MIAMI Welcome to the woodshed.
For the second consecutive week, a top-15 team rolled into the Orange Bowl thinking upset and crawled out after being maimed by top-ranked Miami. Last night the Hurricanes eviscerated No. 12 Washington, avenging last season’s title-crippling loss in Seattle with a 65-7 payback pounding before 78,114 revelers at the Orange Bowl.
“They came into our house talking smack, and they got a cold-blooded beatdown for it,” said Miami safety Ed Reed, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. “This game was all about payback, and that’s what we did, pay them back serious-style. Nobody has enough for us, baby. Nobody.”
Just like last week’s 59-0 drubbing of then-No. 14 Syracuse, Miami (10-0) ended this one early. Trailing 7-0 early in the first quarter, the Huskies (8-3) mounted an answering drive behind some impressive running from tailback Rich Alexis. But after Alexis set the Huskies up with a first-and-goal at the Miami 2-yard line, the Hurricanes rose up to snuff the challenge. After watching Miami stuff three consecutive running plays between the tackles, Washington coach Rick Neuheisel elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Neuheisel had the guts to call a pass, but quarterback Cody Pickett never even made it back into the pocket. Washington center Kyle Benn stepped on Pickett’s right foot immediately after the snap, and Pickett crumpled harmlessly to the turf for a momentum-killing turnover.
Miami spent the rest of the half making a mockery of the Huskies on both sides of the ball. Junior quarterback Ken Dorsey improved his Heisman Trophy stock by throwing a pair of touchdown passes. Junior tailback Clinton Portis found the end zone three times, toting seven carries 62 yards for a 9.9 yard average. And the Miami defense helped Pickett live up to his name, intercepting the sophomore five times (three before intermission).
Miami junior defensive end Jerome McDougle turned the final pick of the first half, on a ball tipped at the line by defensive tackle William Joseph, into a 14-yard return for a touchdown. Though no Washington player was within 10 yards of him, McDougle felt compelled to dive into the end zone in vintage Miami fashion, putting the Hurricanes up 37-0 with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter. The rest of the game was simply an extended Miami victory celebration, as the huge crowd began the “hey … hey … goodbye” chant well before halftime.
Just to stick a little Spurrier-type needle into their hapless visitors, coach Larry Coker and the ‘Canes went for it twice on fourth-and-goal in the second half. Succeeding where Washington failed, Miami scored on power running plays both times, rubbing a little insulting salt into the many wounds they had already inflicted on the Pac-10 patsies.
Virginia Tech is now the only team standing between Miami and a national title shot in the Jan. 3 Rose Bowl. Miami travels to Tech next week. And judging by Miami’s play the last two weeks, the Hurricane siren should already be shrieking its warning in Blacksburg.
“Bring on the Hokies, because we’re ready right now,” said Portis (12 carries for 105 yards). “Ask Syracuse and Washington if we’re ready. We ain’t worried about Blacksburg. We’ll play anybody, anytime, anywhere. We began the season with the goal of getting to the Rose Bowl and winning the national championship. And we’re not going to let anybody stop us.”
If Miami dispatches the Hokies, it most likely will meet the winner of next week’s Florida-Tennessee game for the national championship. Florida will be heavily favored over Tennessee at the Swamp, where the Vols have not won since 1971, setting up a possible rematch between the Sunshine State powers in Pasadena. Last season Miami defeated Florida 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl.
“That would be the ultimate,” said former Miami standout Cortez Kennedy, who was on the sideline last night. “The Gators and ‘Canes might be too hot for L.A. to handle, man.”