The Duke has landed.
Freshman running back Randy “Duke” Johnson racked up 246 all-purpose yards and accounted for four touchdowns as the Miami Hurricanes defeated the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 38-10 on Saturday. The four scores were the most for any Hurricane in a single game since Tyrone Moss also found the endzone four times in 2005.
“He has a standard of excellence and an approach that is something for a lot of guys to emulate,” coach Al Golden said. “A lot of freshman make mental errors but Duke really doesn’t. He finished plays hard. You guys can see it on the sideline, even when he’s getting close to the end of the run, there’s no stepping out of bounds. He’s trying to finish and making a statement when he does that.”
Johnson wasn’t surprised that he had such a solid game, but did mention that playing at home for the first time was important to him. The Canes played their first game at Sun Life Stadium in front of an extremely sparse crowd, though the announced attendance was 39,435.
“It was a big deal,” he said. “Just the fact that it’s one of the reasons I stayed close to home to play for UM is just being able to play in front of all my family, friends, and fans.”
The rest of the offense was sluggish when the game kicked off at noon, but managed to find its rhythm later on. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris finished 20-of-35 for 211 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but was plagued with dropped passes, overthrown routes, and miscommunication with receivers.
“I think I did alright,” he said. “There are a couple of things I want to work on, obviously. A couple of times I feel like the ball slipped out a little too much. I need to work on sprints, but other than that at the end I just have to keep going and keep studying film in order for me to work on it in practice.”
For the second consecutive season, Bethune-Cookman struck first against the Hurricanes. The Wildcats recovered a fumble by Phillip Dorsett during a punt return to get the ball back inside Miami’s 20 yard line. Six plays later, running back Isidore Jackson finished the drive with a one-yard dash into the endzone that put Bethune-Cookman up 7-0.
The Canes wasted no time responding. Johnson returned the following kickoff 95 yards for Miami’s first score.
He was just warming up.
That score would stand until 5:48 left in the second quarter, when Johnson picked up his second score of the day on a one-yard run to give the Canes a 14-7 lead.
Miami took a 17-7 lead into halftime as kicker Jake Wieclaw connected on a 20-yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining.
Johnson picked up his third touchdown of the afternoon on a 50-yard catch-and-run from Morris to extend the Hurricanes’ lead to 24-7.
“[Offensive lineman Jonathan] Feliciano really helped me out,” Johnson said of the slant route that lead to the score. “A lot of my big runs are because of my blocks from Feliciano.”
Bethune-Cookman cut the lead to 14 in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard field goal by Sven Hurd.
Johnson added his fourth touchdown of the game with just over eight minutes to go on a 26-yard run that made it 31-10. After the game, Morris laughed when asked if there was anything Johnson could do to surprise him in a game.
“No, I’m just waiting for him to do a back flip sometime in the middle of a play,” he said.
The Hurricanes would end the day with the first scoring run from a player other than Johnson, when Eduardo Clements took a handoff 10 yards for the score to ice the game at 38-10 with just under four minutes remaining.
Miami got the win, but couldn’t escape without a few notable injuries. Linebacker Denzel Perryman exited in the third quarter after sustaining a high ankle sprain. He walked off the field in a boot and on crutches.
Long snapper Sean McNally and defensive back Andrew Swasey left the game with lower extremity injuries. Linebacker Thurston Armbristor also injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and was forced to make an early exit as well. The extent of these injuries is not known at the moment.
Seantrel Henderson – the 6-foot-8 offensive lineman who missed most of fall game and saw limited time in last week’s game – spent significant time lined up at both left and right tackle.
“I was a little nervous at first, but once I got out there I was fine,” he said. “I was surprised. I didn’t think Coach [Art] Kehoe was going to put me at left.”
With the win under their belts, the Canes are now 2-1 as they prepare to travel to Georgia Tech next week. Miami has a tough matchup ahead; the Yellow Jackets racked up 594 total yards, including 461 rushing yards, in a 56-20 win over Virginia on Saturday.
“I think we got better. I understand there’s going to be some negative things: procedure penalties, we missed some long balls, we allowed some long, explosive runs,” Golden said. “But there’s nothing wrong with improving and winning. And that’s what we did this week – we improved and we won.”