Miami Hurricanes hope bye week gives Stephen Morris enough time to heal

A quarterback playing through pain is an obvious story line during a football telecast, so it was anticipated that ESPN would focus on Miami senior Stephen Morris during its call of Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.

But play-by-play man Anish Shroff, color commentator Kelly Stouffer and sideline reporter Niki Noto seemingly never stopped mentioning Morris’ injury. Every throw, every movement was viewed through the prism of his sore right ankle, which forced him to limp at times and throw off one leg.

Morris apparently watched some of the broadcast when he got home. Late Saturday, he sent out a tweet that said “whoever was commentating the game” was “tripping,” then took the opportunity to pump up his teammates.

“My ankle is fine lol,” he tweeted. “They must not know about how great my (offensive line) is.”

The ankle, on which Morris suffered a bone bruise Sept. 21 against Savannah State, has since been a subject of concern for coach Al Golden. He wishes Morris had a little less bravado, so his training staff could give him time to heal.

“I’d rather him be honest with me than be a trouper,” Golden said Sunday. “He keeps telling me he’s fine … Obviously he was in a lot of pain.”

Morris has sent mixed signals about the injury, but admitted he played hurt during Miami’s 45-30 win, in which he went 17-of-22 for a season-high 324 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

“It’s kind of hard not to think about it,” he said. “You kind of feel it on every single play … It definitely crossed my mind, but this game meant a lot more to me and this team than me worrying about my ankle.”

The injury hasn’t seemed to hurt his production. In his past two games, he has completed 73.4 percent of his passes (28-of-38) for 546 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Miami’s passing game, which struggled in the first two games, is now eighth in passing efficiency (174.7). After completing 51.9 percent of his passes in UM’s first two games, Morris is operating at a 73.8 percent clip since.

"Everybody can see he's not 100 percent," said junior receiver Phillip Dorsett, who caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Morris in the first quarter. "He's playing with guts. He wants to play. I'm proud of him, too. I'm glad he's sticking out there."

Morris took responsibility for forcing the ball on his interceptions Saturday, saying he should have used his check-down option. Fortunately for him, Miami’s defense erased both mistakes. After Morris’ first pick, tackle Justin Renfrow forced a fumble to stop Tech at Miami’s 22. After the second, the Hurricanes allowed 8 yards on a six-play drive and forced a punt.

Despite the four interceptions he has thrown this season, Morris has had a sparkling start. He has thrown for 950 yards and nine touchdowns on 61.7 percent passing, playing solely in the first half in three of Miami’s first four games. He ranks fifth nationally in yards per pass caught (16.38), 10th in yards per pass attempt (10.11) and touchdown-per-pass percentage (9.6) and 12th in QB rating (169.7).

With 11 days between games, the Hurricanes (5-0) hope Morris’ ankle heals heading into the Oct. 17 game at North Carolina. They’ll need him for all seven remaining games, all in the ACC.

“We obviously can really manage it now this week,” Golden said. “Hopefully we can put it to rest, put that thing to bed with the treatment this week and get it behind us.”