MIAMI — While No. 12 Florida's offense failed to score touchdowns on 5 of 6 red zone opportunities in Saturday's 21-16 loss to Miami at Sun Life Stadium, its defense kept it in the game.
After allowing Stephen Morris to throw for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, Florida held Miami scoreless until 3:29 left in the game — two plays after the offense lost a fumble at its 4. The 'Canes recorded only 212 yards and were 1-of-11 on third down.
Still, Miami's first quarter left Florida coach Will Muschamp with a bad taste in his mouth.
"I thought we gave them way too much momentum and belief early in the game," he said. "The linemen, the communication, the assignment, you name it. We didn't do it very well in the first series. We got very discombobulated … defensively."
Miami's first touchdown came 7:36 in on a 7-yard catch by Herb Waters, who beat free safety Cody Riggs on an out route. That capped a nine-play, 50-yard drive. Then with 1:47 left in the quarter, Morris connected with Phillip Dorsett on a 52-yard touchdown over strong safety Marcus Maye to increase the Hurricanes' advantage to 14-6.
But after that, the Gators defense — which saw standout cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and linebacker Antonio Morrison return from one-game suspensions — forced four consecutive three-and-outs.
Three plays after Miami's initial first down in more than 27 minutes, linebacker Ronald Powell sacked Morris on third and 11 to force a punt late in the third quarter.
Later, freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves recorded his second interception in as many games to set up Florida at the Miami 47 with 9:30 left in the game.
The Gators held Morris to 61 yards on 4-of-14 passing over the final three quarters. Duke Johnson, who ran for 186 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Florida Atlantic, had just 59 and a 2-yard touchdown. And Florida stopped him for no gain or a loss on nine of his 21 carries.
Overall, Morris, a senior in his second season as a starter, was impressed: "That was the best defensive line I've ever seen and went against."