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Coach sees the good in close call

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 4, 2002

CORAL GABLES -- There are two ways of looking at Miami's 42-17 victory over Rutgers on Saturday, which extended the nation's longest winning streak since 1971 to 30 games.

On the one hand, the Hurricanes played dreadfully for almost three quarters, trailed a team they had beaten 61-0, 64-6 and 55-0 the past three meetings by 17-14 heading into the final quarter and, perhaps worst of all, seemed to be playing with little emotion.

But in the glass-is-half-full viewpoint coach Larry Coker preferred Sunday morning, the 'Canes stopped themselves with penalties (13-120) and mistakes, outscored the Scarlet Knights 28-0 in the second half and got big performances from quarterback Ken Dorsey and tailback Willis McGahee when needed.

With former unbeatens Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Georgia and North Carolina State losing, Miami might hold on to second in the Bowl Championship Series standings behind Oklahoma, despite dropping to No. 2 in the AP Top 25. UM lost 27 first-place votes and fell 14 points behind OU, ending its record run of 21 consecutive polls at No. 1.

"I don't know that something's just not right," Coker said. "Our preparation's good, we had a great week of practice. The thing with the penalties is a lack of concentration and focus."

The pessimist, or realist, might point out that Miami's last three games were in doubt in the final quarter. It's one thing if it happens against Florida State or a better-than-it-appears West Virginia squad. Looking bad against Rutgers (1-8) is another thing. Many 'Canes don't see a problem.

"We just didn't come out and execute and we had too many penalties," Dorsey said. "When we execute and limit the penalties, we're a great team (but) we've got to get started earlier."

Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said there was no nervousness on the sideline, no thoughts the 'Canes might be the victim of the biggest upset in at least a decade. "We weren't concerned at all. We don't doubt," he said. "We've won too much to doubt around here. It's impossible to believe we can lose to anybody. Impossible. Until that day comes when we lose, I won't believe we can."

SPECIAL-TEAMS STRUGGLES: While coverage was generally good and UM snuffed a fake field-goal attempt while trailing by three, Freddie Capshaw had a punt blocked for a touchdown and Todd Sievers had an extra point blocked. Capshaw had two others blocked this season.

"We've got to speed our punter up," Coker said. "They had an all-out 11-man block; they didn't have a returner back. Our punter didn't recognize that."

MILESTONES: Dorsey passed Donovan McNabb (Syracuse, 1995-98) as the Big East's all-time leading TD passer with 78. "It's a great honor to pass Don, who's probably the best player in the NFL right now," said Dorsey, who hurt his nonthrowing wrist but should be fine for Saturday's game at Tennessee. "I'm in good company." Dorsey also set a conference record for completions with 580, passing the 571 by West Virginia's Marc Bulger (1996-99). ... McGahee became the seventh back in school history to rush for 1,000 yards when he carried 23 times for 187 yards while scoring twice. He has 1,034 yards. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season.

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