Al Golden had one word to describe quarterback Stephen Morris’ performance Saturday.
“Gutsy,” Golden said.
Morris was. Playing with a badly bruised right ankle for the second week in a row, the 6-2, 218-pound senior made mistakes. He threw two costly interceptions.
But aside from three other incomplete passes, the balls that left his hand didn’t touch the turf. Ultimately, his 17-of-22 passing performance for a season-high 324 yards and three touchdowns helped rally the Miami Hurricanes from a 10-point deficit in the first quarter and to a 45-30 come-from-behind win victory over Georgia Tech.
“You kind of just learn how to throw the ball with one leg really and how to balance yourself,” said Morris, who wouldn’t describe exactly describe the injury beyond that. “South Florida was a big confidence booster for me just to understand it’s a lot different in practice than in the game.
“[Playing with pain] comes with the territory. A lot of adrenaline is coming in every single play. My biggest thing is being accurate. You’re going to feel a little pain, but it’s the game of football.”
Morris opened the game with a 40-yard touchdown strike to Phillip Dorsett on UM’s second offensive play from scrimmage. But his third pass was way off target, over the head of tight end Clive Walford and into the hands of Georgia Tech strong safety Chris Milton.
“The first interception was just a little miscommunication with me and Clive. I needed to hit the back on that,” Morris said.
Golden said Morris immediately came back to the sideline and apologized. After that, he really just made one mistake, not seeing weakside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy standing in the way of his slant pass. Nealy picked it off and eventually returned it 43 yards to the UM 48-yard line. Bad ankle and all, Morris didn’t give up on the play, hustling back before the tackle was finally made by running back Dallas Crawford.
“If you all see me [on film] don’t make fun of me,” Morris said of the play. “It was bad. It was just hard to try to run. I’m glad I got some speed back, though.”
Morris more than made up for his mistakes, though, connecting with receiver Allen Hurns on a 69-yard touchdown pass to give UM its first lead with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter. The play, run on 3rd and 14, was perfect execution by Miami’s quarterback and receivers. Receiver Phillip Dorsett ran off the coverage with a post pattern, Hurns found himself wide open on a corner route, caught the ball at the 50 and then followed Dorsett down the sideline and into the end zone.
“Without Dorsett that play would have never happened or gone that long,” Hurns said. “I feel like we’re finally executing the way we should be. Coach [James] Coley has done an awesome job getting us in the right calls, and we’re just going out there and executing.”
Later, Morris scrambled out of the pocket and connected with freshman receiver Stacy Coley on a 41-yard pass play that setup what turned out to be Dallas Crawford’s decisive 3-yard TD run.
“Obviously, everybody can see he’s not 100 percent,” Dorsett said. “But he’s playing with guts. He wants to play. I’m proud of him, too. He’s sticking it out.”
Morris said his plan is to take advantage of the bye week and Miami’s 12 days between games to get his ankle right.
“I know I’ve got class this week, but after class I’m going right back into treatment,” Morris said. “I’m going to do what I need to do to get back to 100 [percent].”