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Canes deny Houston's upset bid, get much-needed win

MIAMI (AP) -- Javarris James piled up the yards in his first
start. And when it mattered most, Kyle Wright got a couple of
inches to make sure the freshman's coming-out party was a happy
one.

James ran for 148 yards, Wright narrowly converted a crucial
fourth-and-inches in the final minutes and Miami held on to defeat
previously unbeaten Houston 14-13 Saturday night.

Playing as an unranked team for the first time since 1999, the
Hurricanes (2-2) rallied from a six-point third-quarter deficit
against a 16-point underdog. Still, they left the Orange Bowl
feeling some long-due relief.

"It was ugly at times," said Wright, who was 16-of-27 for 190
yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. "But if you could see
the locker room right now, it's pretty happy. It's definitely
bittersweet, but we came out and got a win, bottom line. And I
think this is going to catapult us into the rest of the season."

Kevin Kolb was 18-of-28 for 196 yards for Houston (4-1), which
came into the game averaging 38 points and 486 yards per game in
its four victories. Kolb also had Houston's lone touchdown on a
4-yard run.

The Cougars, who were seeking only the fourth 5-0 start in
program history, were outgained 420-276.

"I don't see any validation for us," Houston coach Art Briles
said. "This was all disappointing. We just did a good job of
getting close."

Although it wasn't pretty, the Hurricanes' faithful finally had
something to enjoy.

The disappointment of some Miami fans was evident even before
the game, when three different messages calling for the firing of
both embattled coach Larry Coker and athletic director Paul Dee
were flown over the stadium, amid advertisements for insurance and
pizza.

There was one pro-Coker banner being flown about: "Real Canes
fans support Coach Coker." But for a while, even that support was
probably waning, as the Hurricanes found themselves in a 13-7
third-quarter hole.

"I'm not concerned about criticism," Coker said. "I'm
concerned about wins. Kids played their hearts out."

True, but this wasn't easy -- not by a long shot.

Houston was moving toward the end zone with a six-point lead and
looking poised to put the Hurricanes in a big hole. But Cougars
running back Jackie Battle was hit by Miami's Lovon Ponder at the
Hurricanes' 10, Chavez Grant recovered the fumble, and Miami wound
up dodging a huge bullet.

"A big play, no doubt about it," Battle said. "I can't hide
from it."

Coker called the fumble "the turning point."

In the game, for certain. Maybe in Miami's season, too.

"We needed a win to get back on track," James said. "A lot of
people are talking about we're not the old Miami anymore. We went
out there and played for ourselves. We put a lot of work in the
past two weeks and the results came out."

Shortly after the fumble, James had his 44-yard gain to move
Miami into Houston territory, and Wright then made two big plays to
ensure the Hurricanes would capitalize. He found Lance Leggett for
a 27-yard gain on third-and-24 from the Houston 29, then tossed a
2-yard pass to James Bryant -- who asked to be moved from linebacker
to H-back two weeks ago -- for the go-ahead score with 1:24 left in
the third.

From there, the Miami defense took over.

The Cougars got the ball only twice more, not getting past their
own 38.

"It was frustrating," Kolb said. "A 14-13, one-point loss to
Miami. We let opportunities slip away. We drove 80 yards two times
and got three points out of it."

Miami got the ball on its own 19 with 5:56 left and ran out the
clock, with Wright's first-down plunge the critical blow. The
Hurricanes thought about punting since the ball was on their own
38, but Coker elected to keep his offense on the field.

"A field goal would have beaten us," Coker said. "I have that
much respect for their offense."

Wright's two interceptions led to 10 Houston points. In the
first quarter, he was picked off by Will Gulley at the Houston 16,
and the Cougars went on a 12-play drive capped by Kolb's 4-yard run
early in the second quarter to tie the game.

Miami's ensuing drive lasted two plays before Wright threw
another interception; his high pass bounced off tight end Greg
Olsen's hands and into the arms of Houston linebacker Wade Koehl.
That set up a 38-yard field goal by Ben Bell, putting the Cougars
up 10-7. Another kick by Bell made it 13-7, but the Hurricanes
found a way to survive.