He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, served no jail time and returned to the Hurricanes late in the fall. "It was humiliating," Moss says, "but it taught me that there are things you just can't do and places you shouldn't be."
Moss has grown from a wiry, 160-pound freshman to a wiry, 180-pound senior. After making 14 receptions for a team-leading 19.2 yards per catch in his first season, he caught 30 balls and scored eight times as a sophomore and had 54 catches and eight touchdowns (six receiving, two returning punts) as a junior. This year he has scored twice on reverses, three times on pass receptions and three times on punt returns. His eight touchdowns average more than 65 yards. It is no coincidence that in Miami's only defeat, at Washington on Sept 9, Moss was limping with an ankle injury.
In the complex computer voodoo of the Bowl Championship Series rankings, the Hurricanes are ranked third, one spot behind Florida State, whom Miami beat. (Likewise, the Hurricanes are ranked three spots in front of Washington, which beat Miami. Go figure.) The Hurricanes must run the table with impressive wins over Pitt, Syracuse and Boston College and then hope. There are plausible scenarios in which Miami is ranked No. 1 in at least one poll and doesn't play in the national title game in the Orange Bowl.
Nothing is guaranteed, except the restoration of a team's image. Midway through the fourth quarter on Saturday, with the outcome long decided, Miami junior strong safety Edward Reed turned to Blades in the huddle and told him, "I'm going to get a pick here, and if I do, I'm going to house it."
Reed intercepted quarterback Dave Meyer's next throw at the Tech 44 and ran it in for the Hurricanes' final touchdown. His score came in the same end zone where Miami players ripped off their helmets and leaped into the stands, before the NCAA legislated such behavior into oblivion, at least theoretically. Reed snapped off his helmet two steps across the goal line and was mobbed by teammates. The obligatory 15-yard penalty was assessed for excessive celebration, with another 15 tacked on when fans littered the field with oranges. It was vintage Miami.
Firing at Alabama
Forget the Bear, Hire a Winner
The name never came up. When Alabama athletic director Mai Moore announced on Nov. 1 that coach Mike DuBose had been dismissed effective at season's end, Moore made a brief statement and then took 17 questions. Bear Bryant never was mentioned. Nearly 18 years after the legendary Bryant's retirement and death, the Crimson Tide and its fans understand that the time has come to ease their fixation on Bryant's legacy.
That realization comes none too soon. For one thing, there's only one Bryant prot�g� left among major-college head coaches. Jackie Sherrill, 56, works at Mississippi State, and he said last week that he wants to finish his career there. For another, the coaching performance of DuBose, who played on the defensive line for Bryant from 1972 to '74, proved that having a connection to the Bear doesn't guarantee success. DuBose was long considered one of the best defensive line coaches in the game, and the decision to promote him from defensive coordinator to replace Gene Stallings in December 1996 met with acclaim among the ' Bama faithful. (DuBose was the Crimson Tide's fourth coach since Bryant; three of the four had played for the Bear.) However, as Leon Ashford, DuBose's lawyer and an Alabama graduate, said last week of the school, "It's no place to learn to be a head coach."
After the Tide's 30-28 loss at LSU last Saturday, DuBose has a 24-21 record. He never figured out how to quell dissension among his assistants, and he lacked an offensive philosophy. Last season was his best. Alabama finished 10-3 and won the SEC championship. With 18 returning starters, the Tide was ranked No. 3 in the preseason. Then Alabama fell to UCLA in the season opener and never recovered. "If you had told me in August that we would be 6-3, I would have laughed at you," senior tackle Griff Redmill said on Saturday night, "and we're 3-6."
When Alabama lost 21-0 in Birmingham to Southern Miss on Sept. 16, Moore began to consider making a coaching change. The Crimson Tide was 1-2, and Moore didn't think that DuBose could pull the team out of what he describes as a "downward spiral." Moore wanted to wait before making a move but felt the need to take action after an embarrassing 40-38 homecoming loss to Central Florida on Oct. 28. "There comes a point when a coach loses confidence in himself, and a sense of that goes from the coach to the players," he says.