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COLLEGE PARK, Md. Five pass attempts with 37 tics of the click left, but no luck. Maryland had suffered a heart-breaking defeat at the ends of Miami and Stephen Morris. On Monday, they'll have their first chance to avenge the loss.
Morris, who made his Canes debut against the Terps last November, will make his fifth career start, subbing in for the suspended Jacory Harris.
"Miami is always going to produce great players, even if it's the ones, twos, they're always going to come and play hard," senior linebacker Kenny Tate said Thursday during the team's press conference. "The suspensions and things and everybody losing their starting quarterback – that really doesn't effect us because They're still Miami, they're still our opponent and we know that they're going to come with their best."
And that's what Morris did last year: come with his best.
Filling in for a concussed Harris, Morris threw for 286 yards and a game-winning 35-yard score to lead the Hurricanes past Maryland, 26-20. In the final Miami drive, he converted a crucial third-and-11 by scrambling. On the ensuing play he tossed a deep pass to Leonard Hankerson for the touchdown.
But while the Miami offense took the credit at game's end, it was their defense winning the battle the first three quarters.
The Hurricanes held Maryland to just 15 first downs, allowing them to convert just three times (out of 12) on third-downs. Quarterback Danny O'Brien suffered one of his worst outings of his first season, completing a mere nine passes for 134 yards and throwing a devastating interception to Ray-Ray Armstrong on Miami's 16-yard line.
"Anytime you can rush four and press up everybody on the receivers it makes it tough. You have to make throws in tight spaces," O'Brien said. "It's a lot of motivation going into this one, not having one of your best performances against them last year."
Head coach Randy Edsall said he expects no changes on the Miami defense this year, as Al Golden has brought his defensive coordinator from Temple with him to Coral Gables, Fla. In 2010, the Owls finished with the second-best defense in the MAC, allowing 3.6 yards per rush and holding passers to a conference-best 111 pass efficiency.
The Canes will also be without defensive end Oliver Vernon and Armstrong Monday. Vernon finished second on the team with six sacks last season, in addition to 10.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries. Armstrong, the team's third-leading tackler, had a team-high three picks.
As the intensity building for this opener, the Terps seem poised to avenge their shortcomings last year. O'Brien said he hopes the team takes care of business the first three quarters; his teammate said he doesn't think that'll be a problem.
"First game of the season. Definitely want to get off on the right hand, on the right foot. ACC play – that's just one of the biggest stages you can play on, and if you can't get hyped for this…I don't know."