So this is how it feels to be ranked.
With Saturday’s monumental 21-16 rivalry win over the Florida Gators (1-1), the Miami Hurricanes (2-0) skyrocketed to No. 15 in the nation as ranked by the Associated Press poll.
In turn, the once No. 12 Gators dropped to No. 18 in the poll.
In front of the largest UM home crowd at Sun Life Stadium (76, 869) in history, senior quarterback Stephen Morris and the hungry band of Hurricanes claimed its first win over a top 10 team since the win over No. 8 Oklahoma in 2010.
Morris threw for two first-quarter touchdowns — a 7-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Herb Waters and a 52-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
Sophomore running back Duke Johnson was the day’s leading rusher with 59 total yards while averaging just 2.8 yards a carry against the stonewall Florida defense. Johnson contributed a 2-yard touchdown run to bring the ‘Canes score to 21.
With such grossly lopsided offensive stats, Florida topped Miami 413-212 total yards, with a 22-10 edge in first downs, outrushed UM 122-50, doubled Miami’s possession time and held Miami to just one third down conversion in 11 attempts, Miami’s power came from the young defense, forcing five turnovers. Such an inexperienced defense has previously been the team’s question mark.
“I’ve been saying it since the spring – I think they’ve grown up. We played so many young guys a year ago at places you can’t play young guys. We’re so much stronger, bigger up front. Our linebackers are all 20 pounds heavier. The secondary doesn’t miss rotations anymore like last year, so there are no blown gaps,” said coach Al Golden.
“Florida is good. Their running backs are good. Their line is good. Of course they make a good run in there. They settled down in the red zone, made a short yardage stop, took the ball away a couple of times. It says a lot about Coach D’Onofrio, the game plan that he put together, and really the whole defense. The whole defense got a game ball,” Golden added.
Sophomore defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins intercepted Florida junior quarterback Jeff Driskel at Miami’s own four yard line and returned for 19 yards to the Miami 23 yard line.
Driskel was picked off again in the fourth quarter by sophomore defense back Tracy Howard at Miami’s 12 yard line.
Junior linebacker Denzel Perryman recorded 13 tackles, just one shy of matching a career high 14 set in 2010 against Boston College and forced a fumble that converted to the first UM touchdown of the game.
“I’m feeling great actually. Defensively, we actually had a pretty good game. Their offense is very physical. They are smash-mouth football like I said in the beginning of the week. We were prepared for it, and right now, I’m feeling real good,” said Perryman.
“They did a great job of trying to wear us down. Our defense was in great shape – they played hard and they finished. You can ask Denzel, but the one thing that’s different about Denzel Perryman right now are the habits that he’s forming every day – by how he’s finishing and how he’s practicing, and it’s carrying over to the game. I hope he’s a believer now, I hope he understands that it is important,” Golden said.
“I’m extremely excited for this program. Defense played a great game and they bailed us out on a lot of things. Offensively, we did the little things right. Florida had a great defense, one of the greatest defenses I’ve ever seen,” said Stephen Morris.
Punter Pat O’Donnell posted an impressive 392 yards over 8 punts, averaging 49 yards per punt, with one massive 60-yarder.
“Anytime I hit good punts, I feel confident. It’s my job to and I was just trying to do my job for the team,” said O’Donnell.
Sophomore linebacker Tyriq McCord set up the Hurricanes’ winning touchdown sacking Driskel for a loss of 9 yards, and recovering his own forced fumble at the Florida four (4) yard line.
“A sack-caused fumble is the best play in football just like Coach Judd said. I’ve been dreaming of this moment. This is why you come to the U to play the Florida Gators. I sleep and dream about a sack caused fumble. Now, it’s a reality. That’s all I can say about it. I’m just happy right now,” said McCord.
Despite Florida’s tenacity on both sides of the ball, Sun Life stadium erupted in celebration as junior defensive end Anthony Chickillo sacked Driskel for an eight yard loss on Florida’s own 12 yard line as the final seconds ticked away.
“It was a very cathartic moment, it was a great moment for our guys – all those guys that not only chose the University of Miami during this, but stood there and fought. We have such a long way to go, I can’t say that enough, to be that kind of program. Big win? Yes. Program yet? No. We have to get back to work, get better, be mature, and go about our business every day. I guess that’s what was running through my mind, how proud I was of all the guys that brought in to what we’ve been doing. They deserved to win this one. They deserved victory,” said Golden.
Scroll down for some more photo highlights of Saturday’s game:
words_kristen spillane. photos_melissa mallin & raquel zaldivar.