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College football

'Canes inconsistent but still cruise to win

UM 38, E. CAROLINA 3: The Pirates can't take advantage of costly penalties and bad throws.

By MICHAEL SNYDER
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

MIAMI - This one was supposed to be easy. And it was ... very easy.

Led by Frank Gore, who became the first Hurricane to open a season with three 100-yard rushing games, and a defense that didn't allow a touchdown but produced one, the No. 2 Hurricanes overwhelmed East Carolina 38-3 on Saturday in front of 65,825 at the Orange Bowl.

Still, one couldn't help but wonder if this kind of effort will be enough when Miami travels to Boston College next weekend or Florida State next month.

The Hurricanes were an uneven mix of dominance - the winless Pirates never appeared too close to scoring a touchdown - and ignorance - Brock Berlin forcing a ball into triple coverage and getting intercepted.

Miami was, at times, brilliant, including the opening series pass from Berlin to Roscoe Parrish that went 50 yards for a touchdown. At other times, the Hurricanes were bumbling, committing costly penalties.

Not that any of it proved consequential. In the end, Miami won its 35th consecutive regular-season game and its 24th in a row at home.

"It was one negative play here or there. We've got to cut them out," offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "It's the kind of plays a veteran team probably wouldn't make. But I'll take 38-3 every game."

Berlin was 13-of-23 for 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Gore finished with 134 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.

"We are a work in progress," coach Larry Coker said. "And we certainly have not played our best game yet."

Even Gore wasn't oozing with excitement about his performance.

"This game, I was shooting for 200," he said. "I started out slow." His blockers agreed.

"He wants to get 2,000 (this season). He wanted to get a lot of yards against ECU," center Joel Rodriguez said. "He should have gotten a lot more."

Miami fans had to wait 3:37 for a 7-0 lead. Berlin spotted Parrish, who had cornerback Donald Whitehead beaten, open down the right sideline. Berlin lofted a pass that Parrish cradled and ran into the end zone.

"They gave us what we wanted, and we took advantage of it," Berlin said. "It's always tough to come off a great victory like (last weekend's win over Florida) and then come out emotionally high."

Last week, Miami coach Larry Coker addressed his team's penchant for penalties by saying it made it appear "undisciplined and not very smart." But even after focusing on them during practice, Miami again struggled, committing seven penalties for 75 yards.

It didn't matter, though. Even with good field position, the Pirates, who were outscored 88-10 in losses to Cincinnati and West Virginia, couldn't do anything.

A 13-play, 78-yard drive ended with Gore's 1-yard plunge to make it 14-0. With 1:04 left in the half, Countryside graduate Jon Peattie added a 38-yard field goal to make it 17-0.

Aided by an 11-yard gain on a fake punt and two penalties, including an offsides on fourth and 2, the Pirates drove to the Miami 7 but again couldn't get into the end zone. They settled for Cameron Broadwell's 26-yard field goal with 5:02 left in the third.

In the fourth, Vince Wilfork sacked Desmond Robinson just outside the Pirates end zone. The ball squirted loose, and Santonio Thomas pounced on it for a touchdown. Jarrett Payton later scored on a 48-yard run to make it 31-3.

Derrick Crudup replaced Berlin after Glenn Sharpe's interception and tossed a 10-yard touchdown to Darnell Jenkins to make it 38-3 with 6:39 left.

"Obviously, it's a lot harder to get up for ECU than it is for Florida," Rodriguez said. "We weren't drained at all. We were fine. We wanted to come out here and do well. We probably didn't play good enough to beat some of the better teams on our schedule, even Boston College really next week. But we'll get up for that game. We'll be ready for that challenge."


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