University of Miami Hurricanes
Photographer: AP Graphics Bank
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MIAMI GARDENS — Wincing in pain, Stephen Morris needed two trainers and a padded boot to limp out of Sun Life Stadium early Saturday evening.
Fans chanted his name, but the Miami quarterback was done for the day — maybe longer. It was Ryan Williams' shot with UM down four, under two minutes left and 83 yards away from victory.
The frantic scramble ended 24 yards shy when a fourth-and-16 Clive Walford catch covered just 11.
Miami lost to North Carolina 18-14, but the uncertain quarterback picture looms larger. Morris, who set ACC and UM records two weeks ago, was expected to have X-rays Saturday night and coach Al Golden didn't immediately know about Morris' future.
The injury looked ugly from the beginning. Scrambling toward the Miami sideline, Morris threw across his body with 8:26 left. Instead of his foot, Morris' left ankle dug into the Sun Life Stadium turf. Trainers sprinted to his side as Williams grabbed his helmet.
Walk-ons surrounded Morris as he sat on a trainer's table before hobbling off. He ducked into the old Marlins' dugout just as the Tar Heels punted to set up the last of many Hurricane scoring opportunities.
Miami's embattled defense held the high-scoring Tar Heels to 18 and it was the offense's turn again. Nibbling for short gains to start, Williams converted a fourth-and-three with a four-yard pass to Mike James.
First-down catches of 13 and 21 yards by Rashawn Scott had the Hurricanes at the North Carolina 29, but they'd get no closer. Two incomplete passes sandwiched a six-yard sack, leaving one final shot with 34 seconds left.
Wallford wasn't the first or second read, but North Carolina had the deep routes covered.
"I just saw Clive one-on-one and I thought it was a good matchup," Williams said. "I thought he was far enough to get the first down."
Golden said the plan was to throw the ball at least 16 yards.
"He went to Clive to give us a chance as opposed to throwing it over the sticks," Golden said. "But you have to get it over the sticks in that situation."
Miami (4-3, 3-1 ACC) twice turned it over on downs in Tar Heel territory in the fourth quarter. Immediately following Morris' injury, Williams pushed the Hurricanes to the North Carolina 26. Facing fourth-and-six, Golden went for it only to see Williams' pass to Phillip Dorsett fall incomplete.
The swirling wind "was definitely a factor," Golden said in the decision-making process. One series earlier, Miami reached the North Carolina 34-yard line before pinning the guests at the 1 with a Dalton Botts punt.
In all, Miami crossed the 50 six times, but scored just two touchdowns. The passing game lacked the explosiveness that won the first three league games.
"You shouldn't worry about the offense," James said. "Nobody is perfect. Everybody has off days. We haven't played as well as we wanted to, but we'll be back next week."
James ran for a team-high 96 yards on 22 attempts as Miami rushed for more than it passed until the final possession. Morris was 12 for 26 before the injury for 155 yards and two interceptions. He also ran for a 5-yard touchdown that cut North Carolina's lead to 15-14 with 5:06 left in the third.
Williams completed 9-of-13 passes for 80 yards and Scott led the receivers with six catches and 72 yards.
On defense, Miami surrendered the fewest yards to an FBS opponent all season. North Carolina gained 486 yards — 213 coming from Davie product Giovani Bernard. But the Tar Heels found the end zone just twice, falling well below the 34.7 points Miami allowed in the first six games.
The week ahead brings multiple challenges for the 'Canes. Archrival Florida State, ranked 12th nationally, comes to town Saturday.
"It's what I grew up watching and what I've always wanted to play in," Williams said. "I just go into the game like every week — just ready to play."
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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