Friday, December 13, 2002
Miami 37, Florida 20
NEW ORLEANS -- No dispute about this: The Miami Hurricanes
are Sugar Bowl champions.
Playing for a possible share of the national title, the No. 2
Hurricanes defeated No. 7 Florida 37-20 Tuesday night, with Ken
Dorsey passing for 270 yards and fullback Najeh Davenport scoring
Miami (11-1), hoping for a performance that would give voters in
the Associated Press writers' poll reason to name it No. 1,
struggled early before finally putting away the Gators (10-3).
The Hurricanes won the in-state battle that turned into a
Bourbon Street brawl, and now must wait another day to see whether
the victory will mean yet another split championship in college
"We wanted to beat Florida," Davenport said. "Now, we want
Florida State to beat Oklahoma and we want a share of the national
The issue of a split title is moot, of course, if No. 1 Oklahoma
defeats No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday, in the
Bowl Championship Series national title game.
But if Florida State wins, the AP title is up for grabs and the
voters will have to decide whether Miami is their champion.
"We beat the No. 1 team in the nation, the No. 2 team in the
nation and six teams with winning records," Miami coach Butch
Davis said, recalling victories over Florida State and Virginia
Tech. "I think our kids deserve every opportunity to be called
Not until Davenport scored with 4:21 left after Florida
quarterback Rex Grossman's second interception of the night was
this game secure. Hurricanes' mascot Sebastian the Ibis sensed it,
running onto the field and drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike
A few minutes later, the Hurricanes were jumping around at
midfield. Then the wait began. Dorsey said he'll be watching
"If Florida State wins, we have a great shot at being
co-national champions," he said. "If Oklahoma does it, we can't
do anything about that. They'd have my vote for fighting through
the tough season they had."
Miami hopes to get credit for a small comeback of its own.
After a Dorsey interception, Florida went ahead 17-13 on Earnest
Graham's 36-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
But the sophomore quarterback responded by moving Miami 80 yards
in 12 plays, capped by a 19-yard touchdown to D.J. Williams. A
third-down, roughing-the-passer penalty by Gerard Warren kept that
After Florida stalled, Daryl Jones returned a punt 44 yards to
put the Hurricanes in striking range, then Davenport responded with
the play of the game.
Linebacker Marcus Oquendo-Johnson had perfect coverage on
Davenport and looked like the intended receiver, but the fullback
reached over his helmet and snatched the ball away for a 10-point
Another impressive point for the Hurricanes: They won with their
leading rusher, James Jackson, injured most of the games and
receiver Santana Moss playing with a hurting back.
"They're a better team than us," Florida coach Steve Spurrier
said. "They made more plays when they had to. They played with
more discipline and more purpose. They're just a lot better team
than we are."
Among the factors voters will consider when they decide on a
champion: Florida State's 30-7 victory over Florida in the final
regular-season game and, of course, Miami's 27-24 win over the
Seminoles back in October.
They'll also look at a 10-game winning streak, an offense that
averaged 42 points a game and a defense that made big plays when it
had to all season.
Miami showed parts of all that against Florida -- but also failed
to capitalize on abundant opportunities.
A lot of this may have had to do with Florida, an overlooked
underdog that came into this game hoping to get a good start on
Spurrier was at his devious best. On two occasions, he pulled
out one of his favorite tricks, the Emory & Henry Formation, where
only three offensive linemen remain near the ball on the line of
scrimmage. He uncharacteristically looked toward his running game
to provide power, and it did.
When Graham scored from 36 yards on the play after Keiwan
Ratliff's interception early in the third quarter, the Gators had
the lead and the Hurricanes were simply concerned with winning the
game, not the national title.
That's when experience took over and the Hurricanes started to
look like champions.
Clinton Portis ran for 98 yards, most after Jackson went out, to
keep the Miami offense moving. Moss had 89 yards in receptions even
though he was hurting.
Jeremy Shockey, who caught the winning touchdown in Florida
State, caught four passes and one touchdown, which gave the
Hurricanes a 10-7 lead early.
Miami won its 10th straight since its 34-29 loss to Washington
put it in what coach Butch Davis called a "single-elimination"
This was no playoff -- that's several years away -- but the
Hurricanes felt they had done everything they could to add to the
national titles they won in 1983, '87, '89 and 91.
This was, however, a once-fierce rivalry that had been on hold
for 13 seasons. It immediately regained its fire when the two teams
made it to New Orleans. Several players fought on Bourbon Street,
and both teams said it would surely add to the fire of the renewed
|Florida tailback Earnest Graham runs into a wall of Miami defenders.|