Ha! Both future ACC teams go down! I swear, No. 1 seeds are just cursed in this thing. At least it was a close game. Oh, well - there's always next year for Miami. I hear they were pretty good that season, too.
I can't say I'm surprised, since I basically called this yesterday, but I am still a little surprised nonetheless. Miami just had so much talent... I guess a playoff situation is one where coaching comes into play more, and there is no question Spurrier had Coker beat in that department. Instead of being handed the championship on a platter (what else do you call getting a virtual bye by playing the obsolete Huskers?), Miami had to work for it, and after so many previous disappointments, the Ol' Ball Coach wouldn't be denied this time.
As for Texas, holy crap. They are just goat-stomping people. One wonders if Florida stands any chance tomorrow, but then, I thought the same thing about Florida and Miami. Let's just hope it's more competitive than Big 12-SEC championship games have been recently.
Idle thoughts: Have Florida and Texas ever even played? I know the championship this year was the first time Florida and Oklahoma have ever met, which seems like a travesty. Maybe we'll see the Gators and the Longhorns hook up in Pasadena for real next season...
Game 1: No. 1 Miami Hurricanes (13-0) VS. No. 5 Florida Gators (11-2)
Nokia Sugar Bowl
Louisiana Superdome - New Orleans, La.
Saturday, Dec. 29, 2001 - 4:30 PM EST
Precipitation: None (dome)
Temperature: 70 (dome)
Wind: None (dome)
Final Score: Florida 21, Miami 20
Player of the Game
Florida RB Earnest Graham
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - For the second straight year, Miami lost in the Final Four, this time as a favorite, while the SEC is finally sending a team to the national championship.
Florida (12-2) knocked off the No. 1-seeded Hurricanes (13-1) Saturday 21-20 in a thrilling Sugar Bowl that came down to the last minute.
The Player of the Game, Florida RB Earnest Graham, was instrumental in the Gators' victory, helping to counter Miami's 218-102 rushing advantage with 20 carries for 129 yards and 1 TD. He was ably complemented by QB Rex Grossman, who completed 32-46 passes for 329 yards to establish aerial dominance. WR Jabar Gaffney was responsible for many of the Gators' big plays through the air, catching eight passes for 126 yards. And none of it would have been possible without K Jeff Chandler, who was 5-6 on FG attempts and provided the bulk of Florida's scoring power.
Miami's normally high-powered offense was a little less productive than normal, but still potent, led by RB Clinton Portis' 25 carries for 194 yards. QB Ken Dorsey was 17-35 for 236 yards and 2 TDs. He completed most of his passes to WR Andre Johnson (4 catches, 99 yards, 2 TDs), TE Jeremy Shockey (4 catches, 48 yards), and WR Ethenic Sands (4 catches, 33 yards). K Todd Sievers could not match Chandler's performance, however; he missed both FG attempts, either of which might have given the Hurricanes the win.
Despite the sizable yardage totals, this game was mostly a hard-hitting defensive affair. Miami sacked Grossman seven times, including two sacks by Matt Walters. Florida gave as good as it got, sacking Dorsey four times. Also, Lito Sheppard intercepted him twice.
Chandler gave Florida an early 3-0 lead by drilling a 50-yard FG, but Miami RB Willis McGahee (7 carries, 44 yards) soon erased that with a 1-yard TD run. The Florida defense turned up the pressure after that, though, as Chandler kiced two more FGs to give the Gators a 9-7 lead and then stretched that out with two more FGs in the 3rd quarter to put Florida ahead 15-7 after three periods.
Miami finally made a frenzied comeback in the 4th quarter, as Dorsey connected with Johnson from 15 yards out to draw to within 15-13, with 6:15 remaining. Miami failed on the 2-point conversion and was unable to tie the game, however.
Miami then held Florida 3-and-out, but was unable to convert a 4th down on the ensuing possession. They held Florida 3-and-out again, and then, with 1:03 left in the game, Johnson scored again, this time on a 41-yard catch, to give the Hurricanes their first lead since early in the 2nd quarter, 20-15. Hurricane fans were going absolutely crazy at that point.
Florida coach Steve Spurrier still had a few tricks still up his sleeve, though, and after failing to reach the Final Four the last three seasons, he would not be denied a chance at a national championship after Florida had led for most of the game.
