Stephen Morris made his first career start on Saturday. He finished 18-for-30 with 286 yards. He threw two interceptions but more importantly he made a statement and saved the Canes season. Morris acted like his replacement Jacory Harris and was cool under pressure. With three minutes left and zero timeouts, Morris orchestrated at seven play, 82 yard drive that was capped off with a 35 yard strike to Leonard Hankerson. The pass was over two Maryland defenders and had a great touch as Morris hit Hankerson in stride. Morris showed great poise and composure and clearly has earned the trust from his teammates already. Morris is a great fit for offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense.
Running Backs: A
All three running backs (Graig Cooper, Lamar Miller and Mike James) all averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry. The trio was terrific and did an admirable job even though starter Damien Berry was sidelined with an injury. Miller showed his patience in the backfield and turned the corner nicely as he tallied 125 yards on the ground. James provided a change of pace out of the backfield with his quick bursts. He had 51 yards rushing despite just 10 carries. Cooper had a couple of clutch 3rd down conversions. He’s a versatile pass catcher out of the backfield.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A-
While many thought Allen Hurns would have a big game as he enrolled early with Morris last January and the two have a special bond, it was the other player with dreadlocks who stole the show. Travis Benjamin was tremendous and racked up a lot of yards after the catch as the shifty wide out made defenders miss. He had five catches for 127 yards. Hankerson had the game winning touchdown as he hauled in a 35 yarder with 37 seconds left. The tight ends have not been a factor this year.
Offensive Line: C-
Shannon praised the offensive line in his post game press conference but Professor Antweil disagrees. Miami committed 10 penalties totaling 100 yards and half of them were on the offensive line. Orlando Franklin had a false start, Brandon Washington had a holding call and Tyler Horn had three holding penalties. Simply poor discipline. Morris was also sacked three times and was flushed out of the pocket on occasion.
Defensive Line: B
Nothing flashy went on with the defensive line unit. Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien was sacked only twice. The biggest play was actually negated. Linebacker Ramon Buchanan forced a fumble and Marcus Robinson scooped the pigskin up and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. Momentum appeared to have swung but Sean Spence was called for a facemask that negated the play. Allen Bailey played assignment football.
O’Brien had a subpar day finishing 9-for-28 with only 134 yards passing. Ray-Ray Armstrong had a huge interception in the end zone. DeMarcus Van Dyke, Vaughn Telemaque and Brandon Harris each had two pass break ups. Unlike last week against Virginia, the UM defense was able to force a three and out late in the fourth quarter to give the offense one more chance.
Special Teams: F
Two missed extra points. That’s five missed on the year. Poor concentration. One was a bad hold by Spencer Whipple and the other was simply blocked. Since the Ohio State game, Miami has gotten nothing out of their return game. Cooper, Benjamin and Storm Johnson each muffed a kick but were all fortunate to recover the ball on their mistake. There were more special teams penalties. A roughing the kicker penalty on Harris and a holding call on Dyron Dye. Where are the adjustments?
A win is a win. This meant a lot especially on alumni and homecoming weekend with a lot of out of towners at Sun Life Stadium. Penalties are still a major concern as Miami is bottom five in the nation. The use of timeouts was mind boggling. UM used all its timeouts in the third quarter but fortunately Morris didn’t need any during the two minute drill. I did love the play call by Whipple. Don’t put the game in the kicker’s hands and settle for three, go for the kill and trust the young quarterback. And Whipple did. Next week Miami will be rooting hard for former Cane coach Butch Davis as the Tar Heels take on Virginia Tech.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.