TAMPA, Fla. -- No. 15 Miami scored on its first three possessions, cruising to a 49-21 win Saturday against struggling South Florida at Raymond James Stadium.
The Hurricanes (4-0) jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, piling up 251 yards on their first three drives. Quarterback Stephen Morris was 8-for-11 for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, hitting Herb Waters for a 19-yard score and freshman Stacy Coley for a 34-yard score.
"Stephen did an unbelievable job for the lack of practice that he had," said coach Al Golden, whose starter was held out of drills much of the week due to an ankle injury. "I thought he was efficient. I thought we ran the ball really well, called a good game early on. I thought the defense settled down after that first 15."
Miami's defense got a score in the second quarter when Bulls quarterback Steven Bench, making his first start, was sacked in the end zone by Shayon Green, and his fumble was recovered by Jimmy Gaines for a touchdown and 28-0 lead. It was the sixth touchdown scored by opposing defenses against USF in its four games this season.
USF's offense had answered initially, with Marcus Shaw breaking loose for a 44-yard gain on the first drive and capping it with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-7 tie. After gaining 75 yards on that initial drive, the Bulls totaled just 50 (with one first down) the rest of the half.
The score could have been more lopsided -- a kickoff-return touchdown by Duke Johnson was negated by penalty, as was a punt return of more than 60 yards. Miami missed a short field goal at the end of the first half, and USF intercepted a pass in the end zone with 3:01 left in the game.
Johnson, who rushed for 84 yards and a score, also lost two fumbles inside the USF 3-yard line, with both fumbles forced by USF linebacker DeDe Lattimore.
"He knows it. That's unacceptable. You don't reach the ball over the goal line. You don't do that unless it's the last play of (a) half," Golden said. "That's cardinal sin No. 1. He knows that. We train the heck out of it."
Morris left the game as a precaution in the second quarter after aggravating an ankle injury, and backup Ryan Williams played well, throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown.
USF (0-4) remains winless under first-year coach Willie Taggart, and the Bulls needed a touchdown with two seconds remaining to avoid the largest margin of defeat in a home game in the program's history. Shaw finished with 127 yards on 20 attempts, while Bench passed for 189, mostly in the second half.
The Bulls scored twice in the fourth quarter -- on Julius Forte's 11-yard interception return and Bench's 16-yard pass to Derrick Hopkins with two seconds left. The offense has scored four touchdowns in its last six games against FBS opponents.
"That was a really good football team," Taggart said of Miami. "We've got to play so much better to have a chance against that football team, where we're at, until we get to where we want to be. We've got to play perfect football to compete with a team like Miami."
The final score showed how divergent the two schools have been in the last two years. In the 2011 meeting in Tampa, Miami escaped with a 6-3 win on a last-second field goal -- the Hurricanes were 6-5 after that win, USF 5-5. Since then, USF has a 3-15 record, while Miami is 11-6.
Miami, which has just one ranked team among its eight remaining games, returns home to face Georgia Tech (3-1) in its ACC opener, while USF stays home next week to face Cincinnati (3-1) in its first game in the American Athletic Conference.
NOTES: Miami freshman WR Stacy Coley had a promising game, with two touchdown catches and 96 receiving yards. ... Taggart reiterated the Bulls need to perform better on third down after going 2-for-14 against Miami. ... Miami had 411 yards by halftime but eased up in the second half, finishing with 540. ... The game drew an announced crowd of 47,562, down about 10,000 from the same game two years ago.