The Miami Hurricanes have more problems than falling out of the Top 25.
After a brutal hit last week in their game against Virginia, junior leader and captain Jacory Harris may not be quarterback for the first time since December 2008. A concussion may sideline the relentless Harris. He did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday.
Freshman Stephen Morris, who saw his first action last weekend and nearly orchestrated a 24-point comeback, will start if Harris doesn’t pass medical tests. Shannon said in his weekly ACC conference call that there is a 75 percent chance Harris will not play.
The question now is how the Hurricanes (5-3, 3-2) will respond with their chief out.
“I was surprised that my number got called actually,” said Morris referring to his playing time last week. “But that is what coach [Shannon] always says, if your number gets called you have to produce. I don’t ask questions, I just do what they want me to do.”
Come Saturday afternoon at noon at Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Hurricane nation will find out if the season still has promise as the Canes square off with the Maryland Terrapins (6-2, 3-1).
Miami is 7-8 all-time against Maryland. The last time the Canes played the Terrapins was back in 2006 and the Hurricanes lost, 14-13, after playing an emotional game; four days earlier, former player Bryan Pata had been murdered.
The last time Maryland played in Miami, however, the Hurricanes won 46-16 back in 1987.
Head coach Randy Shannon knows Maryland is a team that has been on winning grounds this season after having a terrible season last year. Shannon knows the Terrapins will blitz Morris.
“[Maryland is] a team that has been on a roll,” said Shannon, who won his past two Homecoming games. “Last year they were 2-10, this year they’re 6-2 [and]are doing a great job on their side of the conference. They do an unbelievable job on defense, blitz. Stephen Morris just has to manage the offense, make sure to execute.”
The verdict is still out if Harris will be ready.
“When the medical staff tells us he’s ready to go he’ll be ready,” Shannon said.
The Hurricanes do know that senior running back Damien Berry will not be playing Saturday since he has been “banged up.” Redshirt freshman Lamar Miller and senior Graig Cooper will carry the load for UM in the backfield.
With the toughest stretch of the ACC schedule coming up for Miami, the Hurricanes need Morris to not miss a beat if Harris is out. Morris finished 9-for-22 with 162 passing yards and two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He rallied the Hurricanes to 19 straight points in the fourth quarter.
A resident of Miami, Morris threw for 3,536 yards and 41 touchdowns in two seasons at Monsignor Pace High. Morris was an early enrollee at UM.
Shannon is feeling comfortable with Morris playing quarterback this weekend.
“I have confidence in Stephen Morris,” Shannon said. “I think he has a lot of confidence in the players around him. It’s going to be interesting this game to see what they do as far as blitzing wise and how he handles those things.”
Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple personally recruited Morris to fit his pro-style offense. Now it’s Morris’ time to show his talent. Players said Morris was very poised and confident when he replaced redshirt junior Spencer Whipple in the second half.
“The first thing he said is ‘I got you boys.’ Orlando [Franklin] was like ‘Okay, I’ll make sure you don’t get sacked,’” said junior wide receiver LaRon Byrd. “Morris was like ‘I got you boys, just give me a little time.’ He was very confident, and I think it showed.”
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.