The No. 15 Hurricanes are on the road to Tampa for their first road game of the season. Miami (3-0) will face the University of South Florida at noon Saturday.
With three wins under their belts – Florida Atlantic, University of Florida and Savannah State – the Hurricanes will look to tighten up some loose ends before the ACC schedule begins.
The Bulls’ defense is a potential roadblock. Though USF is 0-3 on the year, the team is ranked among the nation’s top 10 in passing yards allowed.
“They present a number of problems. They’ll play man-to-man on you, they’re very good in the zone because they have a pass rush that can get there,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “They have so many guys that play that they stay fresh and put the pressure on you, quite often with just four rushers on third down. We have to be ready.”
Senior quarterback Stephen Morris is expected to start, despite seeing limited action in last week’s blowout win. Morris departed the Savannah State game after just four snaps with an apparent leg injury.
Golden commented after Tuesday’s practice on the status of his quarterback.
“Stephen did well today,” Golden said. “Was he at 100 percent today? No. Did he do everything? No. But he must have thrown 40 balls in team periods, and he threw it well. He’s transferring his weight well.”
The Canes will likely rely more heavily on the backfield as Morris continues to recover.
Sophomore running back Duke Johnson has already tallied 48 carries for 304 rushing yards. Fellow sophomore Dallas Crawford scored three touchdowns against Savannah State, and Gus Edwards has 132 yards on 18 carries thus far.
Defensively, the Hurricanes could be tested by a versatile USF offense led by quarterback Steven Bench.
“What makes it more difficult is the fact that they’re coming off a bye week,” Golden said. “If you’re going to put wrinkles in, that’s the time to put them in. It’s going to be a great challenge, especially in the first 15 plays. Whatever adjustments they have made, we have to adapt and adjust quickly so we don’t incur any damage on defense.”
Rayshawn Jenkins and Kacy Rodgers will start in the Hurricanes’ secondary, while Denzel Perryman and Jimmy Gaines are listed as the top linebackers.
Miami has held its first three opponents to a combined total of 29 points.
“The biggest thing has been our approach,” Golden said. “It hasn’t been about the opposition, it’s been about what our standard is, what we need to execute, and the things we need to improve on. I think the guys have bought in to try and improve every day. It’s been competitive.”
The game plan, Golden insists, does not change based on Miami’s opponent.
He expects the Bulls to put up a strong fight.
“This team at 12 o’clock that we’re playing is going to be ready,” he said. “This is going to be a good game.”