University of Miami

Winning back in Miami Hurricanes’ veins as loveable Jimmy Murphy becomes instant classic

If winning is back in the Miami Hurricanes’ veins, as leading tailback DeeJay Dallas attested after the Canes hung 63 on FCS Bethune-Cookman in a shutout Saturday, then players such as Jimmy Murphy and tight end Larry Hodges and receiver Jeremiah Payton and linebacker Sam Brooks — among a long list of them — were given the fuel to help keep the Canes’ collective heartbeat vibrant.

Those are some of the inexperienced and mostly young Hurricanes who saw extended action in the 63-0 blowout that gave the Hurricanes (2-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) and inaugural head coach Manny Diaz their first victory of 2019, with the remaining nine regular-season games certainly winnable.

“There’s nothing better than being a Hurricane, I promise you that,’’ said fifth-year senior tailback Murphy, a fiery former walk-on who actually seems a tad shorter than his listed 5-7 height and became an immediate online sensation after scoring UM’s final touchdown and igniting an onfield celebration.

Murphy plowed toward the middle of the end zone, then smartly reconsidered as he ran right and headed for his first collegiate touchdown, a 4-yard rush. He continued to zoom in a semicircle out of the end zone, raised his arms in triumph, did an inadvertent somersault after being plowed into by a teammate and then ended the celebration with a cartwheel into a front-flip —followed by an almost defiant pumping of his fist.

His fellow Hurricanes jubilantly engulfed Murphy as the Canes were penalized 15 yards for the excessive celebration, one that was no doubt worth every inch.

“Jimmy is one of the heartbeats of our team,’’ said Dallas, whose 309 rushing yards rank 17th nationally and 8.4-yards-a-carry and eight rushing touchdowns rank eighth. “I don’t care if we get a penalty. I’m going to run my gasser. ...It’s Jimmy, man! I love Jimmy.’’

“I didn’t know that he could do a flip,’’ Diaz, who also adores Murphy, told reporters after the game. “We’re going to try to keep that off the field of play, and, like anybody else, there will be a discipline for that — but it might be one that he might not mind taking.’’

Deadpanned Murphy after Diaz indicated he didn’t know about Murphy’s gymnastic skills: “He knew I could do a cartwheel, come on! “He’s lying.’’

At least 12 true freshman participated to some extent in the game, and others, such as former walk-on Murphy, clearly inspired the Hurricanes enough to put some zip in this week’s practice leading to Saturday’s home game against the Mid-American Conference’s Central Michigan (2-1) Chippewas, who beat the Akron Zips 45-24 Saturday.

Murphy was one of a few younger Hurricanes who said they were indebted to Diaz for giving them a chance.

“I owe him everything,’’ Murphy said. “I play for him, and a lot of these guys play for him. I know we’re 1-2 right now. It doesn’t matter. These guys play for that guy, and we love that guy.’’

Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams, who had another fine performance Saturday, agreed: “To get that first win, especially for Coach Diaz, means a lot to all of us because we play for him. Probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around in my life.’’

Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz and the football team hold up their hands up during the school Alma Mater as the University of Miami Hurricanes defeats Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 63-0 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Al Diaz

Williams, who completed 19 of his 24 passes (79.2 percent)for 254 yards and three touchdowns, now ranks 12th nationally and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference with his 73.1 completion percentage after three games. He still hasn’t thrown an interception.

“I’m starting to learn more and more about the offense,’’ Williams said. “At first it was kind of vanilla, just kind of understanding things. But Coach [Dan] Enos has done a really great job of breaking it down for me and helping me know where my eyes need to be, and just making it a very good understanding for me. ...He’s hard on me, really hard, but it’s paying off... because when it comes game time, it’s easy.’’

Two of Williams’ throws went to true freshman tight end Hodges, who caught both for touchdowns.

“It felt good,’’ Hodges said. “We needed this win to build our confidence back up. ...Now we’re [ready] to go on a streak.’’

Diaz said the win, as he expected, brought confidence, but that “no one in the locker room is satisfied.’’ There are still plenty of improvements to be made, including on third-down conversion percentage, in which the Canes rank 121st nationally (27.3 percent success rate) of 130 FBS teams.

The Canes are 110th in fourth-down conversion percentage (one of five attempts) and 113th in red-zone offense, scoring 10 touchdowns and two field goals after getting within 20 yards of the end zone 17 times.

UM kicker Bubba Baxa has hit only four of his eight field-goal attempts, including only one of three attempts from 20 to 29 yards out, and has missed an extra-point attempt. But Diaz reiterated Saturday night that Baxa “is talented’’ and the coaches will analyze what happened on his 30-yard miss against the Wildcats.

“You just can’t put it all on the mental because there is a technique involved and there are things that happen no different than an offensive lineman missing a block or a [defensive back] getting beat on a pass play.’’

Diaz said after the game that true freshman defensive lineman Cameron Williams and true freshman linebacker Avery Huff will be unable to play this season “due to academic requirements’’ and will use this season as their redshirt year. “They will be good to go next year,’’ the coach said.

Diaz confirmed that former five-star tailback Lorenzo Lingard, now a sophomore and recently rehabilitating from knee surgery during last season, was “out for the game.’’

“We lost him midweek in practice,’’ Diaz said of Lingard, “but he should be fine for this week.’’

Diaz did not give an update on sophomore receiver Mark Pope, who had a breakout game with 92 receiving yards on three catches and a 21-yard rush, but appeared to injure his left foot/ankle near the end of the third quarter.

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