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Perfect storm: Hurricanes win fifth national title

PASADENA, Calif. -- They danced their way to the stands, waving white towels at the Miami fans who filled one corner of the Rose Bowl.

The first thing that jumped out at me early in the first quarter of this game was how much more speed Miami had than Nebraska. The 'Canes were able to suffocate the 'Huskers early and do pretty much whatever they wanted to do when they had the ball. Miami easily took advantage of Nebraska's press defense, with Andre Johnson leading the way early on -- his size, speed and strength were too much for the 'Huskers to handle in man coverage.

The key play in the first quarter came when Nebraska had a chance to score and tie the game at seven. The 'Huskers were unable to take advantage of the opportunity given to them when penalties resulted in a short field, and the Hurricanes rolled from there.

It's tough to say Nebraska will be able to win a national championship with the style of offense they run. The formula for beating a Nebraska team has always been the same -- get up by about 17, attack them early, and it's almost impossible for the 'Huskers to find their way back into the ball game, because they can't light it up with an explosive passing game -- they only run the option. Miami followed the formula to the letter, took the 'Huskers out of their game, and that was all she wrote.

Congratulations are due to the undefeated, national champion Miami Hurricanes. While marveling at Miami's speed and talent, I found myself thinking, "Why is Nebraska here?" After they gave up 62 to Colorado, then gave up 34 first-half points in the Rose Bowl, I couldn't help but think that the 'Huskers probably weren't the most deserving team to play in the national championship game.

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Joaquin Gonzalez jumped into a sea of Hurricanes green and
orange, and Martin Bibla handed his camera to a security guard,
saying, "Take my picture."

Maurice Sikes yelled, "Take that,
Oregon!"

Miami madness is back. The Hurricanes are national champions
again.

"It feels better than I thought it would," running back
Clinton Portis said.

The happy Hurricanes left nothing to chance, winning every game and capping a perfect season by embarrassing Nebraska 37-14 in the Bowl Championship Series title game Thursday night.

"If you have any more questions, we're 12-0," Miami's
All-American safety Ed Reed said. "There's a lot of people saying
they should be here. If they were, they would have gotten the same
treatment."

With Ken Dorsey throwing three touchdown passes -- two to wide receiver Andre Johnson -- Miami rolled to a 34-0 lead in the opening 30 minutes, and the Huskers were history.

Top-ranked Miami didn't have to wait to pick up the trophy awarded by the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, which automatically goes to the winner of the BCS championship game.

The Associated Press poll of sports writers and broadcasters was to be released early Friday, with the Hurricanes a lock to win their fifth national title, all since 1983. Their last AP championship was in 1991; Washington won the coaches' version that year.

Oregon, a 38-16 winner over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl on
Monday, was hoping for a Nebraska win to claim a share of the
title, but the Ducks ended up second in the final polls.

"The only thing I'd be disappointed in is that we didn't get a
shot," Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington said after watching the
game in Phoenix. "You can speculate all you want, but I know we
have a very good football team."

Before the season started, Miami players vowed they wouldn't allow the computer-driven BCS standings to determine their bowl fate. In 2000, Florida State was chosen over Miami to play Oklahoma in the BCS title game at the Orange Bowl even though the Hurricanes had beaten the Seminoles.

"This should have been two in a row," Bibla said. "We should have played for the title last year. What can you do. That's the way it worked. This one will make us forget about last year."

Dorsey completed 22 of 35 passes for a career-high 362 yards,
three touchdowns and one interception. Johnson caught seven passes
for 199 yards.

"The entire team deserves to be MVP tonight," said Dorsey
after he and Johnson were selected co-MVPs. "Our defense stepped
up to the challenge and did a great job. Our offensive line,
receivers, everybody did a great job against a great team."

Johnson added: "I felt like I had something to prove so I
brought my `A' game."

Portis ran for 104 yards on 20 carries as the Hurricanes rolled
up 472 yards.

