There comes a time when there's nothing anyone--not even former
Miami passing greats Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar or Steve Walsh--can
say that will make a difference. For 19-year-old Hurricanes
quarterback Ken Dorsey, that time came with 1:32 left in Miami's
game against No. 1-ranked Florida State in the Orange Bowl. For
three hours the famous alums had operated as his sideline support
network, offering tips and encouragement, but after the
Seminoles, who had trailed by 17 points at the half, scored two
touchdowns in less than two minutes to go ahead 24-20, the old
stars hung back and watched to see what the kid would do.
In a drive that started at the Hurricanes' 32, Dorsey exhibited a
poise that made his illustrious predecessors proud. He completed
six of seven passes, including a 13-yard scoring strike to backup
tight end Jeremy Shockey for the touchdown that put Miami back on
top, 27-24, with :46 remaining. Moments later, in an unthinkable
reprise of the Seminoles' 1991 and '92 last-second losses to the
Hurricanes, a 49-yard, game-tying field goal attempt by Florida
State freshman walk-on Matt Munyon veered just outside the right
goal post as the final five seconds ticked away. The blinking
wide right III! message on the Orange Bowl JumboTron and the
earsplitting roar of 80,903 people confirmed that Miami, now 4-1
and ranked No. 4, was back in the hunt for a national
championship for the first time in six years.
The victory snapped the Seminoles' five-year winning streak
against the Hurricanes as well as Florida State's 17-game overall
winning streak. In the process Dorsey, who completed 27 of 42
passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns, joined the quarterback
crowd in the Miami record book with his 163 consecutive passes
without an interception, bettering Gino Torretta's eight-year-old
record of 123. That is an outstanding achievement for any
sophomore, certainly, but of particular significance for a player
whose errant passing and tentative decision-making weighed
heavily in the Hurricanes' only loss, 34-29 at Washington on
Sept. 9. "I think I grew up a lot today," said the 6'5",
195-pound Dorsey before retreating to his customary postgame
navel-gazing. "The offensive line fought hard, and with all the
hype about [Florida State's defensive] ends--well, our tackles got
the job done."
Like Shockey, who was playing junior college ball at Northeastern
Oklahoma A&M a year ago, several Miami players gave their stock
an uptick. Senior defensive tackle Damione Lewis, though listed
as doubtful on the morning of the game, battled through the pain
of a broken right toe and made two tackles in helping the
Hurricanes hold the Seminoles to 69 yards rushing. Senior wideout
Santana Moss, a preseason All-America, used his magnetic touch
and 4.3 speed to amass 115 yards on seven catches, including a
19-yard reception that set the stage for Shockey. "I've been
criticized a lot this year," said Moss, who had been hampered for
weeks by tendinitis in his left ankle and had averaged only three
catches a game, "but when you work as hard as we do, you're bound
to have this kind of game."
Then there was senior middle linebacker Dan Morgan, who was
cheek-to-cheek with the bathroom tile three days before the game,
suffering from a lingering stomach flu. The bug was nothing,
however, compared to suffering through three straight losses to
Florida State. In the first of those defeats, a 47-0 rout in
1997, the Hurricanes' nadir since winning their last national
title, in '91, Morgan, a freshman starter, had eight solo
tackles. On Saturday he led Miami with 15 tackles, including two
for losses, and his end-zone interception at the close of the
second quarter punctuated the Hurricanes' 17-0 first-half
shutout--the only time the Seminoles had been blanked in the first
30 minutes since an '88 loss to Miami on the same field.
Dehydrated to the point of wooziness after the opening half,
Morgan was hooked up to an IV drip in the locker room and
remained there while his team took the field for the second half.
"I shook the IV bag, trying to make it go faster," said Morgan.
"Those were the longest 10 minutes of my life."
By the time he returned to the field, Florida State had snapped
out of its first-half funk, during which it had passed on two
field goal attempts and failed to score on three drives inside
the Miami 16. ("We probably should have kicked those times, but
we wanted to get some early momentum," Seminoles coach Bobby
Bowden said.) In the game's final 23 minutes, though, quarterback
Chris Weinke, who would complete 29 of 58 passes for a
career-high 496 yards, threw for three touchdowns, including the
29-yarder to Atrews Bell with 1:37 to go that put Florida State
ahead for the first time.
Even after Dorsey's near flawless performance on the ensuing
drive, it looked as if Weinke might pull off the biggest comeback
of his career. He drove the Seminoles 46 yards in five plays but
was slow to signal a timeout. Instead of having 10 seconds left,
Florida State had five--not enough time to get off another play
that might have moved the ball closer to the goal line. Thus, the
outcome fell on the narrow shoulders of Munyon, who had missed
four other field goal attempts and three extra points this
season, and hadn't booted a field goal longer than 44 yards. The
botched timeout request was the last of several instances of
clock mismanagement by Weinke and the Seminoles' coaches that
proved costly. Before the majority of Florida State's snaps he
had shouted last-second audibles, and once he was even slapped
with a delay-of-game penalty after a timeout.
Dorsey, on the other hand, called only three audibles all day. "I
have that much trust in my offensive coordinator [Larry Coker]
and that much trust in the guys on this team," he said. "I did
what I was told, and it worked for us."
"That sounds familiar," said his mother, Meg, still giddy an hour
after the victory. She and Ken's father, Tom, who divorced when
Ken was a child, had flown from California to watch the game with
their 22-year-old son, Adam--a Florida State junior. "When Ken was
10 years old," said Meg, "he'd scream at me when I so much as
parked in a [no parking] zone. He has always played by the
That's in stark contrast to a program whose indiscretions cost
Miami 31 scholarships from 1996 through '98. Ten months before
Miami went on probation, Butch Davis left the Dallas Cowboys
after six years as a defensive assistant to become head coach.
The Hurricanes have made strides every year since. "When I got to
Miami, we were operating like a junior college program," said
Davis. "This [win] has been a three-year project involving the
players on this field and the players who preceded them."
After talking with the media, he climbed into a navy-blue suit
and went back to work, taking his wife, Tammy, and the families
of two out-of-state high school recruits to dinner at the Rusty
Pelican in nearby Key Biscayne. "Nights like this," said Davis of
the recruiting duty, "allow us to have days like these."
And so do players like Ken Dorsey. After wishing Munyon's kick
wide right, Dorsey spent his first five minutes of fame wandering
through the frenzied crowd on the field, looking red-cheeked and
shell-shocked. It was about that time that senior free safety Al
Blades, the little brother of former Hurricanes stars and NFL
players Brian and Bennie, made a beeline for the lanky Dorsey and
brought him to the brink of tears. "What did I tell you, baby?"
said Blades, grinning and pressing his forehead against Dorsey's.
"We follow you. We'll always follow you."
consecutive passes without an interception.