University of Miami

UM wide receiver Phillip Dorsett shines as Canes open playbook against Arkansas State

Deep threat:  UM receiver Philip Dorsett catches his first of two 63-yard touchdowns on Saturday.
Deep threat: UM receiver Philip Dorsett catches his first of two 63-yard touchdowns on Saturday. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Phillip Dorsett doesn’t consider himself a stats guy.

So the fact he caught a pair of 63-yard touchdown passes and became only the third receiver in UM history to eclipse the 200-yard mark in Saturday’s 41-20 romp over Arkansas State wasn’t as big a deal to him as to what the Hurricanes’ offense essentially got out of its performance.

And that was a sense of explosiveness again.

“I feel like we came together [Saturday] and we had a good game, a complete game,” said Dorsett, who finished with four catches for 201 yards —19 yards shy of the record set by Eddie Brown back in 1984. “Big plays — they’re a lot of fun. Like you said, to open up the playbook, it’s lovely.”

Last season with senior Stephen Morris at the helm, Miami finished third in the country with 36 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Only Baylor (43) and Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M (37) had more.

Through their first two games this season the Hurricanes offense showed far less punch (only three pass plays of 30 yards more) as offensive coordinator James Coley dialed things down a bit for freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Saturday, though, the Canes offense came out guns blazing — a welcome sign heading into next week’s trip to Nebraska.

On Miami’s second play from scrimmage, Dorsett ran a deep post route and caught a perfectly placed 63-yard bomb in stride from Kaaya for a touchdown. On UM’s next series, it took Kaaya and Dorsett just two plays to connect again for a 51-yard gain down to the Arkansas State 19. On the next play, Kaaya found a wide-open Clive Walford for a touchdown.

Kaaya set a Canes’ true-freshman record with 342 yards passing and tossed four touchdowns. Four of Kaaya’s completions went for 33 yards or more and six total went for 20 yards or more.

“I knew he was going to be able to get the ball down the field. He has a great arm, great accuracy,” said Dorsett, who was targeted six times in all by Kaaya and just missed out on connecting on another bomb in the third quarter. “We always had this timing down. We just hadn’t really opened the playbook up like we did [Saturday].”

Kaaya said part of the reason Miami’s offense looked so vanilla last week against Florida A&M was by design. The Canes wanted to save some of its better stuff for Arkansas State.

So why were things so bland at Louisville? “Not that we were real conservative, but I feel like because they changed defensive coordinators we had to change some of our stuff,” Dorsett said. “And because the stuff we did last year in the bowl game didn’t work.”

Either way, it was fun for the Canes and Dorsett to break loose Saturday. Last season turned out to be a nightmare for Dorsett.

One of the fastest players in the country with 4.2-speed in the 40-yard dash, he partially tore his medial collateral ligament in a win at North Carolina. He tried coming back for the final two games, but kept having setbacks.

“I kept pulling muscles,” Dorsett said. “Hamstring, my quad twice. I hurt my hip again. That set me back for like another month.”

He didn’t catch a ball or play the rest of the year and finished with only 13 catches for 272 yards and three scores. He said he didn’t start feeling like himself again until this past summer.

Counting Saturday’s game, Dorsett has eight catches for 284 yards and four scores this season — a whopping 35.5-yard average that would have ranked him fourth nationally entering this weekend’s games.

“I think the biggest difference in Phillip Dorsett right now is his overall game,” coach Al Golden said. “He’s in and out of breaks better, he’s catching in-cuts. He’s always been fast, but he’s a lot more quick and his lateral agility is good right now.”

Golden said he thought Dorsett would have a good game Saturday. Duke Johnson is glad he did because it should help Miami’s offense out a lot next week at Nebraska.

“It should help a lot just because you have to respect the guys that line up out wide, especially Phillip Dorsett,” said Johnson, who faced plenty of eight and nine-man fronts in the opening loss at Louisville. “With Brad making the throws and the offensive line protecting him, that [deep ball] is just something you have to lookout for.”

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