TAMPA (AP) — Jake Wieclaw’s second field goal of the game, a 36-yarder as time expired gave Miami a 6-3 victory over South Florida and made the Hurricanes bowl eligible on Saturday.
Wieclaw finished a clutch drive that quarterback Jacory Harris kept alive with a couple of crucial third-down conversions. The junior calmly sent the game-winner through the uprights after USF (5-5) used a pair of timeouts to try to rattle the kicker, who earlier had missed on a 41-yard attempt that was tipped.
Harris threw for 259 yards, but was sacked six times. USF played most of the second half without quarterback B.J. Daniels, who left in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
Miami (6-5) is bowl eligible with one game remaining against Boston College, however it remains unclear if the Hurricanes will actually accept a berth because of a booster scandal that ultimately could lead to NCAA sanctions.
In recent weeks, references by both coach Al Golden and players to having a certain number of games left to play — almost always talking about the regular-season total — prompted speculation that Miami may forgo any possible postseason invitations.
Questions on the subject persisted earlier this month after athletic director Shawn Eichorst, in his first extended comments to reporters since the scandal involving a former booster broke in August, would not say if the Hurricanes would accept a bowl bid should they qualify.
Knowing that it will almost certainly face NCAA sanctions over allegations made by convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, the school could self-impose a bowl ban at any time in an effort to potentially minimize at least some of the penalties that could be handed down when the investigation ends.
Shapiro claims he tainted 72 Miami players and recruits, including at least a dozen members of the current team, with cash, cars, nightclub and strip-club access and other so-called “extra benefits” from 2002 through 2010.
“I hope we go,” Harris said this week. “I’m a senior. It’s our last shot.”
Daniels accounted for 371 yards total offense to help USF stop a four-game losing streak the previous week against Syracuse. The slide toppled the Bulls’ first goal of winning the Big East, however they can still qualify for a bowl berth for a seventh consecutive season by winning one of two remaining games against Louisville and West Virginia.
The teams exchanged turnovers within the first three plays of the game, and it was 3-3 at the half after Miami settled for Wieclaw’s 26-yard field goal at the end of a 16-play, 77-yard drive in the opening quarter and USF got on the board with a 10-play, 49-yard march that set up Maikon Bonani’s 42-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
The Hurricanes wasted a potential opportunity to take the lead after Harris used completions of 22 yards to Travis Benjamin and 11 yards to Eduardo Clements to help them move from their own 17 to the USF 31 in the closing seconds of the half. But a delay of game penalty coming out of a timeout, followed by a sack that knocked them out of field goal range and forced a punt.
They squandered another chance when they drove to the USF 15 late in the third quarter, only to come away empty when Ryne Giddins got a hand on Wieclaw’s 41-yard field try that was on line but fell short in the end zone.
Daniels was injured with a little over five minutes into the second half, landing on his right shoulder after scrambling for no gain and being tackled by Miami’s Brandon McGee. The junior removed his jersey and shoulder pads, but remained on the sideline with a bag of ice on the injury.
Daniels finished 11 of 18 passing for 97 yards and an interception on USF’s first play from scrimmage. He rushed for 30 yards on nine attempts.
Bobby Eveld replaced Daniels, but the Bulls didn’t come anywhere close to scoring with their backup quarterback on the field.
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