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'Canes leave win to fate

Miami acknowledges only FSU could prevent winning field goal.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 13, 2002

MIAMI -- After three hours and 34 minutes on a blistering afternoon, with a single tick left on the game clock, the defending national champions, who had not lost in more than two years, were reduced to a weak feeling.

A stocky, 5-foot-10 kicker from Tampa trotted onto the Orange Bowl field for Florida State, and other than a few defensive players who helplessly tried to redirect Xavier Beitia's effort, the No. 1 Hurricanes could do nothing.

Their 27-game win streak, status atop the polls, ability to control their destiny, hung in the balance of the steamy east end zone.

"I closed my eyes," tight end Kellen Winslow said. "I couldn't watch it go through."

Added receiver Andre Johnson: "I just got on my knees and prayed. I didn't look. When I heard the crowd roar, I knew we won."

Barely. Miami emerged with a 28-27 victory over the rival Seminoles, who for the fourth time in 12 years saw a game against UM come down to a kick. Each time it has sailed wide of the goal posts, leaving UM to celebrate.

And celebrate the Hurricanes did, though the veterans acknowledged their luck.

"I feel very fortunate," center Brett Romberg said. "The game shouldn't have come down to that. We should have never been there in the first place. I was upset with myself. If we could have just gotten a first down."

It was a game of ifs, and the Seminoles will relive theirs in agony. But for the Hurricanes, they know their invincibility tag is tarnished. They know they were outplayed in several areas, committed too many penalties, 14 for 109 yards. "We're so fortunate to come out with a win," guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli said. "I think that's going to teach us a lot the rest of the year."

UM's much-hyped defensive line got little pressure on quarterback Chris Rix and had trouble with FSU's senior-laden offensive line. The result? FSU had 296 rushing yards, including 189 on 31 carries by Greg Jones. Nick Maddox chipped in 74 yards on 12 carries.

It was part of a well-conceived plan employed by FSU that tried to keep the Miami offense off the field while chewing up the clock.

"We were missing tackles, we weren't getting off blocks fast enough," defensive tackle Matt Walters said. "We never got a feel for what they were doing."

And when the offense did get on the field, it mostly struggled, despite open receivers and FSU defensive backs who gave up chunks of space and yardage. Quarterback Ken Dorsey directed two fourth-quarter TD drives, but he was just 20-for-45.

One, a 68-yarder to Willis McGahee, was due more to the tailback's speed and elusiveness and missed tackles than to anything accomplished by Dorsey.

"They just beat us on a screen pass," coach Bobby Bowden said.

But it set up the winning touchdown, which set up the dramatic final moments. The Hurricanes couldn't seal it with a first down, gave FSU good field position with a shanked punt, then allowed the Seminoles to drive 29 yards into position for the field goal.

Make or miss, there was nothing Miami could do. It missed, so the Hurricanes did what they often do -- celebrate.

"There's a force field around the Orange Bowl," Romberg said. "It doesn't let Florida State kickers kick field goals."

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