Stephen Morris posted his highest offensive output of the year on Saturday – and he only lasted 18 minutes.
The Canes rolled past South Florida 49-21, giving Miami its first 4-0 start since 2004.
Morris was 11-of-16 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns. He displayed pinpoint accuracy with an off-balance throw that snuck into the back of the end zone, where Stacy Coley made the grab with his toes inbounds.
The Canes led 21-7 at that point.
Backup quarterback Ryan Williams took over mid-drive in the second quarter after Morris injured his ankle.
The senior has now made early departures in back-to-back games. Coach Al Golden said Morris was removed mostly for precautionary reasons.
Plus, the offense had scored on its first three possessions, which made Golden’s decision easier.
“We protected him well,” Golden said. “He started to get hit a little bit there, the last touchdown, and it was time to get him out and move on to Ryan. He [Morris] kept saying that he was good, but we had enough lead, I thought, that we could move on.”
Duke Johnson scored on a 4-yard run before halftime to extend his touchdown streak to eight games. He rushed for 84 yards before freshman Gus Edwards got the bulk of Miami’s carries in the second half.
“Stephen did an unbelievable job for the lack of practice that he had,” Golden said, noting that Morris missed time recovering from the first ankle injury. “I thought he was efficient. I thought we ran the ball really well. I thought we called a good game early on, and I thought the USF defense settled down after that first 15, which I was concerned about coming off the bye week.”
Though they built a big lead, the Canes were sloppy with the football. Johnson had two uncharacteristic fumbles near the goal line, and Miami had four turnovers overall.
The Hurricanes also committed seven penalties, one of which negated a 100-yard kick return.
Steven Bench, South Florida’s sophomore quarterback, was unable to execute against Miami’s tough defense.
The transfer from Penn State was constantly under pressure, and he deferred to running back Marcus Shaw much of the time.
“It was a situation where we saw a couple things that we wanted to go after, and part of the pressure was the realization that they really want to be a running team,” Golden said.
Shaw slashed his way to 127 yards on 20 carries, but could not carry the offense alone.
The defensive highlight for the Canes came when Shayon Green wrestled Bench to the ground in his own end zone. Bench fumbled on his way down, and Jimmy Gaines recovered for a Miami touchdown.
It was 35-7 at halftime, and two scoring drives in the third quarter left no doubt as to the outcome.
Golden, whose Hurricanes have not yet trailed in a game this season, has engineered six straight wins dating back to last year.
The Bulls were the final nonconference challengers on the Hurricanes’ schedule. ACC play begins Saturday against Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets – perhaps Miami’s strongest threat to a Coastal Division title – have already played three conference games.
They fell to Virginia Tech this past Thursday.
Kickoff between No. 14 Miami (4-0) and Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1 ACC) is set for 3:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.
Saturday vs. Georgia Tech
3:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium (ESPNU)
Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Kickoff TBA; Chapel Hill, N.C. (ESPN)
Oct. 26 vs. Wake Forest
Employee Day at Sun Life Stadium