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Hurricanes one hour away from a Fiesta

By MICHAEL SNYDER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 2002


CORAL GABLES -- Sixty minutes. And, no, there'll be no appearance by Andy Rooney.

One game, 60 minutes of football. That's what the season has come down to for the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes. Defeat Virginia Tech in the season finale Saturday at the Orange Bowl and the Hurricanes (11-0, 6-0 Big East) clinch a berth against Ohio State (13-0) in the national championship Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 in Tempe, Ariz.

Just the way the 'Canes and coach Larry Coker would have drawn it up in August when two-a-days began.

The 'Canes set the stage by dominating downtrodden Syracuse from the start Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Willis McGahee scored on a 61-yard run on the first Miami drive and the Orangemen never mounted a challenge en route to a 49-7 thrashing. Miami scored TDs on three of its first four drives.

UM's 33-game winning streak is the longest in Division I-A since 1971.

The Hokies may provide more of a test, although they did lose to Syracuse (4-9, 2-6). Their running game, led by Lee Suggs, may give UM's defensive front fits, as Florida State and West Virginia did. Then again, Miami has risen against every team since losing at Washington in September 2000.

"We couldn't be in a better place," Coker said. "We're exactly where we wanted to be."

In position to become the first UM team to win back-to-back national titles.

MORE RECORDS FALL: McGahee has been rewriting the UM record book all season. That continued with five marks against Syracuse.

McGahee, who rushed for 134 yards on 14 carries and scored twice, has 1,810 all-purpose yards, 21 rushing TDs and 126 points, all school records. His 1,481 rushing yards broke Edgerrin James' 1998 mark for a season. The ninth 100-yard game also set a record.

OFFENSE GIVES CHILLS: Quarterback Ken Dorsey completed 12 of his first 15 passes en route to a 345-yard day. Playing on the turf seemed to make the 'Canes even quicker.

"Having a South Florida football program, where half the players run 4.5s or better and putting them on this turf, that's dangerous," center Brett Romberg said. "Even I felt pretty fast out there."

"This is a fast track, which helps the fast teams," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said.

INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who missed most of last week's practices with a strained right calf muscle, reinjured the leg in the second quarter and did not return. Wilfork said he'll be back for the Hokies even if he misses practices this week.

Fullback Kyle Cobia sustained his third injury of the season when he sprained an elbow attempting to catch a pass.

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