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Canes Football: Unbreakable records (and some that could fall very soon)

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The program milestones that will require some serious work to topple, plus a few that won’t

Willis McGahee set a pair of records in 2002 that may never be threatened
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One could make a case that, despite the age-old proverb, some records should NOT be broken when it comes to the University of Miami.

For 35 years, five passing touchdowns in a single game was the Miami standard - virtually an unwritten rule. After Bernie Kosar set the pace in 1984, the mark was equaled multiple times but never bested. Steve Walsh tied the record in 1988; Ken Dorsey did it again a dozen years later. Between 2004 and 2012, Brock Berlin, Kyle Wright and Stephen Morris all tossed five touchdowns in a game before giving way to their backup.

All that changed in 2019 when redshirt-freshman Jarren Williams torched Louisville to the tune of six passing scores in a 52-27 victory. What followed was eerily reminiscent of the legendary curses in sports history. No, it won’t take its place among the ranks of Boston selling Babe Ruth or Wrigley Field denying admission to a billy goat, but what transpired over the next three games was an excruciatingly painful time for fans of the Orange and Green. (No need to go into detail, but consecutive losses to FIU, Duke and Louisiana Tech might be the ugliest three-game stretch in modern program history).

Listed below are some records that are probably safe for now. Also included are a few that could go the way of five-touchdown passes in a game. Hopefully, breaking one of these totals doesn’t send anyone else’s career into an utter nose-dive.

The list includes some greats of Miami history and a few lesser-known stars. The accomplishments span the Great Depression through the Mark Richt-era. While some records were a product of the times, others stand because the Miami offense refused to get with the times. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if there’s a record that you believe will outlive us, or if there’s another one that you see falling in the near-future.

WILLIS MCGAHEE (2002) - 28 rushing TDs in a season; 6 rushing TDs in a game

Fresh off the program’s fifth national title in 28 years, a rebuilt rushing attack was a significant question mark looming over the Hurricanes’ offense entering the 2002 season.

Leading rusher Clinton Portis had declared for the NFL Draft following a 1,200-yard campaign in 2001. And to make matters worse, fullback Najeh Davenport was out of eligibility, rising-sophomore Frank Gore blew out his knee in the spring and the offensive line was replacing three starters off the greatest front-five in school history. When the smoke cleared, head coach Larry Coker kicked off the 2002 season with McGahee, Jarrett Payton and converted wideout Jason Geathers in the backfield — a trio that combined for 22 carries in ‘01.

After Geathers stole the show with 199 rushing yards in the opener, McGahee answered with 204 a week later during a 48-16 win in Gainesville. He carried that momentum to a fourth-place finish in the Heisman voting, posting program-best totals of 1,753 rushing yards, 28 touchdowns and 282 carries. McGahee tacked an exclamation point onto his record-setting campaign with six scores in a 56-45 win over Virginia Tech to close out the regular season.

All 28 of McGahee’s scores came on the ground in '02 - a mark that will be tough to approach in today’s game where workhorse backs are a thing of the past. Furthermore, six rushing TDs in a game will also be difficult to surpass. While I could see someone equaling the mark if the stars align correctly, seven rushing scores, on the other hand, seems far-fetched.

*On a side note, I didn’t go with McGahee’s record of 1,753 yards because Duke Johnson came within 101 yards in 2014. If Miami makes the ACC title game that year, the record books might look different.

OTIS ANDERSON (1978), EDGERRIN JAMES (1998), WILLIS MCGAHEE (2002) - 39 carries in a single game

Has toting the rock 39 times in a game become a sacred cow the same way five TD passes was before last fall?

But if you insist on a non-superstitious answer, please see my explanation above about McGahee’s touchdown record and how workhorse backs are nearly extinct.

Anderson’s mark of 39 touches came in a 22-21 victory at Florida to close out the ‘78 season. The win preserved a winning record for the 6-5 Hurricanes but it wasn’t enough to send them bowling in coach Lou Saban’s final year.

Twenty years later, James’ 39 carries vs UCLA helped salvage the 1998 season after Miami suffered an embarrassing loss at Syracuse the week before. The school-record 39-carry, 299-yard outing vs the second-ranked Bruins in the regular season finale moved the Canes back into the Top 25 and helped spark a 46-23 bowl victory over N.C. State.

In 2002, McGahee’s six-touchdown, 205-yard performance came on 39 carries as Miami held off Virginia Tech in an early-December shootout.

JIM BURT (1980) - Four fumble recoveries in a single game

With defensive rotations deeper than ever thanks to the spread offense, this is a number that sounds absurd today. To put it into perspective, the school record for recoveries in a season is five - it happened three times, but never by Burt. The career mark for a Hurricane is 12 recoveries by Pro Football Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks.

