UM 41, LOUISVILLE 38: Gore's TD with :49 left caps two fourth-quarter comebacks.
By MICHAEL SNYDER
Published October 15, 2004
MIAMI - No.18 Louisville came into the Orange Bowl with many doubting its ranking despite an undefeated start.
No.3 Miami likely put the debate to rest. After dominating the first half, the Cardinals allowed the Hurricanes to come back for a 41-38 win Thursday night before a crowd of 63,715.
Miami (5-0) kept its national championship hopes alive with six scoring drives in the second half, capped by sophomore tailback Frank Gore's 1-yard run with 49 seconds remaining.
"I'm going to take my pulse," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "We played a good football team, and we knew they were. Our tackling was very, very poor tonight.
"We came back in the second half. Our guys didn't flinch. We really, really fought to the end. The effort was there."
The 'Canes trailed 24-7 and 31-14 but refused to wilt against a team ranked in the top 10 in eight of 13 NCAA statistics.
The Cardinals led 38-34 with 4:30 to play but Brock Berlin, who threw for three touchdowns for the second straight game after never doing it before, took Miami 56 yards in 10 plays, including a key third-down completion to Lance Leggett and a fourth-down connection with Darnell Jenkins to set up Gore's score.
"That last catch by Darnell Jenkins near the goal line was incredible," Berlin said.
It was the fifth fourth-quarter comeback engineered by Berlin in 17 starts despite playing with what he termed "a deep bruise" of his collarbone.
"We've been here before in this situation. We proved what kind of character our guys have," said Berlin, who finished 25-of-37 for 308 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. "It was tough throwing. But you've got to play with pain."
After struggling for two quarters, Berlin was nearly perfect in the second half. He completed 11-of-14 for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter. His 51-yard completion to Greg Olsen set up a short field goal by Jon Peattie to open the fourth that made it 31-24.
Then Louisville quarterback Stefan LeFors, who finished 17-of-22 for 242 yards with three touchdowns, fumbled a snap that Santonio Thomas recovered. It set up Peattie's 27-yarder to bring Miami within 31-27.
Devin Hester, who had a 103-yard return nullified to open the second half, ran back a punt 78 yards for a score, giving Miami a 34-31 lead with 8:11 to play.
"After the first one was called back, my teammates told me to keep my head up because they knew I would get another chance," Hester said. "I told myself that if I got another opportunity, I was going to make another play."
Hester energized the crowd and gave the Miami sideline the feeling another comeback was in the air.
"He's one of the most exciting players I've ever seen in football," Coker said. "He makes fast players look slow."
The Cardinals drove 80 yards behind Brian Brohm, who replaced LeFors after he suffered a concussion, and went ahead 38-34 on Lionel Gates' 1-yard run with 4:30 left.
Louisville entered averaging 503 yards offensively and, after its first drive, looked unstoppable.
"We threw everything we had at them," Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said. "(They) have come back like that before against other teams to win. We have nothing to be ashamed of."
Miami, which improved to 13-0 in night games at the Orange Bowl under Coker, scored first on a 9-yard pass from Berlin to Olsen. But the Cardinals outscored the 'Canes 24-0 to end the half.
"You have to win some of these," Coker said. "You lose some and you're out of it. You win some and you're right in the mix."