The stunned Huskers, beaten 62-36 by Colorado in their previous
game, had no answer for Miami's speed and ferocious defense. The
lopsided score raised even more questions about whether Nebraska
belonged in the BCS title game.

The Cornhuskers finished seventh in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and eighth in the AP poll.

"We didn't play well enough to make it a competitive game in the end or in the first half," Huskers coach Frank Solich said. "From that end of it, it certainly wasn't the matchup everybody dreamed of. I think anyone would have struggled with them the way they played tonight."

Nebraska (11-2) and its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Eric
Crouch, had promised there would not be a repeat of the pitiful
performance against Colorado. They were wrong, unable to do much
against the Miami defense until the game was already out of reach.

"We talk about talent all along, but the thing that set this
team apart is character," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "They
refused to give in, refused to flinch, and they got the job done
week in and week out."

Dorsey, now 26-1 as a starter, opened the scoring with a 49-yard
TD pass to Johnson, then found him for an 8-yard TD with about 3½
minutes left in the half. Between those TD passes, Portis ran 39 yards for a touchdown, safety James Lewis returned an interception 47 yards for a score and Dorsey connected with tight end Jeremy Shockey on a 21-yard TD pass -- all in 3:53.

And just like that, Miami stretched its winning streak to 22 in
a row and made the 53-year-old Coker just the second coach to win a
national title in his rookie season. Michigan's Bennie Oosterbaan
did it in 1948.

Nebraska and Miami came into this Rose Bowl having played three
previous games with national titles on the line, all in the Orange
Bowl. Miami won in '83 and '91; Nebraska in '94.

Nebraska, losing two games in a row for the first time since
1990, just couldn't compete in the Rose Bowl. It managed only 259
total yards -- nearly 200 under its average.

Crouch ran 22 times for 114 yards and completed 5 of 15 passes
for 62 yards.

The Huskers finally scored on Judd Davies' 16-yard run with 2:39
left in the third quarter, and DeJuan Groce added a 71-yard punt
return for a TD early in the fourth period.

Todd Sievers kicked a 37-yard field goal with 10:04 left for
Miami's only points of the second half.

Though Husker fans made up most of the crowd of 93,781, it was
the 20,000 or so orange-clad Miami fans who did most of the
cheering.

Crouch picked a bad time for one of the worst games of his record-setting career. Miami's defense swarmed the option and rarely gave him room to run.

"We turned the ball over and that's what killed us," Crouch
said. "We knew Miami was that type of defense, they live off
turnovers. We got down too far."

On Crouch's third carry of the game, linebacker D.J. Williams
stripped the ball away and William Joseph recovered. On the next
play, Dorsey hooked up with a wide-open Johnson -- safety Keyou
Craver fell on the coverage -- for the 49-yard TD pass with 6:51
left in the first period.

Nebraska's Josh Davis fumbled the ensuing kickoff on a crunching
hit by Markese Fitzgerald, and Sievers recovered at the Huskers 34.
Nebraska survived the turnover, but Miami was far from finished.

Portis took a handoff from Dorsey, slipped at the line of
scrimmage but kept his balance, then avoided two tacklers and
outran the secondary to the end zone.

Four plays later, Crouch's pass went through the hands of Tracey
Wistrom and Lewis grabbed the ball just before it hit the ground
and ran 47 yards untouched to make it 21-0.

On Miami's next possession, Dorsey hit Johnson for 45 yards and
then connected with Shockey for the 21-yard score with 10:40 left
in the half. Sievers missed the extra point, but it didn't matter.
The Huskers were all but finished.

"We got up early, and we knew that's what we had to do," Portis said. "Up like that, you ain't going to beat us with the option."

Miami had close calls along the way to its perfect season -- an
18-7 win at Boston College, and a 26-24 season-ending victory at
Virginia Tech. But in the end, Miami made good on its promise.

The celebration has begun.