For a group minus its second-leading pass catcher —who has been suspended indefinitely — and short three scholarship receivers who have had season-ending surgery, the Miami Hurricanes sure didn’t look short-handed Saturday.
Freshman Herb Waters and fifth-year senior Kendal Thompkins — the sixth and seventh options for UM quarterback Stephen Morris most of the season — made eye-opening diving catches and beautiful over-the-shoulder grabs. Together with tight end Clive Walford — who had a career day himself — the trio stepped up and played strong supporting roles behind leading receiver Phillip Dorsett — who tied a UM record himself — in Saturday’s 40-9 rout of visiting USF.
“I was very pleased with the effort, and obviously the amount of kids that stepped up — most particularly at wideout, to answer the call, because we had some injures at that spot,” said UM coach Al Golden, whose third-leading receiver Allen Hurns (cracked left thumb) played sparingly and was held without a catch.
“Obviously, we really believe Herb is going to be a really good player for us. Philip grew up [Saturday]. And I was so proud of Kendal, the plays he made, the blocks he made, the unselfishness he showed out there. He really deserved to go out that way. I’m very happy for Kendal.”
In all, three Canes recorded 100-yard receiving games: Walford (three for 135, one touchdown), Waters (four for 130, one TD), Dorsett (12 for 111, two-point conversion catch). That’s the first time UM has had three 100-yard receivers in a game since at least 1981 (as far back as UM’s game-by-game records go).
Waters, who came in with just five catches for 32 yards on the season, put up the most receiving yards by a freshman since Reggie Wayne had 137 yards on Sept. 18, 1997. Not only did he make a huge third-down catch on UM’s opening scoring drive of the second half that made it 22-3, but also Waters reeled in an 87-yard TD catch in the third quarter on UM’s next possession. It was the sixth-longest reception in UM history.
“I was surprised he even threw it,” Waters said of Morris, who finished 21 of 32 for 413 yards passing and three TDs. “I said I got to catch it for him. I put the faith in my hands, caught it and kept going.”
Thompkins, who had just two catches for 3 yards coming in, didn’t break the century mark but had three catches for 80 yards, including a 15-yard scoring catch in the second quarter that made it 16-0.
“I was so happy for him. Senior year for him and senior night,” Morris said. “I was happy for him. As soon as he caught that touchdown, I told him, ‘May God bless you. I’m so happy for you. … this night is truly deserving for you and all that hard work you’ve put in the last couple years.’ ”
Thompkins’ best catch came later when he laid out for a 37-yard grab on a pass from backup Ryan Williams in the fourth quarter, a play that made his teammates jump up and down in celebration on the field and on the sideline.
“Me and Kendall stepped up at the same time,” Waters said. “We did what we knew what we had to do to prepare for this week. We studied together. I think that really helped us a lot.”
Dorsett didn’t score a touchdown, but he didn’t have a bad game either. His 12 catches tied Willie Smith’s school record set against Maryland in 1984. It was also his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
“It says a lot about our unit,” Dorsett said when asked about UM having three receivers with more than 100 yards. “Next-man-in mentality. Somebody else goes down, somebody else needs to step up. That’s what we did [Saturday]. It’s not just talk anymore.”