CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden stepped to the podium Tuesday afternoon and uttered words no coach likes to admit:
“We’re entering a game not knowing who’s going to be the quarterback.”
Relax ‘Canes fans. Golden was not referring to his team.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, injured early during Saturday night’s 77-7 trouncing of Savannah State, practiced Tuesday morning and was expected to start when the Hurricanes play South Florida at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Golden’s words alluded to the Bulls, who have used three different quarterbacks during three season-opening losses to McNeese State, Michigan State and Florida Atlantic. (The Owls lost to Miami 34-6 on Aug. 30.)
USF coach Willie Taggart said Tuesday sophomore Steven Bench, a transfer from Penn State, would start for the Bulls because he “can make some things happen when they’re not there.” Senior Bobby Eveld and sophomore Matt Floyd also have played QB this season.
“What makes it more difficult is the fact (they’re) coming off a bye week,” said Golden, whose team opened as a 20-point favorite vs. USF. “If you’re going to put any wrinkles in, that’s the time to put them in.”
Still, knowing Morris was expected to start a week after suffering an ankle bone bruise offered Golden some peace of mind.
“Stephen did well today,” Golden said. “Was it a hundred percent today? No. Did he do everything? No. But he did a lot. He must have thrown 40 balls today in team periods.
“He threw it well. He’s transferring his weight well. … I’m happy about that and hopefully he’ll continue to make progress throughout the week.”
Miami, 3-0 and ranked 15th in the Associated Press poll, has won four of the five meetings against intrastate rival South Florida. The ‘Canes escaped 6-3 in 2011, the last time the teams played at Tampa.
USF’s strength is a veteran defense that ranks ninth in passing (145.3 ypg.) and 23rd in total defense (305.7 ypg).
But as is the case on a weekly basis, the ‘Canes insist it’s not about the opponent — it’s about them doing what they need to do.
To a man, the players available Tuesday said this weekend’s trip — a bus ride to Tampa and a plane ride back — was all business.
“Being an older guy we have to make sure everyone knows this is a business trip and there’s no messing around,” redshirt junior left guard Jon Feliciano said. “We’re here for a reason and we have to stay focused.”
Fullback Maurice Hagens, from Tampa Bay Tech, is among several ‘Canes who hail from the Tampa area. Others include defensive end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Tyriq McCord and defensive back Antonio Crawford.
“It’s going to be great,” Hagens said. “A lot family members are going to be there, a lot of high school teammates are going to be there to see me play.