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Miami 37, Florida 20
Associated Press

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- No dispute about this: The Miami Hurricanes are Sugar Bowl champions.

Earnest Graham
Florida tailback Earnest Graham runs into a wall of Miami defenders.
Playing for a possible share of the national title, the No. 2 Hurricanes defeated No. 7 Florida 37-20 Tuesday night, with Ken Dorsey passing for 270 yards and fullback Najeh Davenport scoring two touchdowns.

Miami (11-1), hoping for a performance that would give voters in the Associated Press writers' poll reason to name it No. 1, struggled early before finally putting away the Gators (10-3).

The Hurricanes won the in-state battle that turned into a Bourbon Street brawl, and now must wait another day to see whether the victory will mean yet another split championship in college football.

"We wanted to beat Florida," Davenport said. "Now, we want Florida State to beat Oklahoma and we want a share of the national championship."

The issue of a split title is moot, of course, if No. 1 Oklahoma defeats No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday, in the Bowl Championship Series national title game.

But if Florida State wins, the AP title is up for grabs and the voters will have to decide whether Miami is their champion.

"We beat the No. 1 team in the nation, the No. 2 team in the nation and six teams with winning records," Miami coach Butch Davis said, recalling victories over Florida State and Virginia Tech. "I think our kids deserve every opportunity to be called national champions."

Not until Davenport scored with 4:21 left after Florida quarterback Rex Grossman's second interception of the night was this game secure. Hurricanes' mascot Sebastian the Ibis sensed it, running onto the field and drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

A few minutes later, the Hurricanes were jumping around at midfield. Then the wait began. Dorsey said he'll be watching intently.

"If Florida State wins, we have a great shot at being co-national champions," he said. "If Oklahoma does it, we can't do anything about that. They'd have my vote for fighting through the tough season they had."

Miami hopes to get credit for a small comeback of its own.

After a Dorsey interception, Florida went ahead 17-13 on Earnest Graham's 36-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

But the sophomore quarterback responded by moving Miami 80 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 19-yard touchdown to D.J. Williams. A third-down, roughing-the-passer penalty by Gerard Warren kept that drive going.

After Florida stalled, Daryl Jones returned a punt 44 yards to put the Hurricanes in striking range, then Davenport responded with the play of the game.

Linebacker Marcus Oquendo-Johnson had perfect coverage on Davenport and looked like the intended receiver, but the fullback reached over his helmet and snatched the ball away for a 10-point lead.

Another impressive point for the Hurricanes: They won with their leading rusher, James Jackson, injured most of the games and receiver Santana Moss playing with a hurting back.

"They're a better team than us," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "They made more plays when they had to. They played with more discipline and more purpose. They're just a lot better team than we are."

Among the factors voters will consider when they decide on a champion: Florida State's 30-7 victory over Florida in the final regular-season game and, of course, Miami's 27-24 win over the Seminoles back in October.

They'll also look at a 10-game winning streak, an offense that averaged 42 points a game and a defense that made big plays when it had to all season.

Miami showed parts of all that against Florida -- but also failed to capitalize on abundant opportunities.

A lot of this may have had to do with Florida, an overlooked underdog that came into this game hoping to get a good start on next season.

Spurrier was at his devious best. On two occasions, he pulled out one of his favorite tricks, the Emory & Henry Formation, where only three offensive linemen remain near the ball on the line of scrimmage. He uncharacteristically looked toward his running game to provide power, and it did.

When Graham scored from 36 yards on the play after Keiwan Ratliff's interception early in the third quarter, the Gators had the lead and the Hurricanes were simply concerned with winning the game, not the national title.

That's when experience took over and the Hurricanes started to look like champions.

Clinton Portis ran for 98 yards, most after Jackson went out, to keep the Miami offense moving. Moss had 89 yards in receptions even though he was hurting.

Jeremy Shockey, who caught the winning touchdown in Florida State, caught four passes and one touchdown, which gave the Hurricanes a 10-7 lead early.

Miami won its 10th straight since its 34-29 loss to Washington put it in what coach Butch Davis called a "single-elimination" situation.

This was no playoff -- that's several years away -- but the Hurricanes felt they had done everything they could to add to the national titles they won in 1983, '87, '89 and 91.

This was, however, a once-fierce rivalry that had been on hold for 13 seasons. It immediately regained its fire when the two teams made it to New Orleans. Several players fought on Bourbon Street, and both teams said it would surely add to the fire of the renewed in-state rivalry.

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AUDIO/VIDEO
video
 Miami's Najeh Davenport turns an interception into a spectacular touchdown.
avi: 1260 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 The Hurricanes' mascot gives Najeh Davenport a big kiss as he seals the game with a 3-yard TD run.
avi: 1250 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 D.J. Williams scores on a 19-yard pass from Ken Dorsey to regain the lead in the third quarter.
avi: 920 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Ken Dorsey connects with Jeremy Shockey for Miami's first touchdown.
avi: 1170 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 The Hurricanes' Leonard Myers picks off Rex Grossman in the end zone as the first half ends.
avi: 1670 k
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 The Gators strike first as Rex Grossman hits Kirk Wells for a 23-yard touchdown.
avi: 1290 k
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 Florida's Marquand Manuel breaks up a potential Miami touchdown.
avi: 972 k
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 Freshman Keiwan Ratliff picks off Ken Dorsey setting up a Florida touchdown.
avi: 1370 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 After Keiwan Ratliff's interception, Earnest Graham breaks two tackles for a 36-yard touchdown run.
avi: 1360 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

audio
 A proud coach Butch Davis thinks Miami's Sugar Bowl victory should get them the championship.
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RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6





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