CORAL GABLES, Fla. — After Miami running back Graig Cooper burst into the end zone for the winning touchdown against Florida State, he had a problem.
Cooper found himself unable to stop. "My legs, they just kept going,” he said. Which seemed fitting, after a night where Cooper returned kickoffs for 177 yards, made an acrobatic catch of a Jacory Harris pass for one fourth-quarter touchdown, broke through the Florida State defense for a critical third-down pickup on Miami’s final drive and then capped the Hurricanes’ 38-34 win with a 3-yard TD rush with 1:53 left. His momentum spun him to the turf after that score. At that point, Cooper didn’t mind being on the ground. "We’ve watched people do a lot of things at Miami, but Cooper did a great job of getting big plays in that game to help us move the offense,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "I think that’s the one thing that you can see from Cooper. He can catch the ball, he can run the football and he can do things on special teams to give you big plays. He’s a rounded athlete … he can help you win a lot of games.” Cooper helped set the tone for Miami’s night with a 28-yard kickoff return on the opening drive, then fired up the Hurricanes’ sideline with his second runback. On that one, Cooper went straight upfield, getting drilled at the 26-yard line by hard-charging Florida State defender Nick Moody. The collision was one-sided. Moody went backward, falling on his right knee. Cooper merely bounced off, changed direction, and went past three more Seminoles on his way to 17 more yards. "Cooper’s an amazing returner,” said Miami receiver Travis Benjamin, who returned kicks for 185 yards against Florida State last season. "He’s got running back skills, and kick return is like a running back position. You’ve still got to hit your holes. It’s just a long running play.” Cooper was one of only three players to score touchdowns four different ways in major college football last season, and he finished both his freshman and sophomore campaigns as Miami’s leading rusher.