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UM ready to put on big show

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 9, 2002

CORAL GABLES -- The stage has been set, just like the Hurricanes hoped it would be.

The chance to make history will come Jan. 3, when Miami (12-0) faces Ohio State (13-0) in the Fiesta Bowl. The 'Canes have won 34 in a row and will try to become UM's first repeat national champions.

"I may be the luckiest football coach in the world," Larry Coker said after Miami's wild 56-45 win over Virginia Tech that gave UM its third straight Big East title. He is 24-0 as a head coach.

Critics may point out Miami allowed the Hokies back into the game, called a pass to the quarterback that made no sense and didn't always look like they could stop their foe. But considering the team hasn't lost since September of 2000, it appears much of the criticism is of Miami's style.

But the key to winning championships is beating other teams, and Miami just keeps winning.

Again, it was UM's big guns that led the charge to the Arizona desert. Ken Dorsey, 38-1 as a starter, passed for 300 yards. Willis McGahee rushed for a career-high 205 on 39 carries and set a UM mark by scoring six touchdowns. Andre Johnson had six receptions for 193 yards and a TD.

Offensively, the 'Canes never have looked more menacing and have piled up more than 1,100 yards in the last two games.

"Now we're going to the big show. ... We are the big show," senior defensive end Jerome McDougle said.

GOING SOMEWHERE?: McGahee, a sophomore, said after the game that he would return next season. That contradicts what McGahee had said about waiting until January and discussing it with his mother before making a decision.

"Next year, I'll be back," McGahee said.

Sophomore defensive tackle Vince Wilfork also said he will be back.

"No matter what happens, we win or lose, I choose to stay and play for the University of Miami next year," Wilfork said.

WHY?: That's what most people were wondering after Miami called for an option pass from backup tailback Jarrett Payton to Dorsey with UM leading 49-21. Miami was at the Hokies 1-yard line and McGahee hadn't been stopped all day. Payton's wobbly pass was picked off by Willie Pile and returned 96 yards for a touchdown to give the Hokies hope.

There was talk it was put in to help Dorsey's Heisman chances, a la Nebraska's Eric Crouch a year ago. Center Brett Romberg said players had even nicknamed it "the Heisman play," but Coker denied that. "We had worked on that play a lot," he said. "This just wasn't the game we needed to use it."

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