Rose Bowl

Miami (11-0) Vs. Nebraska (11-1)

January 03, 2002|By Don Markus

When Miami has the ball

The Hurricanes have any number of ways to score.

Start with junior quarterback Ken Dorsey, who in three seasons has thrown 58 touchdowns and 6,196 yards and has only been intercepted 16 times in 760 attempts. He has also completed 59.6 percent of his passes. This season, Dorsey threw for 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions, with four of those picks coming in Miami's down-to-the-wire 18-7 win at Boston College. Dorsey reminds many in South Florida of former Hurricanes star Bernie Kosar because his gifts as a passer and leader outweigh his gaffes running the ball.

Dorsey, though, doesn't have to be at his best for the Hurricanes to win. Junior tailback Clinton Portis played in the shadows of John Jackson the past two years, but with Jackson's departure this season, Portis rushed for 1,200 yards on 220 carries and scored 10 times. Portis ran for 100 yards or more eight times, including his team's last four games. But Portis will be without his main blocker, Najeh Davenport, who is out with a broken foot. Freshman Willis McGahee will start in Davenport's place, with junior Jarrett Payton, the son of the legendary Walter Payton, backing him up.

The most dangerous player in Miami's offense might be junior tight end Jeremy Shockey. Since scoring the game-winning touchdown against Florida State last season, Shockey has emerged as one of the best at his position in the country. He led the Hurricanes this year with 40 receptions, picking up 519 yards and scoring seven touchdowns. If Miami is lacking anywhere, it's in the number of game-breaking wide-outs it has compared to other years. Sophomore Andre Johnson is the best of them, catching 37 passes for 682 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Miami's passing offense vs. Nebraska's passing defense: This is where the game might get out of hand. The Cornhuskers have not played against a quarterback as efficient and dangerous as Dorsey, and their one encounter with a tight end as good as Shockey came when Colorado's Daniel Graham caught four passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Jamie Burrow is going to need a lot of help covering Dorsey, which could leave the middle wide open. Also, with the Cornhuskers needing to blitz Dorsey will put cornerbacks Keyuo Craver and either DeJuan Groce or Erwin Swiney in man-to-man single coverage. EDGE: MIAMI

Miami's running offense vs. Nebraska's rushing defense: In their only defeat of the season, the Cornhuskers gave up 380 yards on the ground to Colorado. In its 11 victories, Nebraska held its opponent under 100 yards five times and gave up just 105 in its victory over Oklahoma. Burrow leads the Cornhuskers with 84 tackles, including 12 for losses. One questionable sign is that safety Dion Booker is tied for second on the team in tackles with 63. Whether the Cornhuskers have enough collective speed in this area remains to be seen. The Hurricanes ranked second in passing yardage (138.2) and first in interceptions with 27, three ahead of Maryland. EDGE: MIAMI

When Nebraska has the ball

The Cornhuskers are not a one-man team offensively, but quarterback Eric Crouch is close to that. The fifth-year senior, who won this season's Heisman Trophy, is as good at running Nebraska's option as any quarterback in school history. He holds the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 59, and is only one of three in Division I-A history to have passed for 4,000 yards and rushed for 3,000. This year alone Crouch ran for 1,261 yards on 146 carries for 18 touchdowns and completed 105 passes in 189 attempts for 1,510 yards and seven touchdowns. If Crouch has a big day, the Cornhuskers have a big chance.

Dahrran Diedrick has not drawn comparisons to Ahman Green or any of the other top I-backs in Nebraska history, but his 1,299 yards on 233 carries for 15 touchdowns is a quietly respectable figure. Junior Thunder Collins, who grew up in Los Angeles, rushed for 647 yards and five touchdowns on 94 carries, and also caught 19 passes for 189 yards. Collins was involved in Nebraska's biggest play of the season, taking a handoff from Crouch and pitching it to Mike Stuntz, who hit the Cornhuskers' quarterback on the 45-yard flea-flicker pass that helped beat Oklahoma.

As is usually the case for Nebraska, the wide-outs and tight end are more decoys early in the game and desperation targets if the team falls behind. Junior Wilson Thomas led the Cornhuskers with 616 yards on 37 receptions, but scored only three times. Senior tight end Tracey Wistrom finished with 21 catches for 323 yards, but only three in the last four games after sustaining a knee injury against Texas Tech. If Wistrom has recovered sufficiently and can return to his first-team All-American status of a year ago, the Cornhuskers could have more of a chance.

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