University of Miami defeats Bethune-Cookman at empty Sun Life Stadium

MIAMI GARDENS — Echoing through Sun Life Stadium, the UM alma mater serenaded those who stuck it out Saturday afternoon.

There weren't many. But the crowd — well below the announced 39,435 fans —witnessed another flash of what could be the future of Miami football.

Shedding memories of last week's 39-point loss, Miami efficiently dispatched Bethune-Cookman 38-10. The score, however, was not nearly as significant who did the damage. Freshman running back Duke Johnson's four touchdowns came three different ways as the Hurricanes overcame yet another slow start.

His 95-yard kickoff return meant Miami trailed for just 12 seconds of the first quarter against the over-matched opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. Johnson added a touchdown catch and two more on the ground to ping the hype meter again.

It was a step, coach Al Golden said, while saying his young team was far from a finished product.

"There's nothing wrong with improving and winning," Golden said. "That's what we did this week. We improved and we won. I want to make sure the kids understand it's hard. Ask Colorado. Ask Arkansas if it's hard."

The two upset victims from a week ago didn't find company in Miami. Johnson's fist-quarter, straight-ahead kickoff return stemmed the momentum of the visitors and kick started a sleepy offense in the barren environment. Scoring 24 straight points helped. Johnson's 94 yards rushing and 57 receiving were both team highs.

His big game helped overcome a "spotty" performance by Stephen Morris as Golden explained it. The junior quarterback had accuracy issues for the first time as a starter in completing 20-of-35 passes for 211 yards. A second-half interception was the low-point.

"I was very disappointed out there, actually," Morris said. "I felt like I've been doing good for the past couple games, but everyone has a game like that. You just have to go back to the drawing board and continue to execute."

Playing without injured leading receiver Allen Hurns, Phillip Dorsett became the favorite target. His six catches went for 49 yards while four others had two receptions apiece. Senior running back Mike James' 77 rushing yards on nine attempts would have led the team if not for Johnson's 28-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The only touchdown Miami's embattled defense allowed came on a short field. Striking six plays and 20 yards after Dorsett fumbled returning a punt, Bethune-Cookman's short-lived lead came on a 1-yard Jackson Isidore run.

The Wildcats still gained 355 yards to Miami's 426 by rushing for 4.4 yards a carry. Already playing without two hurt starters, Miami saw first teamers Denzel Perryman, Shayon Green and Tyrone Cornelius miss time with injuries. Only Perryman, who wore a walking boot at the end of the game, didn't return.

There was also a hint of a pass rush for the first time this season. All three Miami sacks came from linemen including two from freshmen end Tyriq McCord. There could have been more, but the speedy Wildcat quarterbacks avoided unblocked defenders on several occasions.

"That's one thing that could be a little bit frustrating," Golden said. "We didn't finish some of those plays when you have them hemmed up. … We just have to finish some of those sacks and we will."

Facing a rushing offense with active quarterbacks like the Wildcats' certainly helped with the next task. Georgia Tech and the triple option await the Hurricanes on Saturday in Atlanta.

"Clearly there will be some carry over," Golden said. "But we have to get out there Monday and get our system going because this is going to be the first time a lot of these guys have faced the option."

 

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