ORLANDO -- This wasn’t the way Stephen Morris envisioned his college career ending.
Miami’s third all-time leading passer and team captain wanted to impress NFL scouts, outshine Teddy Bridgewater and lead UM to its first 10-win season in a decade Saturday night.
Instead, the Russell Athletic Bowl turned out to be a nightmare for Morris and Miami’s offense.
The Cardinals sacked Morris a season-high four times, shutdown any semblance of a running game and held UM — the nation’s 25th ranked scoring offense — to a season-low 160 yards in a 36-9 blowout in front of 51,098 at The Citrus Bowl.
“They gave us a lot of different looks, stuff were weren’t expecting. They had a good game plan,” said receiver Allen Hurns, who caught only two passes for 24 yards, but managed to get the 19 he needed to set UM’s single-season record for receiving yardage (1,164 on 62 catches).
“It hurts a lot. As a senior you want to go out with a win. Even if you’re an underclassmen you want to get that last win.”
Morris had his worst game as a senior, completing only 12 of his 27 passes for 160 yards. He also lost a fumble at a crucial moment in the first half when the Hurricanes (9-4) had a shot to get back into the game.
Trailing 16-2 and with second and goal at the Louisville five-yard line, Morris got hit by Marcus Smith in the backfield and Brandon Dunn recovered at the Cardinals 13-yard line. Coach Al Golden acknowledged Louisville threw blitz packages Miami hadn’t seen in its month-long preparation before the game.
“It was different, definitely different,” a somber Golden said. “They got out to a lead and we never brought any pressure on the other side which kept compounding the problem. You get to a point in the game where you’re pressing and not making the plays you need to make. We didn’t protect as well as we needed to protect and that’s my responsibility.”
The Hurricanes had only given up 13 sacks in their 12 regular season games before facing the fifth-best sack producing team in the country. The Hurricanes, horrendous on third down conversions most of the season, finished 0-for-11 on third down conversions. Louisville also held onto the ball for 38 minutes and 32 seconds — 12 seconds longer than the Gators did against Miami in the previous season high against UM.
“They had a great defensive game plan going,” Morris said. “They were in the right spots at the right time.
“Overall as a quarterback it wasn’t one of my greatest performances. But you got to learn from it.”
Morris is slotted to play in both the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, two more chances to improve his draft stock.
“I think it will probably hit me tomorrow when I wake up and I don’t have a text from coach Golden with a schedule with where I have to be,” Morris said of his UM career coming to an end. “It’s been a blessing. All these coaches have truly left such a great mark on my life. It’s changed me to be a better man.”
Tight end Clive Walford, who led UM with four catches for 82 yards, said after the game he plans to return for his senior season. He had been contemplating leaving the program for the NFL.
“I’m coming back to school. I got to get better, a lot of things have to get better,” Walford said. “My open field moves, downfield blocking also. I’m just very disappointed because we invested a lot into this game.”