The play wasn’t drawn up for Phillip Dorsett.
Quarterback Stephen Morris was supposed to roll right and fling it to Allen Hurns. As it turned out, plan B was the better choice.
“I ran my route and tried to clear out the safeties for [Hurns], so he could go down the middle of the field,” Dorsett explained of the Hurricanes’ last offensive play from scrimmage Saturday. “Then, I saw Stephen scramble a little bit so I scrambled with him. Then I just saw him cock back and throw the ball. I was like, ‘Oh snap. I’ve got to catch this.’ ”
Sixty-two yards worth of flight later, the pass Morris unleashed at around the UM 31-yard line — on what essentially was a broken play — nestled into Dorsett’s hands at the N.C. State 7. Momentum carried Dorsett past a trailing David Amerson and into the end zone, setting off a wild celebration and capping the Hurricanes’ thrilling 44-37 victory over the Wolfpack Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.
Big play? “It was probably one of the greatest plays of my life,” said Dorsett, who finished with a career-high seven catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns — the sixth-best receiving game a Hurricane has ever had.
Ever had a day like this back in high school? “No,” the 5-10, 185-pound sophomore from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas said with a smile. “Never.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Dorsett was wondering when offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch would start giving him a chance to beat teams deep. Through UM’s first three games, the longest pass a Canes receiver had managed to haul in was a 25-yard catch by Rashawn Scott at Kansas State.
But the deep ball has suddenly become a big weapon for UM (4-1, 3-0 ACC) in its last two conference games. In all, Morris has connected with receivers for nine pass plays of 40 yards or more over the past two weeks. He connected on seven of those Saturday. Dorsett had three of them against the Wolfpack and has five of the nine overall.
Aside from his 62-yard, winning TD catch Saturday, Dorsett had a 46-yard catch in the fourth quarter and a 40-yard grab in the third quarter. Scott had two long catches Saturday — a 52-yard grab in the first quarter and a 76-yard catch for a touchdown just a little while later, which made up for an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dorsett that was wiped out by a block in the back penalty.
“We practice it a lot now. In practice we just go deep, go deep,” said Scott, who finished with the 10th-best receiving yardage game in Canes history with six catches for 180 yards. “No back shoulders anymore. We’ve just got to trust Morris and his arm. And he’s got to trust we’re going to get past the DBs.”
UM coach Al Golden, who said before the Georgia Tech game he wanted the offense to become more vertical, said the success UM has had in the passing game of late is more than just play calling.
“Stephen is throwing it better, giving his teammates a better chance to run underneath it,” Golden said. “Phillip is getting behind him. Rashawn’s done a nice job early. DJ, all those guys. The bottom line is we’re protecting better than we were early in the year, and Stephen is stepping up and throwing. He’s using his feet right now, staying alive and having vision down the field.”
For the most part, Dorsett has been the happy recipient. Last week, Dorsett had nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown — the eighth-best game for a Canes receiver all-time. The only UM receiver with more top 10 appearances now? Andre Johnson who ranks 3rd (199 yards), 5th (193) and 9th (181) all time.
Saturday, one might have imagined the Canes would have stayed away from throwing Dorsett’s way since was being covered primarily by Amerson, who has 16 interceptions over the last year and a half. But Dorsett said the plan was to attack Amerson from the get-go — especially with safeties playing in to try and slow down the run.
“We saw that he tries to sit on routes,” Dorsett said. “I think he felt like other people weren’t going to attack him because he led the nation in interceptions last year. A lot of teams try to go away from him. But us as a team, we tried to attack him.”
Said Golden: “It’s hard to find anyone that works harder than Dorsett. It’s a blessing for us to have him. We’re thankful to have him.”