Pair of 500-yard games raise Morris’ Miami image

As if facing Virginia Tech wasn’t going to be daunting enough
for Miami, the Hurricanes will have another problem this week.

Their current quarterback is playing really well.

Crazy as that sounds, yes, that’s an issue for the
Hurricanes.

All Stephen Morris has done in his first two starts as Miami’s
quarterback is put together consecutive games the likes of which
the Hurricanes haven’t enjoyed in nearly eight years. Back-to-back
efforts of more than 500 yards of offense – for the first time
since the last two games of the 2002 regular season – have kept the
Hurricanes in the Atlantic Coast Conference picture.

Still, when No. 24 Miami (7-3, 5-2) hosts No. 14 Virginia Tech
(8-2, 6-0) on Saturday, it’s not clear if Morris will be in the
lineup. It all hinges on whether Jacory Harris is cleared by
doctors who have been monitoring his recovery from a concussion
sustained Oct. 30.

On this point, Miami coach Randy Shannon hasn’t wavered: When
Harris is cleared, he’ll play.

”We all know what they’re both capable of doing,” offensive
lineman Orlando Franklin said. ”Whoever’s back there, I’m pretty
sure they’re going to have our confidence.”

And that will be vital this week, since it’s another win-or-else
scenario for Miami.

For the Hurricanes to finally reach the ACC title game for the
first time and remain in contention for trip to the Orange Bowl,
they need to beat Virginia Tech, then hope the Hokies fall to rival
Virginia on Nov. 27. Otherwise, a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl,
Champs Sports Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl might be the
most-logical Miami postseason destinations.

Given that Virginia Tech embarrassed Miami 31-7 last season, a
bowl trip isn’t exactly in the forefront of the ‘Canes thinking
this week.

”It’s a statement game,” linebacker Colin McCarthy said.
”Last year we went up there and got embarrassed, you can say. So
we’ll be ready to play come Saturday.”

So will Morris. So might Harris. Maybe even both.

The decision on who starts, Shannon said, will be made by
doctors, not coaches – and not statistics.

On the latter front, Morris would seem to have an edge few would
have thought possible a couple weeks ago. Miami’s fourth-stringer
and a redshirt candidate before Harris got hurt has put up
solid-though-unspectacular individual numbers: 28 of 48 passing for
516 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions in two
starts.

But the 504 yards of total offense against Maryland (a team that
was yielding an average of 320) and the 507 yards in Saturday’s
easy win at Georgia Tech (which had allowed 352 per game coming in)
clearly showed the Hurricanes didn’t miss a beat with Morris as the
starter.

He’s 2 for 2 in directing 500-yard games as a starter.

Harris, meanwhile, is only 1 for 23 in that department.

”It doesn’t matter at all,” said wide receiver Leonard
Hankerson, who has already tied Michael Irvin’s single-season
touchdown reception record at Miami with 11 – with possibly three
or four games left to play. ”We just want to go out, we want to
play hard, play physical and get a ‘W.’ It doesn’t matter who’s
under center.”

Before the Hurricanes boarded their flight home from Atlanta on
Saturday, Shannon reiterated that Harris – who did some light
throwing in practice this past week, but little else – won’t lose
his job because of the concussion.

He just wouldn’t predict when Harris might return, either.

”I cannot say when a young man’s going to be back,” Shannon
said. ”Our medical staff gets together and decides those
things.”