Non-offensive scores hiding No. 2 Miami's weakness

Updated: October 1, 2003, 2:55 PM ET

MIAMI -- Roscoe Parrish returns a punt for a touchdown. Devin Hester takes a kickoff the distance. Sean Taylor intercepts a pass and sprints to the end zone. D.J. Williams picks up a fumble and outruns everybody.

No. 2 Miami is scoring many different ways this season -- and often with the offense watching from the sideline.

The Hurricanes (4-0, 1-0 Big East) have 20 touchdowns, including a league-leading seven on defense and special teams. The non-offensive scores have sparked victories, deflated opponents and compensated for a somewhat struggling offense.

Miami hopes to continue its varied scoring Thursday night against West Virginia (1-3, 0-0), but also wants the offense to get on track -- especially with a visit to rival Florida State a little more than a week away.

"When the defense is scoring more than you, you're not doing you're part," offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "We've got to put more points on the board. That's what it comes down to.

"We see the special teams and the defense holding up their end of the bargain, and we feel obligated to do the same."

Playing West Virginia could help. The Mountaineers are next-to-last in the Big East in total defense, giving up 393 yards a game. But they have surrendered just one non-offensive touchdown -- a blocked punt on the first possession of the season against Wisconsin.

Miami, meanwhile, has used non-offensive touchdowns to stake itself to three early leads and as catalysts for two blowouts.

"They've got playmakers at every position," West Virginia linebacker Grant Wiley said. "We're going to have to eliminate their big plays in order to win."

No one has yet.

In the opener against Louisiana Tech, Antrel Rolle returned a punt 66 yards to give Miami a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Williams added a 78-yard fumble return for a score in the second, and Rolle scored off an interception that sealed the 48-9 win.

Against Florida, Hester returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Then Taylor returned the second kickoff 68 yards to set up a field goal.

The following week, Miami led East Carolina 17-3 in the fourth before getting a barrage of touchdowns fueled by turnovers. It started with Baraka Atkins' sack that caused a fumble, which Santonio Thomas recovered for a touchdown in the 38-3 victory.

And in Miami's last game, Boston College punted on the opening possession and Parrish returned it 92 yards for a touchdown. Taylor made it 21-0 in the second with a 67-yard interception return.

Taylor's score was Miami's 40th return for a touchdown since 1999 -- the most in the nation. Kansas State is second with 31.

"When we have a non-offensive touchdown, we tend to blow a game open," coach Larry Coker said. "It really takes a lot of momentum away from any team that you play."

Miami already has two more returns for touchdowns than it did last season. The Hurricanes hardly needed them a year ago, because the offensive trio of Ken Dorsey, Willis McGahee and Andre Johnson provided plenty of scoring.

But the offense hasn't looked nearly as smooth behind Brock Berlin. The junior transfer from Florida has thrown five interceptions and fumbled twice, giving him two more turnovers than touchdown passes.

Penalties also have been a problem, with Miami getting flagged 44 times for 368 yards.

And although Frank Gore gained more than 100 yards in each of the first three games, he hasn't broken a run longer than 30 yards behind an injury-riddled offensive line that won't return to full strength until at least next week's game against the sixth-ranked Seminoles.

The result has been humbling for an offense that ranked sixth, eighth and fifth nationally the last three seasons, respectively. The Hurricanes currently rank 32nd in total offense.

"We're just not hitting on all cylinders," center Joel Rodriguez said. "We have a great drive, then we throw a pick or a fumble or two penalties. Our numbers are there. It's just the production isn't there as far as getting the ball in our end zone."

Luckily for the Hurricanes, the defense and special teams are picking up the slack.

"We work every day on strips and recovering fumbles and scoring with them," Coker said. "Now, the athletes make it happen. Make no mistake about it."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index