Burt’s epic pouncing display came during a 24-17 win at Vanderbilt - the second of five-straight victories to close out a 9-3 season. During the winning streak, Burt and the Hurricanes notched a 31-7 win at No. 18 Florida and a 20-10 Peach Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

THREE INTERCEPTIONS IN ONE GAME - 11 times, most recently by Kenny Phillips (2006)

Despite occurring 11 times in program history, the recent trends aren’t favorable for this one to fall. Since 2007, only four Canes have recorded four interceptions over an entire season. During that same time span, Miami has completed six different seasons where its interception leader finished the year without even totaling three picks. In 2008, one interception (by four different players) led the team.

Someone someday could match the record, but four picks are unlikely. Not many QBs throw four picks in a game, much less to one player. When you combine modern offenses dinking, dunking and spreading the ball all over the field with defenses utilizing five or six DBs plus linebackers in coverage, the odds of one player creating that much havoc in the passing game are incredibly slim. Not even Sean Taylor or Ed Reed pulled off a three-pick game.

In fact, since the glory days of the 1980s, only two Canes have pulled off the INT-trifecta.

The 11 players that accomplished the feat are as follows:

Phillips (2006 at Duke); Bobby Harden (1988 vs BYU); Gene Coleman (1979 vs Florida); Larry Giammarino (1958 vs Oregon); John Bookman (1956 vs Boston College); Al Hudson (1948 vs Georgia); Whitey Campbell (twice - 1947 vs Rollins and 1946 vs Chattanooga); Al Hudson (1945 vs Michigan State); Bill Steiner (1940 vs Georgia); Joe Dixon (1939 vs Catholic).

ED WEISACOSKY (1965) - 164 tackles in a single season

With extended seasons and expanded playoffs, this record could fall if Miami made a title run. Still, in a 15-game season, 10 tackles a night wouldn’t cut it.

Over the last 55 years, the great Ray Lewis is the only Hurricane to approach Weisacosky, recording 160 tackles in 1995, a year after making 152 stops in 1994.

Dan Morgan and Nate Webster each tallied 150 tackles in 1998 and 1999, respectively, but since Morgan departed Coral Gables, only Greg Threat (136 in 2004) has topped 135.

Recently, Shaq Quarterman racked up a career-high 107 tackles in 2019. Denzel Perryman’s best mark was 110 stops in 2014. In 2010, Colin McCarthy was responsible for 120 tackles and Sean Spence recorded 110.

DAN MORGAN (1997-2000) - 532 career tackles

Speaking of Morgan, between 1997-2000, the Miami middle linebacker averaged 133 tackles a year. Since 2001, only two Hurricanes have topped 133 in a single season - Johnathan Vilma (133 in 2002) and Threat’s 136 in 2004.

KEN CORBIN (1967) - Two picks returned for a TD in a single game

Corbin’s two pick-6’s were the difference in Miami’s 20-13 home victory over Florida in December 1967, and to this day, he is the only Cane to ever accomplish the feat. Like three picks in one game, taking two INTs to the house could be equaled someday, but it will never be broken.

Honorable Mention:

10-straight 100-yard games - McGahee (2002)

Five-straight games with an interception - Bennie Blades (1986-87) & Dexter Siegler (1992-93)

Eight consecutive games with a receiving TD - Michael Irvin (1987)

10.1 YPC (Min 25 carries) - Al Shipman (1991); 9.1 YPC (Min 50 carries) - Frank Gore (2001)

Prediction: The next to fall

LEONARD HANKERSON (2010) - 72 receptions (season)

With all the great pass catchers to come through Coral Gables, it’s difficult to fathom that 72 grabs is the high watermark. Transitioning to the spread offense, however, will likely alter The U’s reception records.

With the spread offense in tow for 2020, Mike Harley will see his number called more often. Could the senior WR take advantage of the new system and break Hankerson’s record of 72 catches?
Todd Forrest/SOTU

STEPHEN MCGUIRE (1989-92) and EDGERRIN JAMES (1995-98) 35 total touchdowns (career)

Had Duke Johnson or Mark Walton stayed another year, this record probably falls. Johnson finished with 32 scores (six receiving) and Walton had 28 (two receiving). For Walton, he split touches with Joe Yearby his first two years and suffered a season-ending injury midway through his junior campaign. (It’s worth mentioning McGuire and Johnson also dealt with serious injuries during their time in Coral Gables and all 35 of McGuire’s TDs came on the ground.)

BRAD KAAYA (2016) and STEPHEN MORRIS (2012) - 421 pass attempts (season)

Once again, the spread offense will likely rewrite many passing records at Miami. If the Canes can find another three or four-year starter at QB, this tally — along with Kaaya’s 1,188 career attempts and 262 completions in a season — won’t stand much longer.

GINO TORRETTA (1989-92) and STEPHEN MORRIS (2012) - three 400-yard passing games (career)

Morris’ single-game record of 566 yards vs N.C. State in 2012 will be difficult to overtake in any system, but I expect three 400-yard games to fall by the end of the decade, along with Kaaya’s 11 games of 300-plus passing yards. For what it’s worth, all three of Morris’ 400-yard performances came in 2012 - a record for one season.