Harris garners National Defensive Player of the Week honors - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Harris garners National Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013 8:00 pm | Updated: 10:39 am, Mon Sep 2, 2013.

Luke Bowanko compared it to the ill-timed 3-pointers he used to attempt in high school. Mike London was just hoping it didn’t result in a turnover.

Anthony Harris had what was left of the Scott Stadium announced crowd of 53,310 in a frenzy when the Virginia safety made an interception off a tipped pass with less than three minutes remaining in Saturday’s game against BYU. 

Then he had those same soaked fans collectively holding their breath.

Harris’ return was coming to an end when he reached the Cougars’ 40-yard line. The junior had BYU running back Jamaal Williams on his back, moments from being taken to the ground.

That’s when he did it.

Harris lateraled to Henry Coley, his closest teammate.

It was a risky move to say the least.

“That was like one of those 3-pointers back in high school when I pulled up at the line and Coach was like, ‘No, no, no,’” said Bowanko, the left guard who watched the play unfold from the UVa sideline. “And then I make it and he’s happy.

“That was insane.”

What thoughts were racing through London’s head?

“Just don’t fumble,” said the fourth-year head coach.

But Harris was having too good of an afternoon-turned-night for anything bad to happen on his watch.

Naturally, the delivery to Coley was smooth and the linebacker continued the march down to the BYU 13.

A play later, running back Kevin Parks bullied his way into the end zone to give Virginia a 19-16 lead, Saturday’s final score.

UVa is 1-0 after the come-from-behind win that Harris had his hands all over — literally.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder posted 11 tackles, recorded a sack, blocked a punt, grabbed that pick and made a game-changing lateral.

After all, if he’s stopped at the 40, does Virginia score on the ensuing possession? To that point, the Wahoo offense had put together just one drive — out of 16 — of 40-plus yards.

“He looked at me,” Coley said. “I looked at him, and he did it.

“I guess that’s chemistry.”

For his efforts, Harris was named national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation on Sunday.

“I thought he played extremely well,” London said during Sunday’s teleconference. “Obviously, being named national defensive player of the week was very deserving. He’s a very good player. He’s heady. He gets people lined up. He knows how to fit in run situations. He knows how to play the passing lanes.”

Harris, a second-year starter, surpassed his 2012 total in tackles for loss on Saturday. He matched his interception total.

His big plays were timely.

The early third quarter punt block was a second attempt at it after BYU was penalized for an illegal formation on the first try.

“The first time I came free but didn’t think I used proper technique to complete the block,” Harris said. “Luckily, we came back with that penalty and I went after it and [Cougar punter Scott Arellano] bobbled it, so I just laid out for it.”

Three plays later, David Watford hit Darius Jennings for an 11-yard touchdown to give UVa a 10-7 advantage.

The sack came midway through the third quarter when BYU quarterback Taysom Hill appeared to have space to make a run for the first down marker on a third-and-4. A diving Harris, however, clipped him by the shoelaces.

The fourth quarter interception came about after Hill’s high toss bounced off Williams’ hands in the flat.

“They had two guys in the same area, and I just broke on the ball,” Harris said. “The receiver tipped it and it came to me so I just tried to catch onto it and get some yards.

“We didn’t have that many interceptions last year (four), but this year we have been trying to pressure people and working on trying to be in the right spot.

“[Saturday], I just ended up in the right spot and the ball came to me.”

Afterward, BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae took the blame for the costly turnover.

It was inside three minutes to play and the Cougars were nursing a 16-12 lead on a third-and-6 from their own 34.

“I should not have stressed out the offense at that juncture,” Anae told reporters. “It was a real-time decision. It was not how you draw it up. If it wasn’t there, you throw it in the dirt.”

Instead, it got gobbled up by Harris.

A fitting way to end his career day.

“Ant had a remarkable game that’s going to go down in history, probably, at UVa,” Coley said. 

The Cavaliers next host No. 3 Oregon. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m., Saturday.

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