The final score said blowout. In actuality, getting past Bethune-Cookman was anything but easy for Miami.
Lamar Miller ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns, Tommy Streeter had the first two-touchdown game of his career and the Hurricanes used a series of quick scores to shake off a dreadful early start and beat Bethune-Cookman 45-14 on Saturday.
All five of Miami's offensive touchdown drives took under 2 minutes — two of them checking in at 10 seconds or less. Jacory Harris completed 12 of 17 passes for 175 yards for Miami (2-2), which was outplayed for much of the first 20 minutes before finally getting rolling on Streeter's 56-yard touchdown catch.
"In football, there's no such thing as an easy win," Streeter said.
Bethune-Cookman (2-2) was facing a major-college opponent for the first time in its 86-year history, and took an early 7-0 lead when first-time starting quarterback Jackie Wilson found Eddie Poole with a 1-yard touchdown pass. The Wildcats kept that edge until midway through the second quarter, when Miami got touchdowns from Streeter and Miller to take the lead for good.
"They came out on fire, with nine days to prepare," Miami coach Al Golden said. "We knew they would. We knew they would have a bunch of new wrinkles, and they did. We knew they would be more rested than we were, and they were. And clearly, we had three tough, physical football games that preceded this. I knew exactly what it was going to be like."
Wilson completed 21 of 31 passes for 180 yards. The Wildcats held nearly a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession and outgained Miami 422-335.
"If you're looking for me to say 'moral victory' you're not going to get that out of me, because I don't know what that is," said Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins, who — like many of his players — grew up a Hurricanes fan in South Florida. "I don't believe in that. You win or you lose, regardless, and we lost the game so it's not a good feeling."
The Hurricanes, who return to Atlantic Coast Conference play at Virginia Tech next week, didn't grab full control until early in the fourth quarter, when Streeter and Harris connected on a 27-yard touchdown for a 31-14 lead. Eduardo Clements added a 1-yard run later in the period, and Kelvin Cain's 59-yard interception return with 2 minutes left completed the scoring.
By then, the Bethune-Cookman sideline was largely silent. A couple hours earlier, it was a decidedly different scene from the Football Championship Subdivision school, which accepted a $400,000 payday to make the bus trip from Daytona Beach to Miami.
For a little while, it seemed like the Wildcats — a perennial contender from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — would be leaving with more than a big check.
"Knowing we can compete with an ACC team, the MEAC's going to be no problem, honestly," Wilson said. "Everybody gave their all today. That's what's important."
Afterward, Miami insisted it wasn't looking past Bethune-Cookman. Of course, now that this game is over, that stance is immediately changing.
"Now we're in the tournament," Golden said. "It's ACC time."
Helped by penalties, including one when Miami had 12 players on the field while lining up to receive a punt, the Wildcats went 70 yards in 12 plays to start the game. On 1st-and-goal from the Miami 6, Bethune-Cookman running back Rodney Scott burst through the line, but inches from the end zone, he lost his helmet and the football.
Sean Spence and JoJo Nicholas were part of a scrum that caught Scott just in time, and the Hurricanes took over. But Bethune's hopes of scoring first weren't denied, just delayed. Wilson and Poole connected with 4:05 left in the opening quarter.
Not only were the Wildcats winning early, but they were dominant. Miami running back Mike James, stopped twice around the goal line in the final moments of last week's loss to Kansas State, was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the Bethune-Cookman 29 late in the first quarter, a play that had Jenkins leaping and pumping his arms.
With good reason. After 15 minutes, Bethune-Cookman held a 7-0 edge in first downs, a 137-39 edge in yards — and a 7-0 lead on the scoreboard.
"If I'm going to ask my kids to play with aggression and energy, that's the way I've got to coach," Jenkins said. "To see my guys line up and punch a team in the mouth and stop a team on fourth-and-inches, you better let them know you're proud of them and you're right there with them."
Eventually, Miami found a way to breathe some life into a largely empty, highly concerned stadium.
Streeter hauled in a 56-yard catch from Harris — a one-play touchdown drive — with 7:16 left in the half, tying the game. Travis Benjamin's 44-yard punt return less than 2 minutes later, followed by a pass interference penalty, set up what technically was another one-play touchdown drive, a 3-yard run by Miller to give the Hurricanes the lead.
Miller's 43-yard touchdown run 1:13 into the third quarter put the Hurricanes up 21-7. Then, the Wildcats weren't finished, and Wilson's 3-yard touchdown run midway through the third made it a seven-point game again.
The Hurricanes then scored 24 points in the span of 15 minutes to pull away.
"We knew they would come out of the gate hard," Spence said. "We just had to respond."
Miami may have endured a key loss late in the first quarter, when linebacker Ramon Buchanan left with an injured right knee and did not return. Golden said he was concerned about Buchanan's status and that he would have further tests Sunday.