Rose Bowl: 'Canes blow over Cornhuskers for perfect season
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Hurricanes did it with a dazzling second quarter, scoring four touchdowns, including three in a 3-minute, 57-second span. Nebraska put a charge into the mostly pro-Cornhusker crowd with some late-arriving offense, but that didn't affect Miami's coronation.
The resounding victory — which gives the Hurricanes their fifth national football championship — may not have put to rest issues over the BCS system, but it ended any argument about who should win the national title. The 'Canes are clearly the best team in college football.
"They are exactly what they are — an outstanding football team in all areas," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said. "We didn't play well to make it a competitive game at the end or (even) at the end of the first half.
"It was not the matchup that everyone had dreamed of. Whether any team would have matched up any different, I don't know. I don't know any team as balanced as Miami is. I think anybody would have struggled with them when they play on top of their game, like they did tonight."
The Cornhuskers (11-2) played in the title game despite a season-ending 62-36 loss to Colorado. Oregon, which beat Colorado by 22 points in the Fiesta Bowl, and Colorado believed their teams should have been in this game.
But Ducks devotees quacking about that snub will no doubt accept their distant No. 2 ranking. No matter who suited up against Miami, this team was irrepressible.
The 'Canes dominated both sides of the ball and the special teams for three quarters, long enough for their comfortable cushion.
Miami junior quarterback Ken Dorsey, a third-place finisher in the Heisman Trophy race to Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, threw for three touchdowns and 362 yards. His favorite receiver was sophomore wideout Andre Johnson, who caught five passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in just the first half. He finished with seven catches for 199 yards.
Dorsey and Johnson were named co-MVPs.
"They refused to give in. They refused to flinch," said Miami Coach Larry Coker, who won his first national title in his first season. "They got the job done week in and week out."
Asked what he would say if Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti called to suggest one more game for the title, Coker said: "Why? We're the national champions. It's already settled. We settled it on the field."
They settled it early and reinforced it often. Here's how dominating Miami was:
• Nebraska came into the game averaging a nation-leading 314.7 rushing yards per game. They finished with just 197.
• Crouch was sacked five times all season and just once in the previous eight games. He was sacked three times by the relentless Hurricanes defenders and knocked around hard every time they had a clean shot.
• Miami entered the game ranked No. 1 in pass defense. The 'Canes gave up just 62 yards through the air on five completions in 14 attempts.
Crouch gave Miami their first scoring opportunity late in the first quarter when he fumbled on an option play to the right, the first of three first-half turnovers. It was the 19th fumble recovery this season for Miami, which led the nation in causing turnovers, and the eighth straight game the 'Canes came up with at least one.
On the next play, Dorsey dropped back and found Johnson all alone down the right sideline. Defensive back Keyuo Craver had fallen and Jeremy Shockey drew double coverage down the middle. All Johnson had to do was put his arms around the ball and trot into the end zone.
"I tried to get physical with the DB," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, he fell and I was shocked that I was that wide open." Craver said later he was pulled down by Johnson.
Miami took seven plays to march 86 yards for the second score, tailback Clinton Portis' 39-yard touchdown. Good blocking and three Nebraska arm-tackles allowed him to hit the line, then bounce right for a 14-0 score.
On Nebraska's next series, Crouch threw high to tight end Tracey Wistrom, who let the ball slip through his hands. Safety James Lewis caught it on the run and sprinted 47 yards for another score to make it 21-0.
"That had to be a little demoralizing to our players," Solich said.
It took Miami two plays to score again as Shockey caught a 21-yarder from Dorsey. He set it up with a 45-yarder to Johnson. The Hurricanes finished off the first-half scoring with another Dorsey-to-Johnson pass for 8 yards with 3:35 left.
Nebraska tried to make it a game long after it wasn't. The Huskers finally scored at the 2:39 mark of the third quarter on a 16-yard run by Judd Davies. DeJuan Groce also returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown that made it 34-14 with 14:28 remaining. The red-clad Nebraska fans, who made up at least 70 percent of the Rose Bowl crowd, were suddenly alive and screaming.
But the Hurricanes, using an 11-play drive, marched for their lone second-half score — a 37-yard field goal by Todd Sievers. It gave the 'Canes a 37-14 lead and ate up 4:24 and virtually all of Nebraska's momentum.
"We can't say we could have or should have," said Huskers running back Dahrran Diedrick. "We did everything we could have."
Miami, handing Nebraska a second straight loss for the first time since 1990, has won 22 consecutive games over two seasons. The 88th Rose Bowl was the first one in 55 years without a representative from the Pac-10 or Big Ten.
Bob Sherwin can be reached at 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.