Goat or not, the young man had moxie. Last Saturday, in the chaotic moments after Dan Mowrey had driven his last-second field goal attempt wide to the right, allowing Miami to carjack Florida State's national championship hopes for the fourth time in five years, Mowrey tried to jog off the Orange Bowl field with his dignity intact. This was made difficult by a TV cameraman running alongside him—with the camera lens inches from Mowrey's mug. "Get outta my face," said Mowrey. In the dressing room he gamely met the press. At one point he looked down and mumbled, "Why did it have to be wide right?"
A duck hook, a knuckleball, a Charlie Brown whiff—anything would have been preferable. With only eight seconds on the clock and a chance to tie the game, Mowrey ensured instead that he will be remembered as a copycat killer of Seminole hopes. When Florida State had a chance to beat the Hurricanes in Tallahassee last year, Gerry Thomas saw his last-second kick sail wide right too (page 17). New goat, same result.
Miami's 19-16 victory on Saturday was the Hurricanes' 22nd straight win and their 48th in a row in the Orange Bowl. For Seminole fans there is this discouraging bit of statistical miscellany: In its 10 meetings with Miami since 1983, Florida State has had the lead going into the fourth quarter eight times but has won only two of those games. Exactly what is it that the Hurricanes have over their upstate rivals? Said Miami middle linebacker Micheal Barrow, "Bigger hearts."
And better coaching. After this latest Seminole display of underachieving, that is the unavoidable conclusion. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is a colorful, likable gentleman who handled a bitter loss with consummate grace. "I'm proud of Dennis," he said of his Miami counterpart, Dennis Erickson. "I hope Miami goes all the way." But dadgummit, as Bowden might say, year in and year out Florida State sends legions of players to the pros—six from last year's squad alone dot NFL rosters—yet the Seminoles consistently fall short in close, tense games.
Last week former Seminole cornerback Terrell Buckley, now a Green Bay Packer rookie, told the Tallahassee Democrat that Bowden had cost Florida State at least one national title. "If [defensive coordinator] Mickey Andrews or [receivers coach] John Eason were head coach, I'd have three rings," said Buckley. "We had the talent to win the national championship." Buckley also told the Democrat that many current and former Seminoles share his sentiments.
The most frequently tendered criticisms of Bowden are that he is too conservative in big games and that he lacks a clearly delineated chain of command. "Democracy at its finest," is how Democrat writer Steve Ellis described Bowden's coaching staff. Indeed, on Florida State's final, unsuccessful drive against Miami last season, the Seminole sideline was bedlam. Bowden called strange plays and managed the clock poorly.
Call it poor preparation or simply a case of nerves, but Saturday's defeat turned on a spectacular mental lapse by a redshirt sophomore. With three minutes to go and Miami protecting a 17-16 lead, Hurricane punter Paul Snyder boomed a rainbow toward Corey Sawyer. Backpedaling from his 14-yard line, Sawyer—under instructions to return the ball unless it was kicked into the end zone—made the catch at the one and continued past the goal line. As Miami's Malcolm Pearson wrapped Sawyer up, he flipped a panicky forward lateral in the direction of a teammate. The illegal toss was recovered in the end zone by the Hurricanes' Dexter Siegler, and the play was ruled a safety.
Sawyer's blunder was typical of the mental vapor lock that seems to afflict visitors to the Orange Bowl. Earlier in the week Bowden had sought to demythologize the place by insisting that it's no louder nor more hostile than the Death Valleys of Louisiana State and Clemson. That's true. But it's also true that the Miami players believe they are invincible on their home field.
And this is a group that can convince itself of anything. Ever since former coach Jimmy Johnson supplied the team in the mid-'80s with a mantra that's still in use—Us Against the World—Miami hasn't won games so much as it has avenged insults, overcome adversity and triumphed over injustice. The Hurricanes regard the anticelebration rule, passed by the NCAA before the '91 season, as an attempt to emasculate them. Although Miami was voted national champion in last season's AP writers' poll, the USA Today/CNN coaches' poll had Washington No. 1, which the Hurricanes saw as a clear lack of respect. Being dropped to No. 2 in both polls this year after an underwhelming 8-7 win over Arizona on Sept. 26? A slap in the face.
"Everyone's doubting us again," said tailback Darryl Spencer last week. Miami players husband adversity; they turn it upside down and use it to their advantage. As All-America defensive end Rusty Medearis said earlier in the season, "We just wait for bad things to happen."