MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Savannah State believes better days are coming. And if the Tigers ever turn that corner, games like this one will be part of the reason why they got there.
Overmatched from the opening kickoff, the Tigers lost to No. 16 Miami 77-7 on Saturday night, the third lopsided loss Savannah State has dealt with already this season.
It was never a contest, either: The first time Savannah State's defense was on the field and didn't give up a touchdown was about two hours after kickoff, when halftime stopped a Miami drive short of the end zone.
"I know that I can change a program like this," first-year Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson said. "We aspire to be big-time. A game like this helps us judge where we are. The only difference is depth. I know I have to go out and recruit and get some guys like they have."
Savannah State got $375,000 for taking the trip to Miami, plus another chance to line up against a ranked program.
Last season, the Tigers lost to Oklahoma State 84-0, then lost a lightning-shortened game to Florida State 55-0. This one was shortened as well; Wilson and Miami's Al Golden talked at halftime and agreed to trim 3 minutes off the final quarter, when the Hurricanes wound up running the play clock almost to expiration before every snap and ran simple dive plays over and over again.
"I've been there," Golden said. "I've been on the other side of those at Temple. He was trying to teach his team how to keep fighting. I've been in his shoes."
DeQuan Daniels had a 75-yard touchdown run for Savannah State (1-3). The Tigers' lone win this season was over a Division II team, and their three losses have come by a combined 220-19.
Dallas Crawford and Gus Edwards both scored three touchdowns and Miami got into the end zone on its first seven possessions. Miami set a school record for points, doing so even after losing quarterback Stephen Morris in the first quarter with what a team official said was a sprained ankle.
"The X-rays are negative," Golden said of Morris. "We'll be cautious with him. We'll get him off his feet or whatever for the next 48 hours, but it looks like he'll be fine."
Morris got hurt with 8:51 left in the opening quarter, on a play where he was under pressure from Savannah State's Alex Wierzbicki. Morris threw an incomplete pass and ended up on the ground for the next few moments. He ended up walking to the sideline without assistance, though he was surrounded by Miami medical personnel and moving with a pronounced limp.
He left the field for further testing not long after.
"I thought I had a sack but he got rid of the ball," said Wierzbicki, who initially did not realize Morris had been hurt on the play. "He just went down like normal."
It was about the only problem for Miami (3-0).
Miami outgained Savannah State 637-183, held the Tigers to a 1 for 13 success rate on third downs and picked off four passes. Many of Miami's first-stringers were done for the night after the first quarter, including Johnson, who had nine touches in the first 15 minutes that wound up going for 154 total yards – including a 95-yard kickoff return to open the game.
Crawford ran in from 4 yards out on Miami's first snap, and the Hurricanes were off and running. Morris found Allen Hurns for an 80-yard touchdown on the second possession – a two-play drive – and Johnson extended his streak of games with a touchdown to seven with a 2-yard scoring run with 6:21 left in the first.
Morris watched that play from the sideline, checking out the replay on a jumbo screen over one end zone, then left moments later for X-rays.
The Hurricanes play winless South Florida (0-3) next week. Golden sounded confident that Morris may be able to play, but backups Ryan Williams and Gray Crow combined to complete 17 of 19 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
"It was an unfortunate circumstance," Golden said. "We're blessed and we're grateful that he's healthy and he's going to be OK. But at the same time, we learned a lot about Ryan. And I thought Gray Crow came in and did a good job too."
Savannah State was a 60-point underdog on Saturday. Wilson is looking forward to the day where that's inconceivable.
"It's closer than you think," Wilson said.