run was big, too.
> Miami caught a break with the missed field goal, but couldn't cash in. Jacory Harris gets sacked by linebacker Zach Follett and loses the football. Two plays later, Nate Longshore finds tight end Anthony Miller for a two-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 left. Does Jacory Harris have another comeback in him?
> Miami got the ball back with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left and ran eight offensive plays. But what everyone is going to be talking about this offseason is the clock management on that final drive. In a word: Disgusting.