After receiving the kickoff, Grossman hit Gaffney for a 26-yard gain, and Spurrier called his last timeout. In the huddle, he rolled the dice and called for a draw play. It paid off in a big way as Graham burst through a Miami blitz and rumbled 44 yards to pay-dirt. Even after a failed 2-point conversion, the Gators had regained the lead with 37 seconds left, 21-20.
Miami gained about 25 yards on its last desperate drive before Sheppard sealed the game by intercepting Dorsey for the second time. Miami players were stunned as Florida took a knee, coming so close to pulling it out but not being able to make a defensive stop once they had the lead back.
After the game, first-year Miami coach Larry Coker took the blame, saying Florida had shown some new defensive looks and the Hurricanes took too long to adjust to them. It was his only explanation for why a No. 1 seed failed to advance to the title game for the third time in four seasons.
Instead, it will be the "Ol' Ball Coach" who awaits either Maryland or Texas in the Rose Bowl, where he will try to win his second national championship, and his first since 1996.
Game 2: No. 6 Texas Longhorns (12-2) VS. No. 10 Maryland Terrapins (12-1)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium - Tempe, Ariz.
Saturday, Dec. 29, 2001 - 6 PM MST
Wind: E 9 MPH
Final Score: Texas 62, Maryland 9
Player of the Game
Texas RB Cedric Benson
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Texas may go down as the most dominant No. 6 seed in history.
After beating Maryland (12-2) 62-9 in the Fiesta Bowl to advance to the championship game, the Longhorns (13-2) have now beaten their three playoff opponents by a staggering 174-15, or an average score of 58-5. Even if they lose to Florida, it is hard to imagine another team ever matching those totals.
Of course, their cause was aided by getting to play two double-digit seeds in the later rounds, and Maryland provided no more resistance than Toledo did. Overtime? Forget about it. There was no way this one would ever get that close.
Texas RB Cedric Benson (26 carries, 161 yards, 4 TDs) was named Player of the Game, but his was not the only excellent rushing performance. His teammate Ivan Williams carried the rock 12 times for 107 yards and 2 TDs, while star Maryland RB Bruce Perry, whose two overtime TDs got Maryland to this point, rushed 25 times for 151 yards and 1 TD.
Texas QB Chris Simms was also excellent, completing 20-29 passes for 332 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. His favorite target, WR Roy Williams, caught five of those passes for 106 yards and a TD. Simms' Maryland counterpart, Shaun Hill, was not nearly so impressive, completing just 12-21 passes for 66 yards and throwing two interceptions to Nathan Vasher.
For Maryland fans, the best part of the game had to be the first minute, when on the second play of the game, Perry took a hand-off 70 yards for a TD and a 7-0 Maryland lead. If Terrapin fans were thinking upset at that point, though, Texas soon banished that notion from their minds.
Two Dusty Mangum FGs, a 59-yard Ivan Williams TD run, and TD catches by Kyle Shanahan and Roy Williams gave Texas a 27-7 halftime lead, and they never looked back. Another Ivan Williams TD run in the 3rd quarter made it 34-7, and by the time Maryland forced a Texas safety six seconds into the final period, no one was foolish enough to think a comeback was going to happen.
That's when Texas got mean, though. Even though they were probably trying to run out the clock, there was really no reason for Benson, the starting tailback, to still be in the game at that point. Certainly there was no reason after he scored TDs of 1 and 2 yards to increase the Texas lead to 48-9. Yet still Texas coach Mack Brown left him in, and only after he broke loose for TDs of 32 and 10 yards did he finally come out of the game with 3:31 left in the game.
That led to an uncomfortable moment after the game, when Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had a few choice words for Brown about leaving his star RB in to score four TDs in the 4th quarter.
Brown was unapologetic, though, pointing out that Texas did not attempt a single pass in the final period and defending his need to keep Benson in game shape for the championship game next week. If nothing else, he served notice to Florida that they are going to have a tough challenge on their hands when they try to slow down this Longhorn offense.
For the fourth season in a row, a Big 12 team will play for all the marbles. Kansas State is 2-0 in finales, while Oklahoma is 0-1. A win next week would give Texas its first championship since 1970. Additionally, their win Saturday was the Big 12's 20th victory in a playoff game, the most by any conference.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
All bowl logos are courtesy of sportslogos.net.
FBS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T
#5 Florida vs. #6 Texas