Another stellar senior class has culminated their football careers at UM.
They will graduate with an overall record of 46-4 over the past four seasons, including five victories over FSU, three wins over Florida, and invitations to all four BCS bowls. This four-year run will be one to remember for ages.
However, the senior class should have three national championships.
Yes three…in 2000 the one-loss ‘Canes were forced to play in the Sugar Bowl due to the still unjust BCS system that put Florida State, whose sole loss came against Miami earlier that season, in the title game against Oklahoma. In 2001, of course, Miami would not allow the nation’s bias against the Hurricanes to burn them again. The ‘Canes took care of business and went undefeated, defeating Nebraska in the Rose Bowl for the 2001 National Championship. In 2002, the ‘Canes took an undefeated regular season to the Fiesta Bowl for the title game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. After two overtimes and a horrendous pass interference call against the Hurricanes by the blind Terry Porter, the ‘Canes had their second consecutive title taken away from them. Ahhh…. three thrilling seasons that should have given the ‘Canes three National Championships.
But instead of dwelling on what should or could have been, even though I just did for informative purposes only, the last four years of Miami football have been a great success for a program that Sports Illustrated in 1995 said should drop football all together. Hail to Mr. Butch Davis for saving this program, and bringing it back to national prominence.
For the seniors on the team, and us fans who will graduate in 2004, we must look back at how amazing this four-year run has been.
First and foremost, after losing to arch state rival Florida State five seasons in a row from 1995-99, the ‘Canes have defeated the Seminoles the last four seasons and twice this season with the 16-14 Orange Bowl victory. History was made in every contest. No one will forget the UM-FSU games from the past four seasons.
“We don’t bow down to FSU,” senior linebacker Jonathon Vilma said after the Orange Bowl victory. “They better put this on my grave, that I was on the UM team that beat FSU five times in a row.”
Here is a quick look back at the five consecutive UM victories over FSU.
The ‘Canes 27-24 victory over FSU in 2000 ended the Seminoles streak over UM, and brought back the old Miami swagger. Ken Dorsey and Jeremy Shockey had breakout games, and history was made again when FSU’s Matt Munyon’s 49-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right as time expired.
History was made once again in Miami’s 49-27 victory over FSU in 2001. The ‘Canes ended FSU’s 54-game home unbeaten streak, and handed the ‘Noles their second loss of the season, putting them out of the National Championship hunt. In 2002 it came down to another missed FSU field goal attempt, as Miami slipped passed the ‘Noles 28-27 after Xavier Beitia pushed his game-winning attempt wide left as time expired. This past season, Jarret Payton led the ‘Canes over FSU 22-14 with 97 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
As if four wins in four seasons over FSU were not enough for the senior class, the BCS matched up the two rivals once again in January’s Fed Ex Orange bowl.
We all know what happened – Jon Peattie made three field goals, the game winner being a career long 51 yards and Beitia pushed a 39-yard attempt wide right with 5:30 left in the game.
“We’ve got something on their kicker,” Vilma said. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m glad we got it.”
Fellow senior linebacker D.J. Williams added: “It feels great to beat anyone, but it’s especially sweet to beat your biggest rival. Maybe it’s a mystique, some kind of a curse. I know it’s always in the back of their kicker’s mind.”
“There isn’t anything like beating your rivals five times in a row,” said senior defensive back Alfonso Marshall. “I can hold my head up high and have bragging rights for the rest of my life…this Orange Bowl victory is just so important for Miami.”
Just when college football fans think the only goal is to win the National
Championship, we must not forget the importance of beating your rivals and holding bragging rights over them. In addition to beating FSU five consecutive times, the ‘Canes are 3-0 against Florida in four years, and we must not forget the win over Florida A&M in 2002. That makes the Hurricanes 9-0 against the state of Florida in the past four years. It goes without saying how important in-state victories are for the highly competitive recruiting battles between the Florida schools.
“I never lost an in-state game…we beat FSU, Florida, and FAMU,” said senior safety Maurice Sikes. “This senior class gets to say we beat FSU five times.
That is something very special. What a remarkable feat.”
The first victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl set off a string of four consecutive BCS bowl game bids for the ‘Canes, all of which came in different bowls. Although the results were not four straight National Championships, the ‘Canes won three of their four BCS bowl births, the one loss coming in double overtime after a horrible penalty.
The last four seasons far exceeded my initial expectations when I began reporting on the team in 2000. In addition to the success the ‘Canes have enjoyed, we must not forget the accomplishments not measured in wins and losses.
Here are some shout outs if you will and personal things I would like to say now that my time covering the ‘Canes football team has come to an end.
We will always remember ‘Canes linebacker Chris Campbell who died tragically in
2002…Once again, thank you Butch Davis for saving the Miami football program…Ken Dorsey was an outstanding college quarterback, and if Brock Berlin’s lackluster season does not convince Dorsey skeptics, shame on them…Vilma should be a role model for all college athletes…the rest of the country hates the U and it is because they are jealous…Miami has the best program in the nation and the list of NFL players from the past four years proves this…I will end this rant as Kellen Winslow II says: “I don’t care about anything but this U.”
Brian Poliakoff can be contacted at email@example.com.