MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — There were two gimmick touchdowns in Miami’s spring game, one of them coming when 1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta connected with Houston Texans’ star Andre Johnson for a score.
That one was a nod to the Hurricanes’ past.
The other was a sign of hope for the future.
Malcolm Lewis — who still is recovering from a severe ankle injury that ended his freshman season last September — caught a 75-yard touchdown pass, on a play where no one played any defense and did so with the blessing of Hurricanes coach Al Golden. It was the emotional highlight of the day for Miami, a play that sent both sides sprinting into the end zone to surround Lewis in celebration.
“We just wanted to show everybody that he’s working his butt off every day,” defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo said. “And he’ll be ready for the season.”
Stephen Morris threw four touchdown passes in the game, Miami’s last official workout until training camp this summer. Morris’ team prevailed 35-20.
When Lewis got hurt last year while trying to make a play against Georgia Tech, the injury was so severe and his reaction so anguished that Golden sprinted onto the field, wrapped his arms around the receiver who was sprawled on the ground and comforted him until emergency medical technicans could begin treating the dislocated joint.
On Saturday, Golden told Lewis that he would get a moment to shine.
“He deserves it,” Golden said. “A horrific injury back in the fall, the fortitude, the perseverance, the work ethic to come back from that and the courage to go out there and do that. Now we don’t have to worry about when he’s ready for FAU. That’s already passed. He’s already caught that ball and done it here and we’re moving forward. He’ll be full-speed by June.”
Miami opens the season against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 30.
The first try to get Lewis his score was botched, but eventually the Hurricanes got it right. Lewis caught the ball and ran down the left sideline for the score, a few defenders jogging behind him with absolutely no interest in getting in his way. Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano was among the first to reach Lewis in the end zone, lifting him into the air as players on both sidelines rushed to surround their teammate, many jumping and thrusting helmets skyward.
“I appreciated him for giving me that opportunity, to get on the field and do that again,” Lewis said. “I really appreciate Coach Golden for that. … I got it out of the way.”
Lewis said he still works on getting the ankle stronger to where he can make the kind of sharp cuts that a receiver is called upon to execute, though insists that the process of recovery and rehabilitation is going well.
After the game, he got congratulations from anyone who could reach him, including Miami athletic director Blake James.
“Mentally, it still kind of hurts watching my team practice while I’m by myself doing individual work,” Lewis said. “But I know I’m getting better every day. I’m trying to get overcome and get better and better every day.”
That seems to be a mantra for the team, with Golden saying where the Hurricanes — who would have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game as Coastal Division titlists last season, if not for self-imposed postseason-ban sanctions over the ongoing NCAA investigation and Nevin Shapiro scandal — are far ahead now of where they were a year ago.
“Now it’s time to go to work,” Golden said. “We’ve got to finish up school, get ready, get ourselves in good condition and come back ready to be a ballclub.”