Miami jolts Fla. State

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

MIAMI -- It was not pretty. It was not the kind of performance that evoked memories of championship teams past at the University of Miami or even suggested that the Hurricanes might come back from the abyss to win one this season.

But it was enough.

Enough to beat their bitter rival, Florida State, 34-20, before a sellout crowd of 77,010 at the Orange Bowl last night. Enough to send the third-ranked Seminoles, the defending national champions, back to Tallahassee with their first defeat since last year's loss at Notre Dame.

And enough to start another home winning streak for the Hurricanes, who renewed their mastery over Florida State. Last night's defeat for the Seminoles (4-1) was the eighth in the past 10 games to Miami and their fifth straight here.

Behind a defense that held Florida State's running game to 57 yards and intercepted Seminoles quarterback Danny Kanell three times -- including one for a game-breaking touchdown by cornerback Carlos Jones -- the 13th-ranked Hurricanes (4-1) redeemed themselves after their 38-20 loss to Washington. That defeat ended an NCAA-record 58-game home winning streak.

"It was something for those kids to fight back from that adversity the past few weeks," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson. "You're never as low as we were two weeks ago, and you're never as high as I am right now. Somewhere in between is reality."

Despite playing erratically on offense, the Hurricanes pounded out 185 yards rushing on 45 carries. Tailback James Stewart, who fumbled on his team's third play from scrimmage, recovered nicely, finishing with 95 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

"Everyone was saying that we were dead, but it's never been a dead program," said All-American tackle Warren Sapp, who, with the other members of Miami's defensive line, created havoc for Florida State's offense, and Kanell in particular. "We just got the ball rolling. Now everyone can get off our backs for a little while."

Said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, "I can sum it in four words -- they out-executed us."

Bowden's miscount was the final error in a night filled with mistakes by his team. It wasn't just the three interceptions thrown by Kanell, a redshirt junior and first-year starter, but his inability to take advantage of the mistakes Miami made. The Hurricanes had five turnovers and botched two punts, but the Seminoles also had two fumbles.

"They gave us a lot of chances, but we didn't do anything with them," said Kanell, who finished 13 of 28 for 153 yards. "Those three interceptions killed us. They took us right out of the game."

The first interception, by Miami's Malcolm Pearson in the end zone, killed a drive to the Miami 11 on Florida State's opening possession. The second, which included a 58-yard return by strong safety C. J. Richardson, set up a 5-yard run by Stewart that helped tie the game at 14. But the third put the game out of reach.

The Hurricanes had gone ahead 21-14 with 14 seconds left in the first half on a 1-yard pass by backup quarterback Ryan Collins to tight end Derrick Harris. They were ahead 24-17 in the third quarter and had pushed the Seminoles back to their 2, and Kanell telegraphed a pass from his end zone to Omar Ellison.

"It was a bad throw," said Kanell.

Said Jones, who returned it 17 yards for the touchdown: "We had worked on it all week in practice. After the Washington game, we all had something to prove tonight, and we did."

Certainly Frank Costa did. The beleaguered Miami quarterback, who lost his job during last year's 28-10 loss at Florida State, regained the confidence of his teammates and his team's fans last night. Though he was intercepted twice -- once after his intended receiver was inadvertently knocked down by a game official -- Costa was quietly efficient. He finished 18 of 32 for 177 yards.

"A monkey off my back" was the way Costa described it. "So far, this is the most important thing I've done in my life."

While the victory might have put Miami back in the hunt for a national championship, it certainly jeopardized Florida State's chances of repeating. On Nov. 12, the Seminoles again play the Irish, who lost for the second time this year yesterday at Boston College, but will have to point to their Nov. 26 showdown at home against top-ranked Florida.

"Our schedule can help us if we keep winning, especially with Florida sitting there at the end," said Bowden, whose team hasn't beaten Miami here since 1984. "If we beat them, that'll put us right back here [in the Orange Bowl game Jan. 2]. But I'm not thinking that far ahead."

Nor was he looking back.

While it wasn't pretty for Miami, it was downright ugly for the Seminoles. Again.

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