By MICHAEL SNYDER
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 9, 2002
While Florida was left with many questions Saturday, No.1 Miami had a lot answered.
The biggest question, can Miami compete on the same level as last season after losing so much talent to the NFL, appears answered after a 41-16 victory, the Gators' worst home loss since 1979 and the most points the Hurricanes have scored against the Gators in 51 games.
The 508 total yards (306 rushing) were the most Miami has gained against the Gators.
"I knew all along it was going to be like that," Miami center Brett Romberg said. "Our generation owns the Gators. We dominated the Gators."
"They gave up in the third quarter," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "They came out playing hard, but when you keep seeing fresh legs and 300-pound dogs coming at you, failure is going to go through your mind."
The secondary and offensive line, Miami's primary areas of concern entering the season, played well. Its young defensive backs held quarterback Rex Grossman without a touchdown, and Maurice Sikes intercepted him twice, returning one 97 yards for a touchdown.
The offensive line gave Ken Dorsey, who threw four touchdowns, plenty of time and opened holes for tailbacks Willis McGahee (204 yards) and Jason Geathers (72 yards).
However, Miami didn't play as well as it might need to later this season, though not Saturday when it plays Big East doormat Temple.
Dorsey threw three interceptions, one that Byron Hardmon returned for a touchdown.
Miami had a punt blocked. Passes were dropped. And it committed 14 penalties for 134 yards.
INJURY UPDATE: Sikes separated his shoulder trying to tackle tailback Earnest Graham on his 18-yard touchdown run but remained in the game. He could miss some practice but is expected to play Saturday.
He said he did not consider coming out of the game.
"I've waited three years to play," he said. "So nothing was going to keep me off that field."
Running back Jarrett Payton, bothered by a sore lower back throughout the summer, played for the first time this season. The junior, who has had an injury-plagued career, carried four times for 16 yards during the fourth quarter.
Defensive end Jerome McDougle, who missed the opener because of a strained pectoral muscle in his chest, had two tackles and several hurries.
"I was just doing what I normally do, getting to the quarterback," McDougle said. "I was mixing it up. (Florida right tackle Jonathan Colon) had some bad techniques, and I was trying to use all of that against him."
NUMBERS GAME: Miami won its 24th consecutive game (tops in the nation) and 12th consecutive road game. ... Miami has won 18 of 26 against Florida teams since 1985. ... Since 1983, Miami is 78-19 in road games, the best winning percentage (.804) during that span. ... Miami has won nine in a row against ranked teams.