Upset special ruined in final quarter


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Photo by John Bolognini |

As the scoreboard reflects, the Knights were in position to upset the No. 1 Miami Hurricanes, leading 17-14 early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game.


Haven't we seen this before?

That is all one was left wondering as, for the third time this season, the Scarlet Knights put more than a mild scare into an elite Division 1-A college football program before the latest scare victims - the No. 1 Miami Hurricanes - burst out for 28 fourth quarter points in a 42-17 victory.

However, the game's score could not have been less indicative of the way the game unfolded.

The Hurricanes not only trailed Rutgers (1-8, 0-5) 17-14 through three quarters, but were lucky to even be within striking distance of the Knights.

"I don't think we ever thought that we would lose this game," Miami coach Larry Coker said.

A bit hard to believe considering just before the half the 'Canes (8-0, 4-0) were down by nine and facing a crucial third down on the Rutgers five yard-line, when Miami quaterback Ken Dorsey was intercepted by cornerback Nate Jones in the end zone. However, Jones, who returned the interception 100 yards for an apparent score that would have put RU up by 15, was called for a phantom defensive holding on the play.

"I know I didn't hold him," Jones said. "I didn't even know the hold was on me until a couple series later. I thought it was maybe somewhere else on the field. Bad call to say the least."

With a fresh set of downs Miami halfback Willis McGahee, who carried the Hurricanes offense throughout the first three quarters, scored his first of two rushing touchdowns. McGahee finished the game with 187 rushing yards, putting him over the 1000 yard mark for the season.

The Hurricanes, who have become accustomed to slow starts, needed their third straight late comeback to overcome what had the potential to be the biggest upset in collegiate sports history.

Making his first college start, true freshman quarterback Ryan Hart, led Rutgers on an 80 yard scoring drive against the nation's seventh best defense to open the Piscataway fireworks. After starting the game six for seven passing, Hart slowed down but ended a still respectable nine of 23 passing for 110 yards.

Although it was Clarence Pittman's first career rushing touchdown that gave the Knights the 7-0 lead, it was Hart's beautifully thrown 40-yard pass to wideout Aaron Martin that put RU on the doorstep.

Thanks largely to the third-down success of Rutgers' defense and the struggles of Heisman hopeful quarterback Ken Dorsey, the lead stood up until the early stages of the second quarter.

For the second straight home game, a bad snap into the end zone by center Marty Pyszczymuka, playing with a broken wrist, resulted in a safety, this time giving Miami the 8-7 advantage.

From there it was spectacular special teams play, characteristic of the Knights season, that reclaimed the lead.

With the Hurricanes in the shadows of their own end zone, Rutgers brought the house on a punt block and forced Freddie Capshaw to shank a 23-yard punt.

True to his earlier promise to play both Hart and backup Ted Trump at quarterback, Schiano turned to Trump for the first time on the ensuing possession. However, unable to capitalize on the outstanding field position, Rutgers settled for a 38-yard field goal from Ryan Sands.

Trailing by two and decimated by untimely penalties all afternoon- 13 penalties for 120 yards - the Hurricanes were once again pinned deep in their own territory. This time the Knights, who once again rushed all 11 men, got to Capshaw. Freshman Jason Nugent blocked the punt and senior Shawn Seabrooks flipped the ball high into the sky after returning it for a 2-yard score, spotting Rutgers a 17-8 lead.

With momentum now completely on their said, Jones' alleged penalty deflated the Knights, whose halftime lead was trimmed to three.

"It is a seven point swing or a 14 point swing," Schiano said last night. "Either way it is a big play."

Although neither team was able to push any points across the board in the third quarter, it was Rutgers who had the best opportunity.

After moving the ball 62 yards in 10 plays with Hart once again at the helm, Rutgers was unable to convert inside the UM red zone. With the offense stalled at the nine-yard line, Schiano called for a fake field goal in an attempt to pad the slim lead.

The call caught the Hurricanes off-guard as linebacker Brian Hohmann was left completely uncovered. Holder Sean Carty could not deliver the ball however, as he decided to try and outrun the pursuing defenders. Carty was shoved out of bounds after no gain and RU would not again be in such good scoring position.

"It was wide open," Schiano said. "[Carty] thought he could run and beat them himself. But that's tough you got to make a split-second call."

From there, the explosion Schiano had feared all week, took course as Miami put the game out of reach with four touchdowns in just over ten minutes.

"That kind of explosion comes with teams as talented as Miami," Schiano said.

When Dorsey, who spent a short stint in the locker room with a left hand injury, connected with wideout Andre Johnson for the go-ahead score, the onslaught was on.

"It was maybe a two or three minute span where they were like 'Bang, Bang Bang'. Real quick is how they do it and the game is out of reach," Jones said.

Even with the lead, the 'Canes win was not sealed until Trump's second appearance of the game ended with an awful pass that safety Kelly Jennings picked off, setting up the second touchdown toss by Dorsey, the Big East's new all-time leader in that stat.

"It wasn't a misread, the ball just slipped out of my hands," Trump said of the costly turnover.

Knight Notes: Despite a desperation attempt to pad the final score, Miami lost the top spot in the Associated Press rankings ...The game's result extended two streaks - RU has now lost 20 straight league games and UM has won 30 straight games overall.


Ryan Dunleavy

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