MIAMI -- Penn State might have outplayed Miami yesterday at the Orange Bowl, but the second-ranked Hurricanes out "big-played" the No. 9 Nittany Lions to win, 26-20.
After being limited to a pair of Carlos Huerta field goals in the first half, Miami scored on plays of 80, 91 and 42 yards. That was the difference, the only difference.
"They blitzed a lot more in the second half and we were able to get the big plays," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson. "Gino [Torretta] was there, able to read it, and made some big plays."
Said wide receiver Kevin Williams, "Going into every game, the four wide receivers want to make at least one big play each. We did that today."
Williams made perhaps the biggest play of the game, a punt return that helped the Hurricanes open up a 20-6 lead late in the third quarter. He caught the ball at the Miami 9, and went three different ways before finding a hole.
"Once I saw the crack, I was like a wildcat trying to get out of there," Williams said about what turned into the longest punt return for a touchdown in school history.
Torretta, who overcame a shaky first half to finish 16 of 30 for 260 yards, had earlier found Horace Copeland on an 80-yard pass behind Penn State cornerback Leonard Humphries and later hit Lamar Thomas for a 42-yarder. The Hurricanes wide receiver plainly outraced Derek Bochna for the ball.
"I was backpedaling, and I had trouble coming out of my backpedal," said Bochna. "He was gone."
* For a while yesterday, the Penn State offense was more reminiscent of Florida State. Included among the Nittany Lions' plays were a pair of behind-the-back shovel passes from Tony Sacca to Troy Drayton.
The first came on third-and-11 from the Miami 21 late in the first quarter. Sacca flipped the ball with his right hand to Drayton, who picked up 8 yards before being pulled down by the facemask. The Nittany Lions ended up scoring on the first of two field goals by Craig Fayak to tie the game at 3.
The second came late in the game, as Sacca flipped the ball with his left hand to Drayton on third-and-15 from the Penn State 27. Drayton picked up 3 yards, and was pulled down inadvertently by the facemask again. The drive stalled on the next play.
In the end zone?
Rule on a defensive player going into the end zone:
On an interception following a free kick, punt or pass, the momentum can carry a defensive player into the end zone between the 5-yard line and the goal line. The ball is then placed on the 1-yard line.
In yesterday's Penn State-Miami game, Hurricanes free safety Darryl Williams intercepted a pass by Tony Sacca at the 1-yard line, took the ball into the end zone, came out to the 1 and went back into the end zone, where he stepped out of bounds.
According to Mel Mollman, Big East officials' observer at the game, "If he brings it out, the ball itself must cross the goal line to be out. If he brings it out, it would be a safety and UM would have to kick. The ball was ruled not to have been brought out."