The Hurricanes are bowl-eligible.
Now comes the wait — not for the bowl, but for the decision that will determine whether the Canes actually go to one.
If Miami, a 40-9 winner over USF on Saturday, opts to self-impose a bowl ban for the second year in a row in hopes of allaying future NCAA sanctions, an announcement could come as early as Sunday.
But regardless of post-season decisions, the Canes (6-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) just need to defeat Duke next Saturday to win their first ACC Coastal Division title.
“I’m not part of it and most of that is to protect me from the legal side of it, to be quite honest,” UM coach Al Golden said of his administration’s decision, which could take the Hurricanes out of not only a bowl, but the ACC title game as well.
“I don’t know what the president knows or our legal counsel or what [athletic director] Blake James knows. I’m sure there will be some discussions [Saturday night] and [Sunday], and we’ll go from there.”
Saturday, however, was all about slamming the hammer on USF and sending out the Miami seniors with smiles in their final game at Sun Life Stadium.
“It is nice just to win,” freshman running back Duke Johnson said, “regardless of big margin or small margin. The younger guys came out and played very well for the seniors, knowing it was their last game at Sun Life. We wanted to take them out with a bang.”
While the Canes qualified for their fifth consecutive bowl and eighth in the nine years they’ve played in the ACC, the Bulls (3-7, 1-4 Big East) suffered their worst loss of the season.
After losing four of its last five games coming into Saturday, UM delivered its biggest blowout since beating Duke 49-14 last November — and held an opponent without a touchdown since winning at USF in the final road game of 2011.
“It feels awesome,” said linebacker Jimmy Gaines, who had a first-half interception that led to a touchdown. “We finally put it together.”
The Canes scored three points in the first quarter, 13 in the second, 14 in the third and 10 in the fourth.
And despite being down four scholarship receivers — three because of injury and one because of suspension — Miami had three receivers who surpassed 100 yards.
UM quarterback Stephen Morris became only the second Canes quarterback in UM history to have three 400-yard passing games. The other: Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta.
Morris, who was replaced by backup Ryan Williams with 10:02 left, completed 21 of 32 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns. His three prolific receivers: tight end Clive Walford (three catches for 135 yards and a touchdown) and wideouts Phillip Dorsett (12 for 111) and Herb Waters (four for 130 and a touchdown).
“It was one of our best performances this season,” Dorsett said, “with Stephen throwing for all those yards and our defense not allowing a touchdown on the board.”
Kendal Thompkins and Johnson also scored touchdowns, with senior Jake Wieclaw kicking four field goals.
“My years here have gone by really fast, but it has to come to an end one day, so you just try to make the most of it and make the best of the situation,” said fifth-year senior Thompkins, who had a career-high 80 receiving yard and whose touchdown was only the second of his career.
As for any pending self-imposed sanctions, most players seemed resigned to accept their fates.
“I’m eager about it,” Morris said of soon finding out about the Hurricanes’ future. “At the same time I’m just going with whatever Coach Golden says. I’ll let that stuff be dealt with by the guys who are upstairs in athletics. Our biggest focus and my biggest focus is I’ve got a locker room of 110 guys that I’ve got to get ready for Duke.”
Thompkins also looks forward to the season finale, but he admitted he’d like to go out by playing in the post season.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t want it to happen,” Thompkins said. “It being my senior year, I’d like to play in a bowl game.”