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Game-saving interception by Grant ices win for Miami

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Here's some good news for Randy Shannon. The Miami Hurricanes apparently have plenty of talent coming back for their new coach next season.

Kirby Freeman threw for 272 yards and two long touchdowns plus ran for another score, Chavez Grant made a gamesaving interception with 18 seconds left, and the Hurricanes sent fired coach Larry Coker out with a dramatic 21-20 win over Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl on Sunday night.

"We wanted to win this game for a lot of reasons," Freeman said. "And Coach Coker was the biggest reason."

Coker was fired Nov. 24 but agreed to stay for the bowl game -- largely, he said, because the players wanted him there. He finished his six years with a 60-15 record and one national title, and by the time the team charter lands Monday morning in South Florida, Shannon will have officially been promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, with 19 returning starters to work with.

"I just told them there's a lot of special things that are going to happen," Coker said when asked what his postgame remarks were. "There's a lot of greatness in that room."

And on a cold night, Grant made a great play at the end to secure that Miami would finish with a winning record for the ninth straight year. Nevada had a first down at the Miami 36 in the final minute, but Grant's diving pick sealed the win and got Coker the perfect sendoff that his players wanted.

"I don't know what grade Chavez is, but I think he's a veteran now," Coker said of the freshman.

Jeff Rowe threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Marko Mitchell, and Brett Jaekle kicked four field goals for Nevada (8-5), including 44- and 40-yarders in the fourth quarter to get Nevada within a point. But the Wolf Pack got no closer, thanks largely to Grant's heroics at the end.

"That last pass Jeff just threw a 10th of a second late," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "But it was a great game."

Freeman threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Sam Shields with 5:59 left in the third quarter to break what was a 14-14 tie and put the Hurricanes (7-6) ahead for good. Freeman also had a 52-yard scoring pass to Ryan Moore late in the first half.

Rowe was 20-of-31 for 192 yards for Nevada, and Robert Hubbard had 60 yards on 20 carries.

"We had our chances," Ault said. "That's what is tough. We had our opportunities ... and just didn't make the right play at the right time."

Shields caught four passes for 101 yards for Miami, while Moore made only two catches, but finished with 96 yards for the Hurricanes, who held a slim 300-297 edge in total offense.

Down by seven entering the final quarter against the fifth-ranked defense in the country, Nevada nearly pulled off a comeback -- and may have been denied a great scoring opportunity by a call that didn't go its way.

Facing a third-and-10 from the Miami 28, Rowe dropped back to throw to Anthony Pudewell inside the Miami 10. Pudewell was hit by Kenny Phillips as he tried to catch the ball, which bounced in the air. Replays appeared to show that Pudewell trapped the ball between his knees before it hit the turf, but officials ruled it incomplete and the Wolf Pack eventually settled for a field goal.

"He said he caught it," Rowe said, "so I'm with him."

But at the end, there could be no debate about Grant's game-sealing catch.

"He'll be an All-American next year," Hurricanes defensive end Calais Campbell said. "You watch."

Rowe was trying to throw toward the right sideline, but Grant broke perfectly for the quick pass, lunged and cradled it as he sprawled to the blue turf -- as the Miami sideline broke into wild celebration.

A season that had the Hurricanes endure the shooting death of defensive lineman Bryan Pata, fallout from the on-field brawl against Florida International and then Coker's firing got an ending worth smiling about.

So, while battling temperatures in the upper 20s and wind that made it feel 10 degrees colder -- Freeman shouted "I'm freezing" on the sideline at one point -- the Hurricanes found a way to send Coker out a winner.

"Larry Coker and Randy Shannon are both gentlemen," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said. "This wouldn't have worked for us unless we were dealing with two fine people."