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Nebraska gets early lift, that's about it

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 4, 2002

AP Top 25 College Football Poll
PASADENA, Calif. -- Nebraska didn't hold up for long Thursday against Miami. But at the onset, with the Cornhuskers defense in need of a confidence boost after getting shredded by Colorado in the season finale, Erwin Swiney provided it immediately.

On the opening kickoff, Swiney, a senior backup cornerback, raced down and corraled Miami's Andre Johnson at the 6-yard line. With the Hurricanes pinned deep, Nebraska allowed a first down and then forced a punt. On Miami's next possession, the Huskers again yielded one first down before cornerback Keyuo Craver intercepted Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey.

Then ...

BLITZKRIEG: It happened with frightening speed and efficiency. Miami went ahead 7-0 with 6:51 to go in the first quarter. With 3:35 left in the half, it was 34-0. In a span of 18:16, Miami shut out Nebraska while averaging almost two points a minute.

NOT THIS TIME: Late in the first quarter, after two long runs got Nebraska to the Miami 36, the Huskers dipped into their bag of tricks. On first down, tailback Dahrran Diedrick swept right and looked to throw back across the field to quarterback Eric Crouch. A similar play had gone for a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-10 win Oct. 27 over Oklahoma. Miami, however, had the play snuffed out, and Diedrick held on to the ball for a 2-yard loss.

TIME THIS: More evidence that time of possession can be irrelevant. Miami led 34-0 at the half but trailed 10:41 to 19:19 in time of possession.

LOCAL STANDOUTS: Area players had a big impact early. Miami defensive end Andrew Williams, a Hillsborough High graduate, dropped Crouch for a loss on a quarterback draw on Nebraska's first possession. On the kickoff after Miami took a 7-0 lead, Dixie Hollins graduate Markese Fitzgerald drilled Nebraska return man Josh Davis, forcing a fumble, and 'Canes kicker Todd Sievers recovered.

OH WELL: Crouch tried to become just the fifth Heisman Trophy winner since 1950 to also win a national championship.

The only four players to do so: Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett in 1976, Florida State's Charlie Ward in 1993, Florida's Danny Wuerffel in 1996 and Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997.

Nebraska's Mike Rozier won the Heisman in 1983, then the Cornhuskers lost to Miami in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

Miami's Vinny Testaverde won the '86 Heisman, then the No. 1-ranked Hurricanes lost to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title. Gino Torretta won the '92 Heisman before the Hurricanes lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl for the national title.

SO LONG: Several Miami players will be headed to the NFL, including safety Ed Reed and offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez. All three passed on an opportunity to turn pro early and returned for their senior seasons.

They could be joined at the next level by other underclassmen. Although quarterback Ken Dorsey, a junior, has indicated he will return for his senior season, running back Clinton Portis and cornerback Phillip Buchanon have indicated a decision awaits.

DAVENPORT WATCHES: UM senior fullback Najeh Davenport missed the game with a broken foot. Davenport missed almost his entire sophomore season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in the season-opening Kickoff Classic win over Ohio State.

"It's disappointing for him," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "It's been a tough career for Najeh."

WANNA BET?: Gov. Jeb Bush bet Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns a box of stone crab claws that the Hurricanes would win. But Johanns will be the one sending food -- beef steaks.

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