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Storm passing through just grazes Hurricanes

Miami survives 72 pass attempts in a 42-31 win over Louisiana Tech.

By JOE FRISARO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


MIAMI -- Louisiana Tech quarterback Luke McCown posted huge passing numbers at the Orange Bowl Saturday night. But the fourth-ranked Miami Hurricanes countered with their running attack to overcome their spotty secondary in a 42-31 win.

More sloppy than spectacular, the Hurricanes (6-1) were pushed by the 41-point underdogs. Tech made the game competitive behind McCown, who was 42-for-72 for 418 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

The win sets up Miami's anticipated showdown against No. 2 Virginia Tech on Saturday at the Orange Bowl. First place in the Big East Conference and an inside track to play for the national championship will be on the line.

"We hold our destiny in our hands, that's all you can ask for," UM defensive tackle Damione Lewis said. "All we have to do is beat Virginia Tech and we should be playing Oklahoma or somebody for the national championship."

McCown's 72 pass attempts were the most in NCAA history by a freshman and the most against Miami. It was no mystery that Louisiana Tech (2-7) would challenge a secondary that came in averaging 230 yards allowed through the air.

A week ago, McCown was 47-for-65 with four touchdowns in a loss against Auburn. The 47 completions were an NCAA freshman record.

"We knew they were going to come out and throw the ball, that's all they do," Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey said. "They can rack up a lot of yards. The running game came up big for us and the special teams came up big."

Miami rolled up 331 rushing yards, 516 total. Louisiana Tech countered with 485 yards. The teams combined for 1,001 yards total offense.

The Hurricanes, No. 4 in the nation in scoring, had big games from tailback James Jackson and Santana Moss. Jackson ran for 185 yards, second-highest in his career, and he scored two touchdowns in the first half.

Moss had his third straight strong performance, scoring on a 43-yard reverse and a 69-yard punt return. Moss has brought back three punts for touchdowns this season, and five in two years. Moss added four catches for 37 yards.

Dorsey was 16-for-31 for 185 yards and a touchdown, a 16-yarder to Reggie Wayne in the third quarter. But he also threw three interceptions.

"It's probably the poorest performance of my career," Dorsey said.

Miami's ground game made up for it. Clinton Portis, who wasn't expected back until this week, gained 86 yards on 14 carries in the second half. Portis has had limited practice time since breaking three toes in his right foot in September.

Punctuating Miami's spotty play were two roughing-the-punter penalties and 12 penalties for 102 yards. A holding penalty wiped out Daryl Jones' 100-yard kickoff return to start the second half. The Hurricanes had four turnovers, giving them eight in the past two games.

Louisiana Tech had 67 yards rushing, attempting just seven carries in the second half.

Trailing 28-10 at halftime, the Bulldogs unleashed McCown. Three Louisiana Tech receivers had 10 catches: Delwyn Daigre, John Simon and James Jordan, the nation's leading reception leader 8.7 a game.

Miami had a few key injuries on defense. The severity hasn't been determined. Linebacker Dan Morgan left with a sprained right foot with six minutes left in the first half. And safety Al Blades suffered a right biceps injury.

"This game was more difficult than many people probably expected," Miami coach Butch Davis said. "The turnovers on offense stalled some of our opportunities. We had some chances and moved the ball with some success, but sometimes the other team makes some good plays too."

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