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College football

'Canes rebound from slow start

MIAMI 34, RUTGERS 10: Third quarter yields four TDs on play of special teams and defense.

Published November 23, 2003

[AP photo]
Jarrett Payton outdistances the Rutgers defense. Payton rushed for 82 yards on 13 carries.

MIAMI - The Hurricanes got the spark they were looking for Saturday, but it did not come from Brock Berlin or Derrick Crudup.

The electricity, after a drab, dull and draining first half, came by way of defense and special teams. The result was a 34-10 victory over Rutgers in front of only 39,579 at the Orange Bowl.

If Miami wins at Pittsburgh, the 'Canes (9-2, 5-1) can claim their fourth straight Big East title and a BCS bowl bid, likely the Orange Bowl.

While the Orange Bowl representatives on hand likely enjoyed the second half, the 'Canes offense again struggled much of the game. The high-octane passing attacks the 'Canes have been known for are absent this season.

"We seemed a little tentative at times," coach Larry Coker said. "We can't play that way. We have to be aggressive."

After spending all but one series on the bench a week ago, Berlin returned as starting quarterback, but neither he nor Crudup - who entered with 12:17 to play in the second quarter for five series - did anything to dissuade detractors, some of whom see them as the weakest QB tandem in Coral Gables since the Frank Costa/Ryan Collins days more than a decade ago.

After Crudup passed for 80 yards last weekend against Syracuse, Berlin completed 6-of-14 for 86 yards against the Scarlet Knights, and Crudup was 1-of-3 for seven yards. For only the second time in 10 starts, Berlin did not turn the ball over.

"I don't want to throw an interception or turn the ball over, and I feel good that I didn't do that today," Berlin said. "I was smart with the football and made plays when they were there."

Though Miami ran the ball well in the first half, the 'Canes deflated when Berlin went to the air.

"It's hard to get in a rhythm when we're switching quarterbacks," tight end Kellen Winslow said. "They're looking over their shoulders when they make a mistake. You've got to give them a chance to make mistakes because they were playing tentative."

Up 6-3 at the half on Jon Peattie field goals of 25 and 41 yards, UM exploded for 28 unanswered points to defeat the Scarlet Knights for the 11th straight time in their final Big East meeting.

The 'Canes blocked a pair of Rutgers punts, returned an interception for a TD and limited the Scarlet Knights (4-7, 1-5) to 21 yards on 20 third-quarter offensive plays. Rutgers held the ball for almost 12 minutes of the quarter. Miami also forced a fumble in a quarter that saw Rutgers whistled for six penalties.

The big plays and the results: Darrell McClover blocked a Joe Radigan punt that Marcus Maxey recovered at Rutgers 18. Two plays later, Berlin found Kevin Everett on a 17-yard TD pass for a 13-3 lead.

"We went all year long without getting a punt blocked, then had two in one game," coach Greg Schiano said. "It's the biggest momentum change in football."

On the ensuing drive, Javon Nanton (three sacks, one forced fumble) sacked Ryan Hart causing him to fumble. Hart recovered, but Rutgers wound up punting from its end zone and after a 17-yard return by Roscoe Parrish, Jarrett Payton, who had 82 yards on 13 carries, scored almost untouched on an 18-yard run. Miami led 20-3.

The next time Rutgers got the ball, Hart was intercepted by Sean Taylor, who returned the ball 44 yards for a TD. It was the third time this year Taylor has scored on an interception return.

UM scored its final points on Everett's second TD - a 5-yard toss that was set up by Berlin's longest completion of the day 44 yards to Ryan Moore.

In five of the past six games, the 'Canes had scored 51 or more against the Scarlet Knights.

"That's how things go," Taylor said. "Sometimes you need a spark and you never know who might give the spark - it might be the special teams, it might be the offense, the defense. ... (The third quarter) was our breakout quarter and we did what we had to do."

Now another Miami victory all but sews up an Orange Bowl berth.

"You can't play for the national championship every year, even here," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "We make it to the Orange Bowl and win it, yeah, I'll be satisfied."

[Last modified November 23, 2003, 01:46:45]

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