NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Miami won state bragging rights and no one will be able to talk louder in his hometown than Clinton Portis.
A native of Gainesville, Portis and fellow backup Daryl Jones played key second-half roles as the Hurricanes won the Sugar Bowl with a 37-20 victory over Florida in the first meeting between the Sunshine State rivals in 13 years.
"First of all, I'd like to thank our players. What a phenomenal job they did this week and all season," said Miami coach Butch Davis. "I'd also like to thank Nokia, the Sugar Bowl, the city of New Orleans. It was a great week and they treated our players, our fans, our staff and alumni fantastic."
Miami survived a fourth-quarter scare to win in the "Big Easy" for the first time since New Year's Day 1990 and will await its fate in the national championship picture. The second-ranked Hurricanes can claim a share of the title if No. 1 Oklahoma falls to No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday.
Miami (11-1) defeated Florida State, 27-24, in October.
After the seventh-ranked Gators (10-3) pulled with 27-20 on Jeff Chandler's 26-yard field goal with 12:50 remaining, Miami turned to Portis, who was forced into the contest because of an injury to starting running back James Jackson.
And all the sophomore did was spearhead a 10-play march that culminated in a 29-yard field goal by Todd Sievers. On the drive, Portis carried six times for 49 yards, including a 35-yard scamper to the 11-yard line.
Portis finished with 97 yards on 18 carries.
On the first play of the ensuing possession, cornerback Phillip Buchanon picked off Rex Grossman to set up a three-yard touchdown run by Najeh Davenport that gave Miami control.
"The University of Florida is an outstanding football team," Davis added. "They are very well coached and they are one of the most difficult teams in the country to beat."
Miami's Ken Dorsey was named the game's Most Valuable Player after completing 22-of-40 passes for 270 yards and three TDs. His two-yard scoring toss to Davenport gave the Hurricanes a 27-17 lead late in the third quarter.
That score was set up by Jones, a junior from Dallas who brought back a punt 43 yards to the 33. Jones was in for All-American wide receiver Santana Moss, on the sideline with a back strain.
"We were able to move the ball down the field in a variety of ways," Dorsey said. "The running game was very effective. The game showed how diverse our offense is. We have a lot of depth. We lost two guys -- Moss and Jackson -- but we had other guys step up."
Moss had six receptions for 89 yards before leaving for the locker room early in the third quarter.
"The message that we sent out was, we beat both teams in our state," said Moss. "We finished this year and we fought hard all year. The adversity we went through earlier in the year, we just pulled together."
Grossman was 18-of-41 for 252 yards with two interceptions for the Southeastern Conference champion Gators, who allowed Miami to tie the all-time series between the schools at 25 wins apiece. In limited action, Jesse Palmer was 6-of-10 for 60 yards.
"We got what we deserved tonight," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "Miami played more disciplined, smarter and with more desire. They were a better team. They were better coached and played with more of a purpose."
The Hurricanes improved to 4-0 in bowl games under Davis, who during the week leading up to the contest was forced to answer questions about possibly leaving the school for an NFL job.
In addition to the Davis watch, the week leading up to the game also featured a brawl on Bourbon Street between several players on the respective teams. Florida defensive end Alex Brown ended up with a black eye, sparking a war of words over the New Year's holiday.
It all preceded a physical game in which the Gators jumped on top 4:12 in on Grossman's 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kirk Wells. But the Hurricanes took a 10-7 lead after one quarter on Sievers' 44-yard field goal and Dorsey's eight-yard TD toss to tight end Jeremy Shockey.
Sievers and Chandler traded field goals of 29 and 51 yards in the second period and Florida had a chance to tie or take the led in the waning moments of the second quarter. But cornerback Leonard Myers picked off Grossman in the end zone with four seconds left in the half.
A 36-yard TD run by Earnest Graham 1:50 into the third quarter gave Florida a 17-13 lead, but Dorsey hit freshman running back D.J. Williams for a 19-yard score less than five minutes later as the Hurricanes went on top for good.
"We went in at halftime and coach said we needed to run the football and really pound it in and utilize our speed," said Williams. "We were able to do that and it really helped our offensive game in the second half."
Graham finished with 136 yards on 15 attempts for the Gators, who were outgained, 454-452, in total yards. Reche Caldwell totaled 110 yards on six receptions.
"It feels like we are a better team than Miami, but we did not make the plays," said Florida wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. "Next year, I see us going to the championship. The only team that can beat us is ourselves, like we did tonight."
The schools will stage a home-and-home series in 2002-2003, when the NCAA will permit teams to play 12 regular-season games.