- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2003

MIAMI — It was almost as if mighty Miami wanted to make it interesting.

After spotting No. 21 Florida a 23-point lead midway through the third quarter last night, the third-ranked Hurricanes woke up and blew the Gators all the way back to Gainesville. Completing one of the most remarkable comebacks in recent college football, Miami finished the game on a 28-0 run to gut the Gators 38-33 before a frenzied packed house at the Orange Bowl.

“That was just an astounding display of resilience by our guys,” Miami coach Larry Coker said. “At one point [tight end] Kellen Winslow told me not to worry we’re going to win. And I must say it sure didn’t look like it at the time.”

Through nearly three quarters of listless football, Miami looked like a mere shadow of the squad that had come within one road loss of playing in the last three national title games.

They missed tackles.

The most notable whiff came from All-American linebacker D.J. Williams, who allowed Florida freshman DeShawn Wynn to run right through him on a 65-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the third quarter that put the Gators ahead 26-10,

They blew coverages.

In the first half, Miami safety Maurice Sikes allowed Carlos Perez to run right past him on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Ingle Martin.

They turned the ball over four times.

Former Florida quarterback Brock Berlin made an ugly start to his first start against his former team, throwing a pair of third-quarter interceptions to go with two first-half Miami fumbles.

But for 20 almost inconceivable minutes to close out the game, the Hurricanes (2-0) were nearly perfect.

The numbers are staggering. On Miami’s final four possessions, all which resulted in touchdowns, the Hurricanes moved, 85, 69, 70 and 89 yards for scores, each drive taking less than four minutes. Berlin completed 17 of 20 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns in those drives.

The first of those two strikes put an exclamation point on the first drive as Berlin found Kevin Beard on a 26-yard crossing route to pull the ‘Canes within 17. A two-point conversion toss to Ryan Moore on a hook followed to make the score 33-18 with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.

After a three-and-out Florida possession, Berlin and Co. were right back at it, with a 62-yard pass from Berlin to Beard setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by tailback Frank Gore to draw the Hurricanes within 33-25 with 33 seconds left in the quarter.

Following yet another three-and-out stand by the Miami defense, Berlin once again drove the ‘Canes quickly downfield, connecting with Moore on a 6-yard crossing route to pull Miami within one with 11:08 remaining in the game.

Panic-turned-desperation, the Gators (1-1) then burned nearly six minutes off the clock with a solid drive before stalling just out of field goal range. After an excellent punt, Miami took over at its own 11 with just five minutes remaining.

But yet again, Berlin, who transferred to Miami shortly after Steve Spurrier left Florida’s program, was up to the task. The ‘Canes moved swiftly down the field, a brilliant naked bootleg call on a fourth-down play near midfield extending the drive. And when only a field goal would have sufficed for victory, Gore exploded into the end zone from 12 yards out and just over one minute remaining to cement the furious comeback.

The Hurricanes were fortunate to be down only 19-10 at the half. The Miami squad that had efficiently manhandled opponents while going 36-2 since the start of the 2000 season was M.I.A. last night. Aside from Devin Hester’s game-opening 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Miami was a case study in self-destruction.

In the first half alone, the Hurricanes were penalized six times for 54 yards, managed only six first downs and a paltry 117 yards of offense and handed the ball to Florida on consecutive possessions midway through the second quarter.

The first of those turnovers proved particularly costly as Berlin botched a simple swing pass to gift Florida a touchdown. With the score tied 10-10 and the Hurricanes near midfield, Berlin flipped the ball out toward Gore in the flat before the tailback had turned to the ball and made his cut upfield. The result was a fluttering lateral that floated over Gore’s head and was collected by Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff on the fly.

Ratliff, a extremely fast All-SEC performer, picked up the lateral at the Miami 34 and sprinted untouched into the end zone to give the Gators their first lead with 11:36 remaining in the half.

For some reason clear only to him, Florida coach Ron Zook elected to go for two — a decision which, predictably, backfired. But after another pair of anemic Miami drives, one halted by another fumble near midfield, Florida got back on the board when kicker Matt Leach closed out the half with a 30-yard field goal to put the Gators ahead 19-10.

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