Although he admitted there were “areas that needed to improve,” quarterback Stephen Morris was hoping the Hurricanes offense would pick up where it left off last season.
Duke Johnson certainly did, putting together a career night with 186 yards on 19 rushing attempts in the Hurricanes’ 34-6 victory over the FAU Owls.
Johnson, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s reigning Rookie of the Year, had a 38-yard catch to open the game, a 43-yard run to setup Miami’s first field goal and then a 53-yard touchdown run — showing the kind of explosion he displayed frequently last year.
Morris and his receivers? Not so much.
With new offensive coordinator James Coley calling the shots upstairs, Morris and his receivers often looked out of sync, a sign of concern heading into a much stiffer test a week from Saturday against the nationally-ranked Florida Gators.
Morris finished 15 of 27 for 160 yards and a touchdown. Freshman receiver Stacy Coley let him down, dropping two more touchdowns himself, leaving Morris shouting in anger as he came to the sideline. But aside from the drops, there were also plenty of miscommunications and a couple bad passes from Morris himself.
He and Phillip Dorsett, last year’s leading receiver, hooked up just twice for 14 yards. Morris, who completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,160 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over his final four games, threw his first interception since last Oct. 20.
Facing some pressure on UM’s opening drive of the second half, Morris threw an ill-advised pass toward the middle of the filed. It was picked off by FAU linebacker Andrae Kirk and led to a field goal.
Morris’ best pass of the night turned out to be a 33-yard strike along the sideline to sophomore Herb Waters. But those long completions were few and far between.
His longest pass of the night was a 38-yard dump off to Johnson on an improvised flea-flicker. The only other pas he completed over 15 yards was his 16-yard touchdown pass to Clive Walford to close out the first half.
The Hurricanes produced a school-record low 13 sacks in 2012. But they got to the quarterback Friday night, racking up five in all.
Safety Kacy Rodgers recorded the one with the most impact, forcing a fumble. Dallas Crawford scored on the next play.
Strong side linebacker Thurston Armbrister, who got the start ahead of freshman Alex Figueroa, also had a sack. Defensive linemen Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre each had one and newcomers David Gilbert and Ufomba Kamalu shared the other.
Friday’s game was the first time he came to UM that defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio called plays from the press box.
Senior running back Eduardo Clements, who sustained a season-ending neck injury last October against Florida State, finished with 23 yards on six carries.
He carried the ball five consecutive times for 22 yards in the second quarter and converted a fourth down that eventually led to Walford’s 16-yard TD catch.
He spent nearly eight months in a neck brace recovering from his injury.
• Rashawn Scott hurt his collarbone midway through the fourth quarter while making a diving 26-yard catch down the sideline. Trainers cut off his jersey and were administering ice on the sideline.