MIAMI -- Frank Costa called it "the most important thing I've done in my life." Dennis Erickson, unable to contain him, said, "I've never been happier in my life."
The University of Miami quarterback and coach could be guilty of overstatement in describing Saturday night's 34-20 victory over then-third-ranked Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Then again, the Hurricanes didn't merely win another game over their archrival. They might have resurrected their program, which seemed on the verge of collapse after losing at home to Washington two weeks ago.
"The program wasn't dead," said defensive tackle Warren Sapp. "But this keeps the ball rolling. And this will keep everyone off our backs for a while."
Sapp led a defense that intercepted Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell three times, forced two other turnovers and limited the Seminoles to 47 yards rushing, their lowest total in six years.
All three interceptions were crucial: The first killed Florida State's opening drive of the game; the second set up a touchdown that tied the game at 14 and the third, by cornerback Carlos Jones, was returned 17 yards for a touchdown that gave the Hurricanes a 31-17 lead.
"Those three throws took us out of the game," said Kanell, who was pulled for one series in the first half and then benched for good late in the third quarter. "They gave us a lot of chances, but we didn't take advantage of them."
Despite making five turnovers and botching two punts, Miami (4-1) had enough offensively to win. The Hurricanes rushed for 185 yards, including 95 on 16 carries by James Stewart. Stewart also scored two touchdowns.
The victory was the eighth for the Hurricanes in the past 10 meetings with Florida State (4-1) and their fifth straight here over the Seminoles. It probably will blunt some of the criticism directed at Costa and Erickson and could put Miami back in the race for the national championship.
"We have fought back from a lot of adversity the past two weeks," said Erickson. "You're as low as we did when we got beat by Washington two weeks ago, and you're never as high as I feel right now. Somewhere in between is reality."