CNNSI.com College Bowls 2001 College Bowls 2001


 

Runaway train

BCS bashers can't deny Miami's national title worth

Posted: Thursday January 03, 2002 11:34 PM
Updated: Friday January 04, 2002 1:11 AM
 

By Stewart Mandel, CNNSI.com

PASADENA, Calif. -- Miami kicked Nebraska’s butt Thursday, and you could hear the shouts from Eugene, Ore., before the smoke even cleared from the pregame show.

Nebraska never should have been there in the first place!

Hey, people … zip it already!

In the end, it didn’t matter who lined up on the Rose Bowl’s other sideline. In fact there probably didn’t need to be one. The Rose Bowl people could have used it to display the floats, or store Regis Philbin’s hair gel, or stick the remaining 37 Nebraska residents who weren’t already in the stands.

Because Miami was national champion before it ever got on the plane to come eat beef and visit Disneyland. The bowl game became just another chance to show off the things they’d done all season, and not Oregon, not Colorado, maybe not the Cincinnati Bengals could have changed that.

“Whether or not a matchup with anyone else would have been different, I don’t know,” said Nebraska coach Frank Solich. “I think anyone would have struggled with them playing at the top of their game like they were tonight, but that’s for others to decide.”

The ‘Canes led the Huskers 34-0 at halftime, and it would have seemed stunning if not for the fact Miami outscored its opponents 273-33 in the first half its other 11 games

Miami scored 10 defensive touchdowns and a safety during the regular season, then added another score in the first half Thursday night. Does anyone really think Oregon would have avoided the same fate?

Miami’s 6-foot-6 beast of a tight end, Jeremy Shockey, burned opponents for 10 touchdowns during the season and added another against Nebraska. Unless the Ducks had been hiding a 7-footer they could slide into the secondary, here’s guessing Shockey would have done the same to them.

And whether you’re Oregon or Ohio, there’s very little you can do when Clinton Portis cuts right harder than an L.A. driver running late for yoga -- like he did on a 39-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

It was quick and it was subtle, but as Portis dodged his last tackler and began his home-free sprint into the end zone, the guy who had handed it off, the superstar of a quarterback who makes this well-oiled machine of a team click, raised his arm in the air and made the “No. 1.”

It may have seemed a bit presumptuous by Ken Dorsey at the time, considering the ‘Canes were about to take just a 14-0 lead. But it figures he would know the end result in advance, considering he and the rest of his teammates seemed to have this figured out long before the rest of us, who were too busy arguing about computers and quality wins while he was preparing to go out and win his 22nd straight game as starter.

“It was on our mind from the day we lost to Washington” the second game of 2000, said Portis. “We didn’t plan on losing again, and we don’t plan on losing anytime soon. There’s too much talent.”

Following Thursday’s outcome, there will be those who say the BCS lucked out again. Four years, four undefeated, undisputed national champions, despite the hullabaloo that erupts every year.

Will we ever learn?

The reason the ‘Canes are 2001 national champion is not because they started high in the polls or because their conference doesn’t have a championship, but because roughly five years ago, Butch Davis and Larry Coker began assembling a collection of talent, leadership, depth and balance that by the time this season arrived was unmatched anywhere else in the country.

Grilled over a period of several seasons trying to restore a program’s tradition and learning how to beat the Florida States and Virginia Techs, they became a team without weakness, one whose defense is too good to give up 49 points to Stanford or 62 to Nebraska, whose offense is too balanced to get caught without a running game against Tennessee, and one whose resolve was too strong to suffer a single letdown over the course of a 12-game season.

“We had our bad weeks, but we hung in there and won them,” said Miami receiver Kevin Beard. “If you’re not undefeated right now, you can’t even talk to us.”

As it turned out, no one could.

Stewart Mandel covers college football for CNNSI.com

 

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