Miami suffers home defeat

How did Miami respond to last week’s humiliating loss to Virginia Tech? By doing much of the same against Tennessee, shooting themselves in the foot once again. Costly turnovers and penalties tarnished a great defensive effort, and ruined the ‘Canes’ shot at a third consecutive trip to the National Championship game.

UM quarterback Brock Berlin threw two interceptions and lost one fumble and the Hurricanes were penalized 12 times for 121 yards en route to the Volunteers’ 10-6 upset victory at the Orange Bowl, ending the nation’s longest home-winning streak at 26 games. Miami (7-2), however, out-gained Tennessee (7-2) 321-170.

“The effort was there, but unbelievable things happen,” said Head Coach Larry Coker. “If you take a few of those plays out, we have a chance to win today’s game. We had more total yards and gave ourselves chances. We moved the ball, but couldn’t put it in the end zone in the red zone.”

Berlin’s season-long struggles continued, failing to punch the ball in the end zone with a chance to take the lead late in the game. On a second-and-goal from the 9, Vols’ defensive back Mark Jones stormed up the middle and hit Berlin just as he released the ball. His wobbly pass was easily intercepted by UT safety Gibril Wilson with 4:11 remaining in the contest.

“I didn’t see the guy coming,” Berlin said. “We had a guy open, but a guy came straight up the middle and I got hit from behind.”

Miami had once last chance to win the game. The ‘Canes forced Tennessee to punt with 1:55 to play, but Sean Taylor muffed the punt, which was recovered by the Vols’ Derrick Tinsley. Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen, who was 11-of-18 passing for 81 yards, came in and took knees to run out the clock. The win improved Clausen’s career record to 13-1 as a starter on the road.

“I’m shocked we lost,” defensive end John Square said. “I guess we really didn’t execute in the game. We will have to go back and look at the film.”

Berlin finished the game 22-of-35 for 213 yards and no touchdowns.

“The interceptions are unacceptable,” Coker said. “We had interceptions last week and had two more this week. We can’t do things like that and win.”

The game-winning touchdown came on a gutsy call by UT Head Coach Phillip Fulmer. Fulmer elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The gamble paid off, as Derrick Tinsley scampered into the end zone on an end around to give the Vols a 10-3 lead.

The Tennessee touchdown drive lasted 15 plays for 63 yards, and burned a whopping 9:19 off the clock. The ‘Canes’ lack of discipline proved costly, as the drive was highlighted by Miami penalties. After defensive end Bryan Pata’s sack forced the Vols to punt from their own 35-yard line, Leon Williams was flagged for what appeared to be an extremely questionable roughing the kicker penalty. The 15-yard penalty gave the Vols a first down. The Hurricanes were flagged for two additional penalties on the drive – a personal foul and offside infraction.

“It seemed like every time we got something going, something went wrong,” offensive tackle Eric Winston said.

The script read almost exactly the same as Miami’s loss last week at Virginia Tech. Tennessee played mistake-free football and capitalized off of Hurricane turnovers. On the first play of the second quarter, UT defensive back Kevin Simon intercepted Berlin, giving the Vols great field position at the Miami 33. Tennessee settled for a 41-yard field goal by James Wilhoit, knotting the score at 3-3.

Miami scored on their first possession of the game on a 31-yard Jon Peattie field goal. A 22-yard Kellen Winslow (seven receptions, 88 yards) third down catch highlighted the drive. The ‘Canes added another Peattie field goal on the first possession of the second half. The game would end without another Miami score.

“We just have to get refocused and get back in the mix against Syracuse,” Coker said. “We just have to go out there and win a football game.”

You can reach Brian Poliakoff at