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MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would lead you to believe.
Miami coach Mark Richt’s decision to send quarterback N’Kosi Perry into the game on the Hurricanes’ third possession Saturday was easy.
His next decision might be tougher.
Perry came off the bench to throw for 224 yards and three touchdowns, plus completed his first 10 throws as No. 21 Miami beat FIU 31-17 on Saturday. He finished 17 for 25, led touchdown drives on his first two possessions after relieving starter Malik Rosier, and now Miami (3-1) has a choice to make about who starts going forward.
“Here’s exactly what I said to myself: ‘He’s going to go in third series and we’ll see how it goes,'” Richt said. “I left it to that. And I thought it was going well enough to keep him in there.”
Perry came out in the fourth quarter when Miami thought the game was well in hand, though he needed to return for the final drive as the Hurricanes ran out the clock. FIU (2-2) outscored Miami 17-0 in the fourth quarter, gaining 139 of their 187 yards in those final 15 minutes and making things interesting by having CJ Worton catch a pair of late touchdown passes from James Morgan.
FIU coach Butch Davis, who coached at Miami from 1995 through 2000, lauded the Hurricanes afterward.
“They played a really good football game today and they deserved the victory,” Davis said. “I was proud of our kids from the standpoint of continuing to fight and compete until the last whistle was blown.”
Travis Homer rushed 13 times for 114 yards and a touchdown, Lawrence Cager caught two scoring passes , and Miami’s defense held FIU to 31 yards on its first 10 possessions. Brevin Jordan also had a touchdown catch for the Hurricanes, who lost top receiver and returner Jeff Thomas in the opening minutes to dehydration.
Miami thinks Thomas will be able to play Thursday when the Hurricanes open Atlantic Coast Conference play against North Carolina.
Question is, will it be Perry or Rosier throwing passes his way?
“I’m always ready,” Perry said. “For anything.”
It was the first time Miami and FIU — campuses separated by 8 miles — met in football since 2007, and it didn’t take long for any Panthers’ upset hopes to be quashed. The Hurricanes scored on four of their final five drives of the first half and took a 24-0 lead into halftime.
“It’s not like Malik has done anything wrong by any means,” Richt said. “He’s done a lot of great things for us but the other guys are beginning to mature to the point where we want to see what they can do.”
FIU tied a school record with 63 points last week in a win over UMass. The Panthers managed only 17 rushing yards on 24 carries against Miami.
Miami had 20 of the game’s first 21 first downs and led the total-yards battle 397-10 at one point. The Hurricanes improved to 3-0 against their neighbors, winning those games by a combined 89-26.
“Our guys were dominant,” Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “I can have no complaints.”
FIU: The Panthers fell to 0-9 against AP Top 25 opponents. They’re also 1-31 against current Power 5 schools and 0-27 when facing a team that at the time was a member of the ACC (0-8), Big Ten (0-10), Big 12 (0-5) or SEC (0-4). FIU — then coached by Miami alum and current Oregon coach Mario Cristobal — beat current ACC member Louisville in 2011, when the Cardinals were in the Big East.
Miami: Thomas had an 80-yard punt return for a score called back in the opening minutes because of a hold, and he left the field for treatment not long afterward. The Hurricanes are 33-2 in non-conference games against other Florida schools since the start of the 2000 season. In its last 11 regular-season home games, Miami is 11-0 with an average victory margin of 23.5 points.
Miami should stay in the AP Top 25 for the 22nd consecutive balloting, the Hurricanes’ longest such streak since a 107-poll run ended in 2006.
Neither starting quarterback was in the game for long. Rosier spent most of the day wearing a headset, and Morgan — FIU’s starter — was subbed out early for Christian Alexander. Morgan came back and finished 12 of 24 for 168 yards with the two touchdowns and an interception .
FIU: Hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 29.
Miami: Hosts North Carolina on Thursday.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)