TAMPA -- Stacy Coley had two touchdown catches literally slip right through his fingers in his first college game.
Less than a month later, two-touchdown performances are becoming the norm for the talented freshman receiver from Oakland Park Northeast High.
In Saturday’s 49-21 win over South Florida, Coley followed up his breakout performance against Savannah State (when he ran back a kickoff 88 yards for a score and caught a 25-yard TD pass) with a four-catch, 96-yard performance.
It included an electrifying 25-yard punt return, a perfectly timed 34-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone from Stephen Morris and a leaping touchdown grab on an 11-yard pass from Ryan Williams.
“He’s coming along, making a lot of progress,” UM coach Al Golden said. “He’s more confident and more comfortable and relaxed.”
Said Morris: “I think he’s one of our best receivers. Clearly, you guys have noticed he’s sure-handed. That’s why those two drops against Florida Atlantic kind of threw me off a little bit. I hadn’t seen him drop any passes at all.”
Coley (6-1, 180 pounds) led UM (4-0) in receiving yards Saturday and was one of four receivers to rack up more than 70 yards in all. Senior Allen Hurns led the team with five catches for 81 yards. Junior Phillip Dorsett, who left in the second half with a shoulder injury, had three catches for 75 yards, and sophomore Herb Waters had two catches for 73 yards and a score.
“We had good chemistry this week just going against their man coverage looks,” said Williams, who finished 8 of 14 for 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception. “Receivers played great [Saturday], won their matchups, got open.”
The Hurricanes had four pass plays in all go for 30 yards or more. They had six total through their first three games.
“The ball wasn’t hitting the ground,” Golden said. “We were protecting really well. Stephen was making good decisions. When your quarterback makes those kinds of decisions, it’s easier to call [deep] pass plays, for sure.”
Morris, who finished 11 of 16 for a season-high 222 yards and two touchdowns before signaling to come out of the game midway through the second quarter after being hit on his ankle, said it was the offense’s best passing performance of the season.
He agreed it was encouraging sign considering where the passing game was after struggling against Florida a few weeks ago.
“You can’t judge too much from Savannah State, but that bye week completely helped us,” Morris said. “We did a lot of things on the bye week to really make sure we’ll really be on time with our balls and be accurate.
“Every receiver is different. We got time to work with everyone.”
Coley said getting to play early Saturday on UM’s opening series “got me started real fast.” He said his grasp of the offense is still coming along and has a lot of veterans helping him out.
“He’s definitely just an explosive playmaker,” Williams said. “He’s somebody who needs to get the ball in their hands.”