For one half of football, it looked like history would repeat itself: Boston College was giving the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes a major scare.
However, the ‘Canes cleaned up their act in the second half, scoring 28 points without an Eagles reply en route to a 38-6 victory Saturday night at the Orange Bowl. The victory was Miami’s 26th in a row, and marked the second straight offensive burst over the final thirty minutes against a weaker opponent.
After the game, head coach Larry Coker seemed relieved it was all over.
“Just another day at the office, right,” said Coker, who improved to 16-0 as Miami’s head coach. “Give credit to Boston College. They’re a very tough football team. They really took us to the limit. They really made it tough.”
Once again, sophomore running back Willis McGahee anchored the Hurricane offense, picking up 135 yards on 17 carries, while reaching the end zone twice. Several of McGahee’s carried featured shifty rushes and individual efforts to break through the Eagles big defensive front. McGahee says those rushes are a product of last-minute improvisation.
“Everything just comes to me,” McGahee said. “I just go out there running and I don’t really think about anything else in advance.”
Quarterback Ken Dorsey, coming off his first 300-yard effort of the season, did not have as much success against the undersized, but pesky Boston College secondary. Dorsey finished the game with 202 yards on 13-26 passing, while throwing a pair of touchdown strikes in the process.
“Boston College does a very good job of taking away big plays,” Dorsey said. “This year was much better than last year. At the same time, we had some mental mistakes.”
Although the 32-point victory would seem to indicate 60 minutes of Hurricane dominance, this game was anything but. Miami put together one sustained drive in the first quarter, but it ended with a missed 52-yard field goal off the foot of Todd Sievers.
The Eagles answered with a scoring drive of their own to start the second quarter, as a 35-yard field goal by Sandro Sciortino gave Boston College a 3-0 lead. The two teams switched field goals, before the Hurricanes went on a four play, 80-yard drive late in the first half. A 47-yard run from McGahee put the Hurricanes inside the Eagles one-yard line, and the sophomore back took it into the end zone on the ensuing drive.
The touchdown gave Miami a 10-6 lead at halftime, but that was far from enough to please Coker.
“We’re not executing on offense as well as we need to and they are having too many sustained drives,” Coker said at halftime.
After McGahee’s second touchdown of the evening, a five-yard run that gave Miami a 17-6 lead, the Hurricanes scored 21 quick points in the fourth quarter. Ken Dorsey hooked up with McGahee on a spectacular 77-yard catch and run, and later in the drive, threw his first touchdown pass of the game, a one-yard lob to Kellen Winslow.
Less than two minutes later, a fumble recovery by Antrel Rolle led to Dorsey’s second touchdown, a 33-yard strike to Andre Johnson, who returned to the lineup after missing the Temple game with a shoulder injury. That score put Miami up 31-6 and put the nail in the coffin for B.C.
“We played extremely hard and smart the second half,” Coker said. “We learned one thing as coaches and players: You don’t panic.”
Defensively, the Hurricanes held a balanced Boston College offense under 300 yards. Although the Eagles gained 147 yards on the ground, Miami was able to contain the run in the second half.
“We knew they were going to come in and pound the ball,” said defensive end Andrew Williams. “We had to shut down the run, and once we did that, we knew everything would be OK.”
The Boston College game marked yet another contest also dominated by the Hurricane secondary. Brian St. Pierre, arguably the second best quarterback in the Big East, completed just 14-of-24 passes for 138 yards and one interception. According to freshman cornerback Glenn Sharpe, the unit doesn’t pay attention to the experience factor.
“We don’t focus on being young,” Sharpe said. “We’re capable of learning any given time. Coach just gives us a game plan and we go out there and try and learn.”
The victory boosted Miami’s record to 4-0, and keeps the Hurricanes as the consensus No. 1 ranked team. The ‘Canes now embark on a well-deserved off-week, before Connecticut comes to the Orange Bowl Oct. 5. Sharpe makes sure to emphasize the off-week will not be so easy for Miami, however.
“Our off-week is always going to be the week where you work hardest,” Sharpe said. “We will be ready and focused for UCONN.”
You can reach Jeremy Marks-Peltz at email@example.com.