A school and conference record for single game passing yards. Five touchdowns through the air. Two players with more than 180 receiving yards.
And somehow, it was just barely enough.
Junior quarterback Stephen Morris threw a 62-yard strike to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds left as the Miami Hurricanes defeated the N.C. State Wolfpack in a 44-37 shootout Saturday afternoon. The Canes (4-1, 3-0 ACC) remain unbeaten in the conference while the Wolfpack (3-2, 0-1) dropped their first ACC game.
It was a career day for Morris. Just a week after his 436-yard, two-touchdown effort against Georgia Tech, Morris lit up Sun Life stadium with 566 passing yards, crushing Gino Torretta’s school record of 485 and setting an all-time ACC best in the process. Morris remained humble, saying the most important part of the day was coming away with the win.
“It’s huge,” Morris said of the record. “I really just can’t stay on that. I’m just still trying to get better. I left too many things out there. There’s always things to work on and get better at.”
Miami took a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but missed several opportunities to put the game away. But on third down with 32 seconds to go in regulation and the Canes lined up at their own 38, Morris scrambled right and decided to take a deep shot. His spiraling bomb went 61 yards in the air, over three N.C. State defenders and into the hands of Dorsett, who had a free ride into the endzone.
“I don’t really know what to say about it. It was kind of a freakish thing to happen but I just rolled out to the right, I was trying to buy time and I saw him,” Morris said. “I saw Phillip running. I didn’t want to go to overtime, so I said, ‘Here goes nothing,’ threw it up to him and he did a great job making a play.”
Dorsett finished with seven receptions for 192 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, concede that the final play wasn’t even designed for him.
“I just tried my best to catch the ball. Stephen threw an amazing pass,” he said. “It was probably one of the greatest plays of my life … I saw I was behind everyone so I had faith in Stephen that he was going to be able to throw the ball that far.”
The Wolfpack struck first in Saturday’s noon contest. A 43-yard run by N.C. state running back Tony Creecy set up a one-yard run up the middle for the score.
The Hurricanes fired back on the following possession. Morris connected with Rashawn Scott for a 52-yard pass on the first play of the drive to put Miami at the N.C. State 23. He later found Allen Hurns in the corner of the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown.
After a botched snap gave Miami an easy safety, the Canes scored their second passing touchdown of the quarter on a 24-yard reception by Dorsett.
With a 16-7 lead, the crowd came alive.
On third down from their own 24 yard line, Morris connected with Scott for a 76-yard catch and run to make it 23 straight points in under five minutes of game time.
Miami had opportunities in the second quarter to blow the game open, coming up with two key fumble recoveries, including one by Brandon McGee at the 2 yard line. But after a breakout first quarter, the Canes could only come up with 51 total yards in the second.
The Miami defense drew six turnovers, including four forced fumbles, but had trouble converting those into scoring drives.
“There’s no question we have to capitalize better when we get those opportunities,” coach Al Golden said. “We’re not a perfect team. We’re not going to be a perfect team. If we can just get past that, and keep competing and scratching and clawing and staying together, we’ll have a chance to continue to win.”
The Wolfpack would cut the lead back down to two in the third quarter after quarterback Mike Glennon found Bryan Underwood in the endzone for a four-yard touchdown pass to make it 23-21.
From there, it was a shootout. Every time Miami extended its lead, N.C. State had the answer.
Canes placekicker Jake Wieclaw booted a 43-yard field goal wide left in the fourth quarter to end a forgettable 0-for-3 performance.
A 50-yard field goal by Wolfpack kicker Niklas Sade tied the game at 37-37 with 1:58 remaining in regulation. The 38,000 fans in attendance collectively held their breath.
Then, a collective sigh of relief when Morris’ magic put Miami on top for good.
The Canes now prepare for a highly-anticipated matchup against No. 10 Notre Dame next week at Soldier Field in Chicago. The last time the two teams faced off, the Fighting Irish dominated the Hurricanes 33-17 in the 2009 Sun Bowl.
For Golden and his team, the goal is to enjoy the win and get back to work.
“For our guys, it has to be business as usual,” he said. “I just want to see us improve, take care of business every day. This will be our fourth road game in six weeks. We have to get healed up and healthy, and get ready for a great team in Chicago.”