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A team win but a QB's emergence


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000

MIAMI -- Wide Right III, newest heart-palpitating memory for a rickety old Orange Bowl, incomparable house of football dramatics, put another placekicking dagger into FSU's proud heart, triggering a scene of unbridled Hurricanes joy, harassed UM coach Butch Davis hugging heroic kid quarterback Ken Dorsey.

"That's the way it's supposed to be," said a smiling Davis, who was 0-5 against the Seminoles, as well as 0-5 against Big East nemesis Virginia Tech, absorbing nasty criticisms as a coach who doesn't win the big ones. "But this is not about me.

"Forget about what it means to Miami's coaches, because all the credit belongs to our players, from Dorsey to our array of playmakers, plus a gritty defense and an offensive line that was sensational against a Florida State defensive front that's said to be America's best."

Matt Munyon's missed kick, so excruciatingly close, was but the climactic final page of a Saturday thesis of magnetism, the 'Canes winning 27-24 after No. 1-ranked Florida State executed an extraordinary late attempt to steal the game.

"It's natural to talk about quarterbacks, runners, pass receivers and placekickers," Davis said, "but the ultimate offensive story for the Hurricanes was the work of our tackles, Joaquin Gonzalez and Bryant McKinnie, who neutralized a great FSU defensive line, keeping them off Dorsey's back."

With those 290-pound huskies blocking like boyish fortresses, it would come down to Dorsey, a bony 6-foot-5 sophomore from the San Francisco suburb of Orinda, after seeing FSU snatch a 24-20 lead with 97 seconds left, taking deep 19-year-old breaths before wondrously emulating boyhood hero Joe Montana.

"Growing up in 49ers country, when they dominated the NFL, it seemed Montana was always taking a tough situation and turning it into victory," Dorsey would say. "I always dreamed about becoming anything close to that cool, efficient and successful."

Orange Bowl moment.

"We could see Florida State's defense was gassed," Davis said. "Worn out from trying to rush Dorsey; maybe a bit frustrated. Kenny stayed calm, smart and quite professional." Looking a lot like old Joe Montana.

"It didn't seem all that difficult, moving downfield on that last drive, because we'd practice such things so often," Dorsey said. "Usually, Coach Davis gives us 45 seconds to move 80 yards. This time, we had a minute and a half. But, of course, that's on a practice field, not in the Orange Bowl, going against the No. 1 team in the country.

"It endlessly clicked. We never really got into trouble. I guess that's how Joe Montana used to feel. When we got close to the goal line, (Jeremy) Shockey came to the huddle and said he was open. Of course, Shockey says he's open about every other play. But, then, there he was on the big play, wide open for the score."

'Noles coverage guys, tacklers too, and defensive rushers could not handle the challenge. Dorsey flip-flip-flipped Miami down the famous Dade County grass, completing 6 of 7 throws, bringing the 62-year-old stadium to a frenzy, eventually finding tight end Shockey hugely open in the end zone.

"I didn't figure he'd throw to me," said the 6-foot-6 sophomore from Ada, Okla., "but there it came. Such a pretty sight." Thirteen yards, for a 27-24 lead.

For FSU, there it went.

Shockey. Shocking. But not quite over. FSU gave it one more rip. Chris Weinke had done marvelous things, passing for 496 yards. But time was evaporating. 'Noles got moving, but the clock trapped them.

At 0:05, the only ploy left was a 49-yard field goal by Munyon, trying to create overtime. He'd already blown a 22-yard attempt. It just had to happen. One more FSU wide right. Like with Gerry Thomas and Dan Mowery, in 1991-92, placekickers who muffed FSU chances against fierce rival Miami with infamous 11th-hour pushes.

Florida State had many, many, many shots at taking Saturday control, long before Munyon's misfortune. Red-zone offense was inexplicably rotten, especially in the context of Weinke's voluminous effort. Messing up more grand opportunities than Darryl Strawberry and Steve Howe combined. Moving into the red zone five times and making no touchdowns and one field goal.

"I'm most proud of 12 of our players who were in Tallahassee three years ago when Florida State humiliated us 47-0," Davis said. "That was a bottoming out." UM, after four national championships in a 1983-91 run, tumbled into heavy trouble, including NCAA probation, before Davis was hired.

"Those of us Miami seniors who were 0-3 against Florida State, including that 47-point devastation," linebacker Dan Morgan said, "well, this is a wonderful feeling. Showing the world that UM football, after five losses in a row against Florida State, is truly back."

Michael Irvin, one of the giants from those Hurricanes past, was on Saturday's sideline, pushing today's UM kids to a memorable result. Now retired from the Dallas Cowboys. Bernie Kosar, once a lanky 6-5 quarterback for the 'Canes, was on the bench lending words of wisdom to Dorsey.

"Nobody is happier than me," said Najeh Davenport, who admitted feeling guilt as FSU scored its go-ahead touchdown. "Who wants to live with being known for a big fumble?"

After catching a critical Dorsey pass for a first down in the fourth quarter, the 235-pound junior tailback was jarred into a fumble. From there, the 'Noles dashed to their 24-20 advantage.

Then came the Dorsey march.

"Everybody on our side went crazy when Shockey scored the winning touchdown," Davenport said. "I felt a little extra. That fumble left my mind. We just plain deserved to win this one."

So true.

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