Miami's shifting position

October 09, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

MIAMI -- The record-setting winning streak in the Orange Bowl is history, and so apparently is the University of Miami's reign as the country's most successful -- and most intimidating -- college football program.

But Florida State knows this: Although it was victorious here in each of its past two New Year's Day bowl games against Nebraska, it hadn't beaten the Hurricanes away from Tallahassee in 10 years.

And this: While third-ranked Florida State (4-0) would likely stay in the race to defend its national championship no matter the outcome of last night's nationally televised game, No. 13 Miami (3-1) needed to win to get back into it.

Maybe.

"We're really backed up against the world," Miami quarterback Frank Costa said. "We can't slip up anymore."

And for once, the Hurricanes' mouths are relatively quiet. After talking throughout the preseason about how reports of the program's demise as a perennial national power were grossly exaggerated, they've failed to back up their bravado.

A devastating 38-20 defeat at the hands of then 17th-ranked Washington here two weeks ago silenced a team that had built a reputation for talking trash before big games, then going out and trashing the opposition.

Especially Florida State.

"Whenever we play Miami, I think about what [former Hurricane linebacker] Micheal Barrow used to say when we played them," Seminole linebacker Derrick Brooks said last week. "He said, 'Miami knows they're going to win; Florida State only thinks they're going to win.' I think that's changed a little."

It started to change last year, when Florida State broke a three-game losing streak against Miami with a 28-10 win in Tallahassee. The trend continued when the Seminoles, despite losing in November at Notre Dame, won their first national championship. The Hurricanes lost the Big East title to West Virginia and were embarrassed, 29-0, by Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.

Then came the defeat to the Huskies, who many thought were only a shell of their former selves. The loss not only cost Miami its chance at an undefeated season, but eliminated much of the aura surrounding what has been an incredible home-field advantage.

"The mystique has been broken, so it gives us a little hope going in," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said last week. "But they might be excited about starting another one. It's not the stadium that stands out. It's no different than playing at Florida or LSU or Clemson. The difference is in the speed of the players at Miami. They're so much faster than what you're used to."

The Hurricanes were looking to keep another streak going last night: their success at home against the Seminoles, and against Florida State's quarterbacks in particular. Miami was hoping it could do to first-year starter Danny Kanell what it has done to recent Seminole quarterbacks playing in this hostile environment for the first time.

Two years ago, Miami sacked a future Heisman Trophy winner named Charlie Ward four times in the first half in what turned out to be a 19-16 victory. Four years ago, the Hurricanes ran out to a 24-6 lead, forcing Brad Johnson and Casey Weldon to play catch-up in what would be a 31-22 outcome. Six years ago, they shut out the Seminoles and Chip Ferguson, 31-0, in the opener.

"It's going to be different," said Kanell, who grew up in nearby Fort Lauderdale and is familiar with the environment in which he will be playing. "The crowd is pretty hostile. The last three or four times we've played there have been new guys [at quarterback]. I'm going to try and get used to the speed as quick as I can."

In Kanell, Miami was facing a different type of Florida State

quarterback than Ward, whose enormous talents were best used out of a no-huddle offense that made him a threat to run or throw. Kanell seems to have adjusted to the unenviable role of being Ward's successor with a quiet efficiency.

"The thing Danny Kanell brings to the table is that he's a very accurate thrower. He's probably as accurate as anyone I've seen in a long time," Miami coach Dennis Erickson said of the 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense (284 yards a game) and is fifth nationally.

"We're going to have to put some pressure on him."

Said defensive tackle Warren Sapp, "That's our goal -- to see if we can get into his face."

Just like the old days. When Miami had the most successful -- and intimidating -- program in the country. But those days appear long gone. Just like the winning streak.

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