Miami-South Florida Preview

BY foxsports • September 24, 2013

Stephen Morris' latest injury doesn't appear serious enough to keep him from trying to help Miami remain undefeated.

The senior quarterback expects to play when the visiting No. 15 Hurricanes try to start 4-0 for the first time in nine years Saturday against winless South Florida in their final non-conference tuneup.

Morris and Miami survived a scare last Saturday when he suffered a bone bruise around his right ankle in the first quarter of a 77-7 rout of FCS school Savannah State. The Hurricanes got by fine without Morris and are confident he'll be healthy to face South Florida (0-3).

"The ankle feels good," he said. "The ankle feels fine. ... I feel pretty good about playing on Saturday, so that's the goal."

Morris dealt with a much more severe ankle problem last season, though he didn't miss any games while throwing for 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns for the 7-5 Hurricanes.

It would not surprise South Florida coach Willie Taggart to see Morris on the field, especially after he threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns during Miami's 40-9 home rout of the Bulls last season.

"Stephen's a tough kid," he said. "He didn't have to go back in that ball game, in that they were playing Savannah State."

Morris is 30 of 56 for 404 yards with four TDs and two interceptions in a little more than two games this season. His two first-quarter touchdown passes against Florida helped the Hurricanes open an early 14-6 lead then hold on for a 21-16 victory Sept. 7.

Off to its best start since going 6-0 in 2004, Miami might not be in bad shape even if Morris is unable to play. Backup Ryan Williams completed 11 of 13 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns against Savannah State.

"They're scary moments for teams when you don't believe in your backup," running back Duke Johnson said. "But we believe in Ryan and everything he does.

"It's always a scare when your starting quarterback goes down, but we knew from the way (Morris) was talking even when he was down that he was going to be all right. It wasn't an antsy situation."

Johnson was held to 59 yards on 21 carries against Florida, but averaged 9.1 per carry against Florida Atlantic and Savannah State.

Miami coach Al Golden also can rely one of the nation's top defenses, a unit that has allowed 29 points and an average of 282.0 yards per contest while forcing 10 turnovers.

"They're a really good football team," Taggart told South Florida's official website. "I heard the question earlier in the year: 'Is The U back?' I think they're back.

"They have a lot of talent and they're doing the things that it takes to win ballgames."

A loser in six straight and 12 of 13 overall, South Florida has been outscored 102-37 by McNeese State, Michigan State and Florida Atlantic. The Bulls also have dropped four of the five meetings with Miami, including both in Tampa.

The Hurricanes will try to contain running back Marcus Shaw, who ranks ninth in the FBS with 132.7 yards per game. The senior averages 7.0 yards per carry and gained a career-high 159 on 22 attempts in a 28-10 home loss to Florida Atlantic on Sept. 14.

He ran for 39 yards on 10 carries in last season's loss to Miami.

South Florida has dropped three in a row against ranked opponents since a 23-20 win at No. 16 Notre Dame on Sept. 3, 2011.

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