TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State fab freshman Jameis Winston received all the attention this week for his stellar start to the season.
Stephen Morris was the polar opposite. Too many interceptions. Too many bad decisions. Not enough of what Winston was doing for the Seminoles.
Morris flipped the script Saturday night, tossing three of his best passes of the season — including a pair of pinpoint touchdowns to Allen Hurns — in a stellar first half. Unfortunately for Miami, the good times ended there.
Third-ranked Florida State (8-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) picked off Morris twice in the second half and dominated the final two quarters before pulling away in a 41-14 victory in front of a record crowd of 84,409 fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.
“We all didn’t play well enough — Stephen included,” UM coach Al Golden said. “We have to execute better. We have to make better decisions. And we have to be able to hit shots when we have them. We have to convert. They hit their shots and we didn’t.”
Morris, 7 of 12 for 117 yards in the first half, finished 16 of 29 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Not all of UM’s struggles were his fault. His receivers let him down. Stacy Coley had a drop that could have resulted in a touchdown in the third quarter. Tight end Clive Walford had two others.
“They really didn’t make any major adjustments. I thought they had a pretty good game plan from the get-go,” Morris said. “Our biggest thing was we just got to convert on third down, stay on the field a little longer and just learn.”
The Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1) came out with a conservative approach, double tight end sets and a desire to run the football instead of trying to throw it against Florida State’s No. 1-ranked pass defense.
Miami ran it 20 times in the first half compared to 12 throws.
But after falling behind 28-14, offensive coordinator James Coley decided to try to and get Miami right back in the game.
Morris faked a handoff and Coley was open streaking down field. Morris threw the ball 60 yards in the air. It needed to go 65. PJ Williams picked it off at the FSU 21 and it was all downhill for the Hurricanes from there.
Morris threw a second pick early in the fourth quarter when Nate Andrews stepped in front of pass intended for Clive Walford.
“I just tried to give it all I got, tried to make a play. I could have thrown it a little earlier,” Morris said. “The second pick was just one-on-one matchups. I trust Clive and he’s going to make that play for me. He didn’t on that particular one, but I’m going to go back to him.”
Down 35-14, Morris and Duke Johnson drove the Hurricanes to the FSU 26-yard line. But on fourth-and-2, Johnson only picked up one yard.
Johnson, who finished with 97 yards on 23 carries, was injured on the play and eventually carted off with an ankle injury. According to a source, the ankle is broken and he is out for the season.
Morris has thrown 10 interceptions this season. Eight have come in his last four games. Morris had nine interceptions combined in between 2011 and 2012.
“Our biggest thing is we have to leave this game in Tallahassee and when we hit down in Miami tonight come back tomorrow and learn on it,” Morris said. “If we weren’t mature enough our record wouldn’t be 7-1 right now.
“I got full confidence in this group.”