Underdog Hurricanes prove doubters wrong

Updated: October 13, 2003, 2:00 AM ET

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The Miami Hurricanes think they're still the team to beat.

The second-ranked Hurricanes dominated Florida State on the road and in the rain Saturday, defeating their instate rival for the fourth straight year and winning their 38th consecutive regular-season game.

Underdogs? Maybe underrated.

"When we come together, there's nobody in the nation that can beat us -- nobody," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "Always remember this: Miami Hurricanes always find a way to win. Don't disrespect us. Underdog? That's a kick in the mouth."

The Hurricanes (6-0) needed 28 points in the second half to beat Florida and a fourth-down pass to avoid an upset against West Virginia. Combined with losing running back Frank Gore for the season, many questioned whether Miami had a shot at playing in a third consecutive national championship game.

The oddsmakers agreed, making then-No. 5 Florida State a seven-point favorite. But Miami used five turnovers and a blocked kick to win 22-14 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score.

"We're the team to beat," running back Jarrett Payton said. "Until somebody knocks us off, that's how I feel."

In other big games Saturday, No. 1 Oklahoma beat No. 11 Texas 65-13, No. 23 Wisconsin ended defending national champion Ohio State's 19-game winning streak with a 17-10 win, and No. 8 Georgia beat No. 13 Tennessee 41-14.

The results from the rest of the Top 25 were No. 4 Virginia Tech 51, Syracuse 7; Florida 19, No. 6 LSU 7; Auburn 10, No. 7 Arkansas 3; No. 9 Southern California 44, Stanford 21; Missouri 41, No. 10 Nebraska 24; Notre Dame 20, No. 15 Pittsburgh 14; No. 16 Northern Illinois 40, Central Michigan 24; No. 18 Purdue 28, Penn State 14; No. 21 Michigan State 49, Illinois 14; Oklahoma State 38, No. 22 Kansas State 34; and Clemson 30, No. 25 Virginia 27.

The Hurricanes have won 40 of the last 41 games, losing only to Ohio State in double overtime in the Fiesta Bowl last January. Under third-year coach Larry Coker, they have beaten every Big East opponent and won at Penn State, at Florida, at Tennessee and now at Florida State twice.

Miami has won 18 straight on the road, 25 in a row at home and 26 consecutive conference games -- making a strong case for being the best football program in the nation.

"If you really sit back and think about it, it's a phenomenal story," Coker said Sunday. "What we've been able to accomplish, I can't really explain it other than consistency.

"We've been able to win games we're supposed to win and we've been able to kick it up a notch and win games that maybe they're as good as we are or we're not supposed to win."

Miami needed a 66-yard drive and a 23-yard field goal in the final two minutes to avoid a loss to West Virginia in its tuneup for the Semimoles.

Feeling disrespected and unappreciated after beating the Mountaineers 22-20, the Hurricanes used it as motivation.

Miami combined a suffocating defense, an opportunistic special teams and a strong effort from Payton in his first career start (97 yards on 26 carries) to jump to a 22-0 lead.

While all those factors played a role in the victory, it may have been a blow to the team's collective pride that inspired Miami most.

"It got a few noses flared," linebacker D.J. Williams said. "This is the first time this season we actually played like the Miami Hurricanes."

And on Sunday, the Hurricanes were one of just five teams that remained unbeaten and just three from major conferences.

"I don't think we'd ever get bored or spoiled by winning, but sometimes you forget how difficult it is to win football games because your fans don't know that," Coker said. "They think you just show up and beat these people. It doesn't happen that way."

In other highlights:

-- Jason White threw four touchdown passes, Mark Clayton had a school-record 190 yards receiving and Oklahoma's defense snagged six turnovers against in the most lopsided win in the history of the Red River Shootout.

-- Backup quarterback Matt Schabert hit Lee Evans with a 79-yard touchdown pass with 5:20 left as Wisconsin beat defending champion Ohio State.

-- DeAngelo Hall scored on 58- and 60-yard punt returns in the first quarter and ran 24 yards with a reverse for another touchdown as Virginia Tech routed Syracuse to remain undefeated.

-- David Greene was 22-of-27 for 228 yards and one touchdown to help Georgia move closer to defending its SEC championship with a fourth straight win against Tennessee.

-- Julius Jones broke Notre Dame's single-game rushing record with 262 yards and scored twice and the Fighting Irish, the nation's eighth-worst rushing team, surprised Pittsburgh by switching to a power running game.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index