Hurricanes' quick defense stymies Big Red offensePosted: Thursday January 03, 2002 11:48 PM
Updated: Friday January 04, 2002 1:07 AM
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Miami's superior speed harassed Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and dictated few options for the Cornhuskers in the Rose Bowl.
The top-ranked Hurricanes earned their fifth national championship with a 37-14 victory over the fourth-ranked Huskers on Thursday night in the BCS title game. They finished with 12-0.
Playing before a predominantly red-clad Nebraska crowd, Miami's defense shredded the nation's best option offense, leaving little room for the Huskers to operate until the game was out of hand.
"This is the fastest football team I've been around," first-year Miami coach Larry Coker said. "The defensive line was able to get penetration and not have Nebraska be able to get up on the line of scrimmage to run their option play."
Miami, which led the nation in turnover margin, converted Nebraska's three turnovers into 14 first-half points en route to a 34-0 lead.
"The one thing we had preached was the fact they had done such a great job of creating turnovers," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "The one thing we had in our mind was we were going to win the turnover battle."
Crouch, maligned as a passer, had an even tougher time running the ball, save for a couple big gainers. His fumble midway through the first quarter led to Miami's first touchdown, and the Hurricanes led the rest of the way.
Crouch carried 22 times for 114 yards. He was 5-of-15 passing for 62 yards and one interception that led to the second of Miami's four touchdowns in the second quarter. For the first time this season, Crouch was held without a touchdown.
"They were very impressive in the first half. We didn't put points on the board and had some turnovers that really hurt us," Crouch said. "I give tremendous credit to their defense."
Miami's defense made 10 of its 13 tackles for losses in the first half.
"Their defense is solid across the board," Nebraska offensive tackle Dave Volk said. "They don't have a weakness. I don't know if they're the fastest defense I've seen, but they're the most disciplined."
Miami's defense was never better than late in the game. With Nebraska threatening to score, linebacker Jonathan Vilma stopped Dahrran Diedrick cold on an option play on third down, and Vince Wilfork tackled Thunder Collins well short of a first down.
"I was hoping to put a move on him, make him flinch a little bit. He didn't flinch," Diedrick said.
Vilma forced another fumble with 1:13 remaining with a huge hit on Nebraska's Casey Nelson.
"It's been a while, probably last year against Florida State," Vilma said. "It felt really good."
Miami tackle Matt Walters said, "He does it a lot in practice. I'm not surprised."
What's more, the Hurricanes played without starting linebacker Chris Campbell, who had 12 tackles in a victory against Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale.
Campbell injured his knee in practice several weeks ago, and was hospitalized while in town to have fluid drained after it became swollen and infected.
Nebraska came into the game averaging 451.2 yards of total offense; the Cornhuskers were held to 243.
"Miami would've beaten anyone," Nebraska tight end Tracey Wistrom said. "They did not make mistakes and they capitalized on ours."
The only things that got in Miami's way in the first half, when the Hurricanes led 34-0, were penalties and a blocked kick that prevented them from tying the bowl record of 35 points in a half.
In the middle of the season, Miami's defensive unit allowed no more than seven points during five consecutive games, including two shutouts. More impressive was the fact that Miami's freshmen shut out opponents long after the starters had gone to the sidelines in the blowout wins.
Then, the Hurricanes hung on for a 26-24 victory over Virginia Tech against a Hokies team that runs the option, something Miami had no problem with in the Rose Bowl.